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How to Communicate Effectively with Clients

By MBO Partners |

Updated Thursday, July 23, 2020

consultant working at laptop

Clients are the glue that hold small businesses together. Your success and growth as an independent professional is entirely dependent on the relationships you build with your clients. One of the most important factors in developing and maintaining those relationships is communication.

Good communication can help keep a project moving along smoothly, resolve pain points before they become bigger issues, and maintain connection when working remotely. By listening to your clients, asking the right questions, and anticipating their needs, you can do your job better while helping them feel heard and understood. Build trust, boost your resume, and land more business with these five tips for effective client communication.

1. Work with Your Client to Choose Communication Tools  

As you develop a communication plan, consider how you want to portray your business. Your first interactions with a client will build the base for how they perceive you. Make sure these initial conversations are detailed. Work together to discuss project goals, and best modes and hours of communication.

Communication technology comes in all shapes and sizes today—video chat, messaging apps, email, phone calls, shared project management dashboards, and more. What tech do you both feel comfortable using and for what type of communication? For example, you might use a messaging app for daily check-ins and video chat for presenting larger deliverables.

Do your best to adapt to your client’s preferred method of communication. Some clients may be more formal than others, favoring a weekly status meeting accompanied by a visual PowerPoint presentation, while others may be more informal, requesting a weekly check-in via email and a longer monthly video chat review. 

2. Anticipate Your Client’s Needs

Before sending out any type of written communication or giving your client a call, take time to consider why you are communicating and how you can be as clear as possible. Focus on your client’s needs, try to anticipate any follow-up questions they might ask you, and include that information upfront.

If you are setting up a meeting to ask your client questions, send them the questions ahead of time so they can come prepared. If you reference a deliverable or want to use talk about a specific example, send them a link to what you are talking about. Simple actions like these will help avoid confusion and unnecessary back-and-forth questions.

3. Think About How You Present Yourself

As an independent professional, a lot of your work is likely done remotely. But even if you aren’t meeting your client face-to-face, it is still important to be aware of how you present yourself. When you’re on a video chat, make sure your workspace is visually presentable and dress in work-appropriate attire. Pay attention to your tone of voice, and give your client your undivided attention. Speak clearly, and channel enthusiasm, confidence, and positivity.

Consider your non-verbal communication as well. Make eye contact and nod to indicate interest. Vice versa, keep an eye out for cues from your client too. Do they seem comfortable and interested in what you are saying? Does their tone of voice indicate that you might need to summarize or review a certain point? Take notes during meetings and share your understanding to make sure you are on the same page. Putting in this effort will help to build trust and confidence.

4. Find the Right Way to Say ‘No’

Try as you might, you can’t always do everything your client asks of you. If you do have to say ‘no’ to a request, think of how to phrase it in a more positive way. For example, if your client asks you to expand on part of your project that is not covered under the initial scope of work, rather than getting frustrated saying ‘sorry, I can’t do that because it is not in the terms of our original contract,’ say, ‘I won’t be able to include that task in the current deliverable, but I’ll draw up some ideas and get back to you with a plan for how we can include it.’

5. Prioritize Clarity and Consistency

In all forms of communication, think about how you can be clearer and more concise. When sending an email, make sure it is easily readable and that there is a purpose to why you are reaching out. Put important deadlines or information in bold, link to examples you reference, or add in bullet-point lists. Always proofread written communication for grammar and spelling, and be sure to follow up promptly when a client reaches out to you.