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Partnering with clients and SMEs

Working with several stakeholders (internal or external) belonging to virtually every geography in the world, can be tough for a support function like marketing communications. I created this PowerPoint as a training tool to help the writers in my team. Since a subjective areas like this is highly dependent on experience, there is constant room for learning and improvement. As such, my presentation is intended to be purely advisory in nature and not an expert thesis of any sort.

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Partnering with clients and SMEs

  1. 1. © 2010 IBM Corporation Rovis Robert – GTS Channel Enablement Information Developer 16 April 2010 Working with Clients
  2. 2. © 2010 IBM Corporation 2 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs Weary?Weary? Depressed?Depressed? Confused?Confused? Dumbfounded?Dumbfounded? Does dealing with difficult clients leave you…
  3. 3. © 2010 IBM Corporation 3 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs Stressed?Stressed? Worried?Worried? Working extra hours?Working extra hours? Insecure?Insecure? Does dealing with difficult clients leave you…
  4. 4. © 2010 IBM Corporation 4 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs  Client: “We really love the design! However, can you make our website less cutting-edge? Our clients aren’t really that good at using the Internet and won’t use all of the bells-and- whistles (extra stuff).”  Me: “What are you referring to specifically?”  Client: “We don’t need the login area. None of our customers will use that.”  Me: “OK, well it is an e-commerce store so I’m not quite sure how you’re going to get paid without being able to identify the client.”  Client: “Well, you’re the designer and you’ve done a great job so far so I’m sure you can figure something out. Look at Google! You don’t have to login to their site and they’re making tons of money!” Client requests that leave you going “arrggggghhhh….” Source:
  5. 5. © 2010 IBM Corporation 5 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs The client has sent a picture taken from their camera phone and wants to use it in a A4 brochure.  Me: “Hello, I’m phoning regarding the image you sent earlier. It’s way too small, it’s only 640x480 pixels. Ideally we would need something 10x that size. Also it’s out of focus and essentially we can’t use it. It would look pretty terrible at A4 size.”  Client: “Ah, I see. Can’t you do anything with it? Can’t you work your usual magic on this?”  Me: ”I’m afraid not. It simply is not of a high enough quality that I would recommend using it on an A4 magazine advertisement. If we could get a high resolution photo taken by a professional photographer then maybe we could go further from there.”  Client: “Can’t you just wave your magic wand and make it better?”  Me: “I’m not Harry Potter.”  Client: “Well I’m very disappointed in you….” Client requests that leave you going “arrggggghhhh….” Source:
  6. 6. © 2010 IBM Corporation 6 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs  Client: “We’re trying to watch the DVD with the advertisement on but we can’t hear any sounds. We’re really not happy with you. You need to bring a new DVD over asap.”  Me: “What are you playing the DVD on?”  Client: “My receptionist’s computer.”  Me: “Does it have speakers?”  Client: “No, will you bring some for me?”  Me: “Uhhh….NO” ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  Email from client: “What we really want is a function where the user visits our website and the instant they do so it automatically starts up Microsoft Word on their computer and automatically starts filling out an order form. We think we would get massive revenue this way.” Client requests that leave you going “arrggggghhhh….” Source:
  7. 7. © 2010 IBM Corporation 7 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs  Client: “I cannot access the Internet from this computer, I haven’t downloaded Google yet.”  Client: “I’d like an email designed and sent to the Internet.”  Client: “The mock up looks nice, but do you think you can make it in 4D?”  Client: “I want it that whenever someone visits our website it automatically installs an icon with a picture of a dog on their desktop. The dog should walk around the screen.” ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  Client: “The site looks great, but I need you to do another one too.”  Me: “Umm, ok? What for.”  Client: “You know! You made the website on a Mac so you need to make another one on a PC for people who don’t use fancy computers like you.” Client requests that leave you going “arrggggghhhh….” Source:
  8. 8. © 2010 IBM Corporation 8 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs  Me: “Ok, we’ve pushed the site live.”  Client: “Why isn’t the site #1 on Google yet?”  Me: “We just pushed it live five minutes ago.”  Client: “Optimize the fireball.”  Me: “I’m sorry? Do you mean the firewall?”  Client: “I need more hits NOW, so I need you to optimize the fireball. I know what I’m talking about!” Client requests that leave you going “arrggggghhhh….” Source:
  9. 9. © 2010 IBM Corporation 9 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs What are the most common issues people face when dealing with clients?  Making unreasonable requests – like demanding nearly impossible deadlines  Insistence on breaking rules/guidelines  Unresponsiveness – leading to project time overruns  Expecting you to take responsibility for factors clearly beyond your control  Inability to decide on what exactly they require – usually results in rework and project delays  Experience: “I have one client who is so hyper-organized she gets upset if I send something to her early. This is one of my most demanding clients, but also one of my absolute favorites, because she cares passionately about the quality of the work, responds on schedule, and is overall a delight -- a challenging delight at times -- to work with.” – GTS CE project manager
  10. 10. © 2010 IBM Corporation 10 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs This session is intended to provide you with the knowledge needed to strengthen your relationships with clients.
  11. 11. © 2010 IBM Corporation 11 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs How do you normally react to difficult or unreasonable clients? Do you flee?
  12. 12. © 2010 IBM Corporation 12 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs Or fight?
  13. 13. © 2010 IBM Corporation 13 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs Dealing with clients who are being unreasonable or difficult.  Try to understand the “bigger picture” and reasons behind their request – We deal only with the tip of the iceberg—most SMEs or marketing managers know what they are doing and have very good reasons for wanting to do it a certain way  Explain – with valid, reasonable reasons  Educate – particularly when it concerns guidelines, templates, formats, etc.  Ask well-thought-out questions to get to the bottom of the issue  Set expectations at the beginning  Provide smart or clever choices, alternatives or options – to show how we can accommodate the guidelines as well as the clients' needs  If possible, give them time to think over it.  Double-check with authoritative sources – for example, Randy Golden for brand guidance or Alex Heckert for legal
  14. 14. © 2010 IBM Corporation 14 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs Dealing with clients who are being unreasonable or difficult.  Request a meeting with a higher/more authoritative person in your team (such as a project manager or lead) to help explain why we cannot accommodate a request and reach a compromise – Pull in leadership expertise like Tina or Jeanne – The presence of a senior person to help you out is always a calming influence – Experience: “I work with a mentor who is my senior partner. And she takes the full brunt of an SME attack, if any.” – GTS CE content writer  If none of the above works, try this: – Then send them an e-mail letting them know that you’ll be happy to do as they wish but letting them know that they are deviating from the guidelines – Request that they provide specific instructions back to you that they want you to override the guideline(s) in question. – Make sure this document is posted to a proper public repository for future reference.
  15. 15. © 2010 IBM Corporation 15 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs Ever had to deal with an angry client on a call? If yes, is this how you felt?
  16. 16. © 2010 IBM Corporation 16 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs Successfully handling angry or upset clients in “live” situations  Don’t take it personally  Gather your thoughts. Have extreme clarity of thought and speech  Empathize with their concerns but focus on resolving the issue  Make sure that you capture their complaint or concern – say something like: "OK, I want to be sure I understand your concern" and then recite back your understanding.  Promise to take that concern forward and try to find resolution. Important to follow up here!  Try to get back to the original agenda of the call so we can accomplish what we need to there  Personal experience: “Not on a call...on chat yes...quietly read what is being typed, ask for time and analyze later....basically let the other person let off steam....”
  17. 17. © 2010 IBM Corporation 17 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs Building an effective relationship with your clients
  18. 18. © 2010 IBM Corporation 18 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs 10. Be professional at all times, in all situations. Especially with regard to process, deliverables, etc. 9. Do your homework – Talk to colleagues who have worked with these SMEs and find out their likes/dislikes, etc. – Read up on the offering and gain knowledge in their offering area prior to your first interaction 8. Show your interest in their area of expertise 7. Create and seize opportunities to bond – Don't be afraid to employ a personal touch – for example, if you find out you both love dogs, or have kids the same age etc, it's fine to explore that a little – Appreciate their help, effort, time, etc. Nothing dramatic, just small things. 6. Put yourselves in their shoes – most SMEs know what they are doing and have very good reasons for wanting to do it a certain way. This is why a two-way conversation about any issues is so important. Building an effective relationship with your clients
  19. 19. © 2010 IBM Corporation 19 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs 5. Demonstrate empathy and commitment to their goals – to let them know that you understand and appreciate their concerns and that you are on their side 4. Listen. Respond. Communicate. 3. Go that extra mile – Put in that extra effort and use your additional skills (like online research, for example) to provide that bit of additional value – it will show! 2. Service, service, service. Bend over backwards to give them what they need, within reason, even if technically it's "not your job.“ 1. Most important: Deliver work of superb quality and on time. That's the best relationship builder of all. Building an effective relationship with your clients
  20. 20. © 2010 IBM Corporation 20 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs Questions?
  21. 21. © 2010 IBM Corporation 21 IBM GCS – Working with SMEs