In the course of a project manager’s career, there will be many different types of clients with varied personalities to satisfy. One of the most critical skills which can be learnt is how to relate to, work with, and leverage the strengths of team members. For professional services leaders, being able to adjust communication styles to meet other personalities doesn’t just end with the team. In order to manage successful projects for clients, the project manager has to be malleable, adjust to the people and the environment, while maintaining workflow and project management best practices.
The following are some of the 4 most common types of client personalities and strategic actions which can be taken to deliver the project without sacrificing productivity.
The hovering client
Known as the helicopter personality type, unfortunately projects don’t always run smoothly and if a client has experienced failure before then expect a lot of distractions. As the client who has experienced delays previously will be anxious and expect to be asked a lot of questions. This could be the case because the client had poor status visibility of a previous project. Whether jaded from previous projects or simply over-interested, this type of client may flood inboxes with “checking in” emails. If this is the case then the client is hovering and the biggest challenge is satisfying this client by being responsive with request updates, without letting it take too much time. Statistics indicate, when working with the helicopter type client, valuable time is spent on updates that affect project delivery.
It’s difficult to be proactive when dealing with a hovering client, due to having constantly responded on update requests. But using a single source of truth and building visibility into workflow can be the secret behind satisfaction. Depending on requirements, using a project management platform or Excel spreadsheets to visualize tasks and centralize project details could do the trick.
Dashboards are a good way for clients and internal stakeholders to view real-time project progress. Using a single source of truth by establishing a central repository where clients can find information easily. A tool should be used that has dashboard capabilities that show project task statuses. When kicking off projects, walk clients through the workflow statuses which will be used, how notification will occur and any task status changes.
Being consistent and sticking to this approach should instil the project teams understanding of the client’s requirement and displays empathy and professionalism. Setting process from the beginning and providing visibility settles anxious or curious clients. Understanding processes and statuses act as the basis of workflow by providing clients with visibility without the extra work.
The distant client
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the distant client, the set and forget type. This type of client only wants high-level information with the project manager running the program with little client interaction. The challenge here is keeping them informed without overwhelming the client. The challenge with this type of client:
• There’s no clear measure of success.
• Little to no follow-up on questions, making it hard to stay on top of task due dates and align with their vision.
• The project team will waste time trying to track down information.
• Questions from client executives will cue fire drills that take the team out of the flow to get the client answers.
• Without a real sense of ownership on the clients end, the review and approvals process can take some time.
When projects are delayed, frustration and suspicion can quickly arise because the client doesn’t fully understand the scope.
When working for a customer who remains distant, provide them with a project map. Commence the project with a questionnaire that gathers all the needed project information. Teams create a form that triggers specific questions based on responses. Questionnaire forms help the distant client think through their needs so expectations can be set from the beginning.
Taking this approach can be done with a list pre-set questions for different projects in a Google form, spreadsheet, or document, hence no special project management tool is required. Create a project template with consistent steps, workflow statuses, and ways of notifying stakeholders when projects progress.
Once the questionnaire answers are received and the requirements understood, kick off the project with a template that clearly states the delivery work and when client feedback is required. Using a Gantt chart with relevant information provides a good project view.
The Lock Down client
As data breaches become more prevalent, clients are becoming more careful about how and where they share their information. Data security concerns keep clients from being flexible and allowing them to build better relationships with customers. The lock down client will be hesitant about providing the project manager all the details needed to succeed. They also might want to work within their own collaboration systems, which take the project team out of their normal workflow.
This can be worked around by providing integrations, capabilities and document protocols. There are three ways a project team can add security measures into their workflow to satisfy this type of client.
• Offer flexible and secure ways for clients or external stakeholders to provide feedback and approvals.
• Establish project folder permissions that can limit visibility into task information both internally and externally.
• Use the cloud to remain flexible and meet clients’ security requirements while preserving visibility and collaboration.
In order to be flexible for the security conscious client, use a project management tool that can securely integrate into other tools like Slack, a DAM, CRM, and more. Offering a secure work management platform provides the project team and the client with a safe space to create winning strategies. Regardless of the work management tool chosen, make sure it assists with managing client projects and provides industry-leading protection for full collaboration.
Too many leaders
Feedback consolidation when there are too many decision makers, and there is no channel to decipher the information. The project team need to work out which of the pieces of information is the one which should be actioned. As there could be a struggle with consolidating feedback and communication across email threads, spreadsheets, etc., and the most common factor for project delays are last-minute changes to requirements followed by delays due to conflicting priorities. Working with a group of decision makers can be challenging, with different personalities, drives, and goals involved, it’s hard for project leaders to satisfy everyone.
Providing the client with a structure and a framework should alleviate the challenges around task ownership, requirement changes, and difficulties in the approvals process. As part of the project kick off determine roles and responsibilities. Using responsibility frameworks like RACI, RAPID, or DACI provides structure to the group.
Giving stakeholders ownership and defining roles keeps the whole team focused as the project progresses. The project team should then be able to leverage these frameworks in order to professionally keep clients on track and in check when an “informed” member tries to overstep their boundaries.
Once clear roles are established, the next challenge is for the client to proof and approve. This can be achieved by using an asset like email where they upload it into the software tool and assign stakeholders to provide feedback. Reviewers digitally mark up the asset so all stakeholders can see comments in real time. This breaks down communication silos and streamlines the actions needed to get that final approval. This can be achieved with existing tools by clearly defining who should provide feedback how it should be received and when it’s due.
Having a good sense of humour is often a good remedy when dealing with stressful situations, there’s no reason work life should affect project delivery. Understanding how to satisfy different client personalities and working styles will set project managers apart, and keep clients coming back again and again.
In order to scale these tactics, weave project management best practices into workflow consistently. Using collaborative work management platform assists in satisfying clients while building highly productive workflows.

Author's Bio: 

Project Management Companion are not a “Body Shop”, but work with our clients and their teams in a mentoring capacity to assist in every facet of project delivery so the Intellectual Property remains within the organisation. We help your team deliver projects successfully.