Executive Tips For Meeting Client Expectations and Successful Engagement (Part 1)

In the midst of running a business, it can be easy to slip and mismanage client expectations and engagement. Here are some tips to get you back on track!

An independent executive is continually juggling various client expectations, demands and doing the right thing for all stakeholders involved. This can be challenging and difficult to keep focused on why they were brought in, to begin with, and keeping everyone on the same page and the same track.  Here are a few things to remember as you balance the priorities and make a lasting impact with your clients.

Managing Client Expectations

One of the biggest complaints from companies is that the ‘consultant’ “didn’t do the job they were brought in for.” “They didn’t accomplish what I expected them to do.” “They didn’t meet my expectations.” Often this cannot be further from reality, but the executive failed to ensure the expectations at the beginning and that they stayed consistent throughout the engagement. It is easy to get sidetracked with expectations since and executive is often not being brought into a great running situation. Something is broke, improvements needed to be made, some type of transition is going on, or there’s some goal that they’re trying to get to. The executive is seen as a hero in this way. “Just by hiring them, my problem is going to be solved.” In reality, circumstances may not allow the executive from achieving the expectations within a certain time frame, or at a particular level. Get all the information that you need before you make any commitment. Once the executive makes those promises, they shouldn’t underpromise and over deliver and be clear of what the client’s expectations are and if they are realistic or not. Though expectation management seems like an old school business school word, we hear the reality of it being mismanaged when having conversations with clients. And when they’re happy with someone that they’ve hired in the past, it is rarely because they simply ‘liked’ the person, but because the person met their expectations.

Meeting unrealistic client expectations

How does an executive manage client expectations, especially when the initial expectations are unrealistic? The biggest challenge is that those expectations are pretty deeply rooted. They started the moment the client realized they had an issue or created the goal. The expectation of how to fix or achieve it predates any conversation they had with the executive. The initial discussions and the Statement of Work (SOW) are just a continuation of that. The reality is that it also never really ends. Relate it to remodeling a room in your house. Did your buying process start when you first stood in a showroom and started deciding on what fixtures you wanted? No. It started the moment you became dissatisfied with the current look of the room. That led to the decision to remodel and you than being in a showroom picking out fixtures. It also didn’t end when you did the final sign off of the contractor’s paperwork accepting the job as completed. It continues every time you pass by or step into that room. Does it make you feel good, are there some different color choices you wish you had gone with or have you started to notice some flaws in the contractor’s work? The client’s expectations are one of the most challenging elements of the engagement. Whatever the executive accomplishes doesn’t have as big of an impact if it isn’t in-line with the client’s expectations and can result in a lasting negative impact.

Keep communication open

The communication process and template outlined can help significantly. During the conversations, expand your discussion beyond what was on the SOW. Have some additional expectations unknowingly arisen? We see this quite a bit when following up with both the executive and the client during engagements. One of two things can easily happen. Either the executive is so focused on the SOW they don’t stop and listen to the client, or they get so side tracked with the additional requests and scope that they forget the SOW. Proper communication and staying focused on the client’s expectations and the current situation can help greatly.

This is part one of a three-part series. Stay tuned for more on Marketing and Business Development for your interim executive business.

About Cerius Executives

As one of the largest North American providers of contract executives for part-time, temporary, interim and consulting assignments, Cerius has a network of thousands of executives from Operations, Finance, Sales, Marketing, Manufacturing, IT, Engineering and Human Resources. These executives are available to step into companies on short notice to fill a sudden gap in leadership, to run a key initiative, or to provide specialized skills and knowledge for a temporary period of time. Cerius serves clients of all sizes from virtually every industry.

Learn how we can help your career grow.