Top 8 Goals for Client Consultation in Project Management
In the realm of project management, effective client consultation is the cornerstone of a successful project.
It's the compass that guides you towards understanding your client's needs and ensures a harmonious working relationship.
Let's delve into the key aspects of client consultation in project management to help you steer your projects in the right direction in this article.
What is a Client Consultation?
First things first, what is a client consultation? In a nutshell, a client consultation is an initial meeting with a client to figure out what they need and to sell your services.
At the end of the meeting, you should know if this client is a good fit, exactly what they need, a rough price point, and whether or not you're going to put together a proposal.
Not every project manager has a specific, organized consultation with prospective clients, but it can be a way to streamline your sales process and waste less time with prospective clients who never pan out.
Tip: If you aren't offering this service already, consider promoting it as a Free One-Hour Consultation from your business website.
What Is Client Consultation in Project Management?
In project management, client consultation takes on a different dimension. It involves engaging with clients to understand their project needs, objectives, and expectations.
This process sets the stage for a successful project by aligning your team's efforts with the client's vision.
Client consultation in project management is not just about gathering basic project requirements; it's about establishing a strong foundation for collaboration.
It's the process of diving deep into the client's world, understanding their unique challenges, and crafting a project plan that not only meets their specifications but also exceeds their expectations.
Who is a Project Management Consultant?
A project management consultant possesses the skills and knowledge to provide advice and support to businesses throughout the project lifecycle.
They use various tools and techniques to ensure projects are executed efficiently and successfully.
Project management consultants are often seasoned professionals with a track record of delivering results. They are well-versed in project methodologies, risk management, resource allocation, and stakeholder communication. Their role is not just about project oversight but also about fostering collaboration and ensuring alignment with the client's strategic goals.
8 Goals for Client Consultation in Project Management
1. Gauge Chemistry:
Assess the compatibility between you and the potential client. Building a successful project requires more than just technical expertise; it demands a harmonious working relationship.
During the consultation, pay attention to how well you connect with the client, as this will significantly impact project collaboration.
2. Investigate Working Conditions:
Understand the working dynamics with the potential client. Every client has their unique way of working, and it's crucial to identify any potential challenges or constraints early on.
Are they hands-on or prefer a hands-off approach? Do they have specific communication preferences? Gathering such information is vital for a smooth project journey.
3. Estimate Scope:
Determine the project's scope and boundaries. It's essential to have a clear understanding of what the client expects from the project.
What are the deliverables, timelines, and key milestones? A comprehensive scope definition helps in setting realistic project expectations.
4. Inform About the Process:
Educate the potential client about the project management process. Not all clients are well-versed in project management methodologies.
During the consultation, take the time to explain how your project management approach works. This includes highlighting the stages, roles, responsibilities, and the client's role in the process.
5. Suggest Additional Features:
Offer valuable suggestions to meet the client's goals. As a project management consultant, your expertise extends beyond project execution.
Use the consultation as an opportunity to provide insights and recommend additional features or improvements that can enhance the project's value.
6. Educate on Ongoing Services:
Explain the importance of your ongoing services. Some clients may view project management as a one-off engagement.
However, it's crucial to emphasize the benefits of continued support. Discuss how your ongoing services can ensure project success and long-term business growth.
7. Gather Material:
Collect all necessary information to create a project proposal. The consultation should serve as a data-gathering session.
Ensure you have all the essential details required to prepare a comprehensive project proposal. This includes technical specifications, budget constraints, and any specific client preferences.
8. Qualify with Quote:
Provide the potential client with a ballpark price estimate. While it may not be possible to provide an exact cost during the initial consultation, offering a rough price point can help the client assess whether the project aligns with their budget expectations.
This step ensures that both parties are on the same page regarding financial considerations.
Pros and Cons of Project Management Consultancy
1. Expertise: Project management consultancies bring a wealth of expertise to the table. They have a deep understanding of project methodologies, industry best practices, and the latest trends.
2. Objective Perspective: As external entities, project management consultancies offer an objective perspective. They can identify potential issues and provide unbiased recommendations.
3. Efficiency: With a focus on efficient project execution, consultancies can help clients save time and resources. They streamline processes and ensure projects stay on track.
4. Custom Solutions: Project management consultancies tailor their approaches to meet the specific needs of each client. This customizability leads to solutions that align perfectly with client objectives.
5. Risk Mitigation: Experienced project management consultants excel in risk management. They anticipate challenges and proactively implement strategies to mitigate risks.
1. Cost: Engaging a project management consultancy comes with a financial cost. Some clients may find it expensive, particularly for smaller projects.
2. Dependency: Clients may become dependent on the consultancy's expertise, which can pose challenges when the consultancy's involvement ends.
3. Integration: Integrating external consultants into an existing team can be a complex process, and it may take time for everyone to work seamlessly.
4. Confidentiality: Maintaining confidentiality can be a concern when sharing sensitive project information with external consultants.
5. Resistance to Change: Some team members may resist external consultants' recommendations, leading to resistance and conflicts within the organization.
The 4 Stages of Client Consultancy in Project Management
Project management generally can be broken down into four stages, which map onto projects involving and internal ones.
This phase framework is widely credited to the Project Management Institute, and you'll find many client management
A project's initiation or launch phase sets expectations for the project, builds a budget, creates a rough outline of the project schedule, and defines the deliverables.
This phase involves plenty of data-gathering on the project manager's part, both with the internal team and the client.
This phase is absolutely vital to project success. It's tempting to skip straight to planning, but to plan successfully, you must know what you're planning — and that you're on the same page as the client.
One complication in client project management is that your client may not always know what they want or may not communicate what they want in the terms or language you're expecting.
Project managers must take extra care when interfacing with clients in these early stages, ensuring the expectations and requirements are all as clear as possible before continuing.
A project charter (a simple document without too much detail) is typically produced during this stage.
The planning phase grows out of the initiation phase and often overlaps with it. Here the project manager expands on the details collected in the initiation phase and turns those details into organized documents.
The statement of work is developed here, which goes into greater depth than the project charter.
Of course, the project manager's largest responsibility during the planning phase is building out the project schedule — ideally in a project management software platform like Teamwork.
See why Teamwork is the perfect project planning tool for agencies (and clients).
In client projects, you'll need to consider the client's needs concerning any tasks that directly involve them. Consider questions such as these:
- Where in the process will the client review and approve elements?
- What will the client need to deliver before you can do the work?
- Who at the client business is the go-to or contact point?
- What is a reasonable turnaround time expectation for client tasks?
Additionally, make sure to secure a commitment from the client that they will meet the deadlines and timeframes agreed upon here.
With an accurate, comprehensive, and accessible project plan and project schedule in place, it's time to move to the execution phase. This is where the producers do the work and assemble the deliverable.
The project manager's role shifts in this phase. You could say the role becomes equal parts schedule monitor, traffic cop, communications specialist, and referee/therapist (yes, really — we'll explain).
- Schedule monitor: Keep a close watch on the schedule, making sure tasks are finished on time.
- Traffic cop: Oversee the flow of work, stepping in when something gets stuck, misplaced, forgotten, or misdelivered.
- Communications specialist: Both your internal team and your client will need regular updates and purposeful interaction. Much of this falls to the project manager.
- Referee/therapist: While the doers are doing, conflict is inevitable. Tossing a client into the mix complicates things further. Often it falls to the project manager to solve smaller relational disagreements.
Closure can look different from project to project, but it should never be overlooked. The project is not over the moment the last deliverable lands in the client's inbox. There's crucial work yet to do.
Project closure is a time to debrief, discover what went right and what could've gone better, archive project data, save templates of anything that might relate to a future project or deliverable, and (in small ways) begin preparing for the next project or cycle.
In client work, project closure may also be a time to pull in more work or to make a case for the client's ongoing need for your services.
How to Manage Your Client's Expectations
Managing client expectations is pivotal for a successful project. Here are some key aspects to consider:
1. Convenience and Comfort
Most importantly, clients expect to conduct business with a consultant who will be convenient and easy to work with.
This means the consultant must be considered low maintenance, can hit the ground running once they arrive, and require minimal supervision and hand holding.
2. Understanding of Their Business Cycle
Clients expect that consultants should understand their business and business cycles. Consultants who make an effort in getting to know business processes of the client are of great value.
They do this by conducting market research online or at their local library before they interview or start the engagement.
They may also engage in informational interviews as soon as possible with a myriad of stakeholders once they start working on the project.
3. Continual and Broad Communication
First and foremost, consultants communicate well with their clients. This means that the client should always be informed as to what is happening with each project.
Keeping in constant contact with the client makes the consultant look credible and trustworthy - and a regular feedback loop such as weekly meetings and written status reports also help to avoid any unpleasant surprises later on in the project.
Successful consultants also communicate with everyone. I have always stated that great project management consultants fulfill the role of Chief Communicator.
As such, it is important for them to interview and actively communicate with all stakeholders involved and determine what type of personalities they are dealing with.
From this, it can be determined who has the ability to torpedo the project's success. Once identified, a plan must be established to minimize the negative effect these players may have on the future well-being of the project.
Today's businesses run with tremendous speed. How many times have we experienced bosses who say that they want it done yesterday?
With speed-to-market pressures constantly before us, it is paramount that a consultant works quickly. Clients demand speed - speed in problem solving, communication, and execution of work.
Every client expects the service to equal their investment in that service. Good does not necessarily mean cheap but clients scrutinize whether or not the money being spent achieves some return on their investment.
It is important that you be perceived as providing a level of quality that matches their investment in your services.
Clients expect to be treated with respect. This may be an obvious point. After all, who does not want respect?
It is not uncommon to find that certain employees may not share the same level of excitement about meeting their client's needs.
This is a lack of respect. Respect comes in many forms which include: honest and direct communication, digging deeper into the problem, showing up on time, meeting deadlines and milestones, and being one step ahead.
I would like to assert that there is one more critical factor not mentioned in the schema offered in the Webizus article, and it is the role that fear plays in the decision making process.
How ClientVenue Enhances Project Management
ClientVenue offers a robust platform that goes beyond client management; it seamlessly integrates project management features to streamline your agency's workflow. Here's how you can leverage ClientVenue for effective project management:
1. Client Onboarding Made Easy
ClientVenue understands the importance of making a great first impression. With its automated client onboarding feature, you can provide a world-class onboarding experience right from the first point of contact.
This feature ensures that your clients are delighted from the very beginning, setting a positive tone for the entire project.
2. Real-Time Project Management
Managing advertising projects from start to finish is simplified with ClientVenue. You'll have access to highly customizable views that make project planning a breeze.
Collaborate seamlessly with both internal and external teams using templates and efficient workflow management tools.
This collaborative approach ensures that everyone involved in the project, including clients, teammates, and leadership, stays on the same page.
3. Centralized Client Storage
ClientVenue offers a dedicated client storage space where you can store all client-related media and assets.
This centralized repository makes it easy to access and manage project-related files, ensuring that you have everything you need at your fingertips.
4. Hassle-Free Payment Handling
Say goodbye to payment-related worries with ClientVenue. The platform provides an integrated experience that allows you to handle payments effortlessly within the client workspace.
Whether you need to set up recurring billing or manage one-time payments, ClientVenue has it covered.
It seamlessly integrates with top payment platforms and providers, offering a self-serve checkout model that allows you to focus on the core aspects of your business instead of chasing payments and clearing invoices.
5. Professional Invoicing
Create professional-looking invoices that align with your brand's identity. With ClientVenue, you can customize your invoices to include your branding elements, leaving a lasting impression on your clients.
The integrated invoicing experience ensures that you can easily manage billing, whether it's for recurring services or one-time transactions.
6. Whitelabel Capabilities
To truly enhance your agency's brand presence, ClientVenue offers a whitelabel mode. This feature allows you to customize the platform's look and feel to match your brand's design language seamlessly.
Clients will experience a native and branded interface, providing a cohesive and professional client portal experience.
7. Comprehensive Reporting
ClientVenue provides a dedicated reporting section where you can access organization-level reports for all your projects, teams, and employees.
Gain valuable insights with a bird's-eye view of project milestones, planning, budgeting, time tracking, and more.
Additionally, you can generate professional-looking client-facing reports to keep your clients informed about their projects.
8. Efficient Timesheet and Resource Management
Effortlessly manage timesheets and resources from within your agency dashboard, without the need for constant follow-ups.
ClientVenue allows you to involve all stakeholders, both on the client's side and within your agency, by assigning permission levels to team members.
This collaborative approach ensures that tasks and responsibilities are well-defined and progress smoothly.
Incorporating ClientVenue into your agency's project management processes can be a game-changer.
Its user-friendly interface, automated features, customizable options, and robust reporting capabilities empower your agency to deliver exceptional results.
By utilizing ClientVenue, you can enhance client satisfaction, streamline project workflows, and ultimately achieve greater success in your advertising projects.
Make the smart choice and integrate ClientVenue into your project management toolkit today.