The best parenting skills for working with clients

parenting 101 on a chalkboard

Some of the best client management tips come from the parenting experts. No, I’m not advocating that we treat our clients like children. In fact, my favorite advice is based on the Golden Rule and treating children–and our clients–like equals. Treat them just the way you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed.

Like most, I was a scared new mom, with no clue about raising children. I solved the problem like I do most of my challenges, by heading to my local library. I read everything I could find on the subject and talked with the experts–other parents–and I learned as I went along.

It was the same when I started my business. I had no clue about client management. Again, I committed to learning as much as I could through reading and talking with the experts–the clients themselves and other independent business owners.

Now that the kids and the business are grown, I find myself reflecting on what’s worked and what hasn’t. It’s surprising how the expert parenting advice I learned such a long time ago works so well with humans of all ages, and I realized that I just naturally use these techniques in my day-to-day encounters with others, including clients.

Here are my three favorite tips I learned as a young mom that have worked especially well with clients:

Give them choices
When the kids were small, we started off with simple choices. Would you like to put your toys away before or after dinner? Notice that leaving the toys on the floor wasn’t an option, yet they had the power to choose. I could have said, “Clean your room now,” but you see how that can cause some resistance. It’s the same with clients. I find it helpful and I get less resistance when I offer some choices. I learned this technique while negotiating my first 5-figure project and offered options in my proposal. The first was a deep dive, complete with in-person interviews and bringing in experts for the analysis. The second option eliminated some of the elements of the first, at a lower budget. By comparing just two choices, it was easy for the client to decide on the “full Cadillac version” (her words).

Use contracts and consequences
This came in especially handy when our sons turned 16 and started driving. At the suggestion of their driving school, we drafted a contract with the rules of the road when they were behind the wheel, and we spelled out what would happen if they broke the rules. Speeding ticket? No arguments, because they knew the consequences from the start. With clients, we use contracts, letters of agreement, and lengthy conversations about expectations and outcomes before starting our work so we have no misunderstandings later on.

Present a united front
My husband and I didn’t always agree on parenting strategies, but our sons never knew. We discussed our differences in private and formulated strategies that worked for both of us and didn’t confuse the kids. The same applies to client interactions. No matter who is working on our due diligence media reports, for example, the product looks the same. Whether it’s our media researcher or me doing the research, we search the same sources, run the same searches, use the same criteria for selecting results, and deliver our findings in the same format. It’s seamless, and clients can count on a consistent product.

These parenting tips have stood the test of time because they’re based on common sense and mutual respect, which never go out of style–and they go a long way when managing kids and clients.

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