Some things are just better left unsaid. Knowing when to hold your tongue can make the difference between success and failure. To ensure success, avoid letting these phrases slip out of your mouth.
1. What should I do?
You are a consultant, which means it's your duty to be three steps ahead. By asking for your next move, you're defeating the purpose of your professional existence. Stop, and think about this question from a client's perspective. He is already busy and stressed out. The last thing he needs is the additional responsibility of keeping you busy.
Of course, consultants want to stay busy. Aside from begging for your next task, there are ways to arrive at the same outcome without sounding so desperate.
For example, you might spend time reviewing old meeting notes to identify projects that never got off the ground. Or prepare some talking points about a recent case study. Weave these points into your next discussion with the customer. Use this as a launchpad toward new projects and - most importantly - new work for you.
2. You're wrong.
We’ve all heard the cliche that the customer is always right. Nothing in business is absolute, and no one is perfect. This is particularly true of your clients. Despite your clients’ shortcomings, it is important that you reduce unnecessary friction when possible. Although it is your job to provide your opinion, tact is an artform worth practicing.
When you disagree with a client, first try to find common ground. Ease into the disagreement rather than being brash. You might say, “While I certainly agree with your first point, I think we need to spend more time looking at…”
Clients appreciate being challenged so try to be constructive, and avoid totally crushing their egos. Remember, they’re paying the bills.
Related: 6 Signs It's Time to Fire a Client
3. My rates are increasing.
As you add new clients, it is natural for your market value to increase. You’re becoming a scarce commodity, which leads to more money for you.
What about your existing clients? Most clients never think about your ever-increasing value to the market. They’re happy with the work you do, but they’re also content with your current rates.
Demanding a rate increase rarely works. In fact, you’re likely to lose the relationship, especially if you’re dealing with a small business. To attempt a successful rate increase, you essentially have three options.
Option one: Humbly ask for a rate increase.
Option two: Hope for a rate increase.
Option three: Develop higher margin, upsell services.
Option one is still dangerously close to demanding a rate increase, although it can work if done correctly.
Option two does occasionally happen but only if your client has a robust HR department that closely evaluates contractor value. Personally, I prefer option three because it shows clients that you are still serious about their needs. It can also be fulfilling to develop new value-added services. Such services can be marketed to other clients, further growing your bottom line.
4. I'm not feeling appreciated.
In consulting, no feedback is often the same as good feedback. As long as clients keep paying their invoices on time, someone at the organization still appreciates you.
Related: What to Do When You Lose a Client
With today’s virtual ecosystem, however, it can be challenging to stay motivated. For this reason, be proactive to schedule weekly client meetings. Take charge of the agenda and always ask questions and share new ideas. Although clients are unlikely to sing your praises, find small victories through engaging discussions. Through the manifestation of your clients’ goals, you too will begin to feel more appreciated.
5. You forgot.
Clients are notorious about forgetting to do stuff. No matter how many project management systems you configure, things always seem to slip through the cracks.
Use this to your advantage instead of pointing fingers. Volunteer to help clients with the tasks they regularly overlook. Doing so leads to more work in the short term. For the long term, you position yourself as an increasingly valuable resource. This results in more opportunities, better customer relationships and hopefully more money.
Watch what you say.
You’re in the business of speaking your mind. Just be careful how you do so. With the right approach, customers will be paying for your valuable brainpower for many years to come.