Don’t you just hate that?! When a client switches priorities or goals halfway or even three-quarters of the way through a piece of work without warning. It happens. Probably more than anyone is prepared to admit. And it happens to the best of us. So, what to do when all your hard work appears to be going down the drain?
- Clear documentation: make sure the contract clearly articulates the aims of what you’re doing. In a standard contract that means looking at the schedules at the end of the contract (in English Law). Make sure you have a revised proposal or inception report that sets out clearly the steps you’re taking and what the expectations are at the end of each step. Keep a track (usually on your CRM) of every important interaction with a client: email, phonecall, meeting, event, etc. While they might object when you produce your contemporaneous notes of a phone call in which they said ‘X’ when they are now saying ‘Y’, you need to ensure you have a clear record of what was agreed;
- Think about it from their perspective: why did they change their mind? What has happened? What are they now trying to achieve and why, and what might it mean for your work?
- Remind them of what was agreed (usually in an email) and then suggest that you jointly figure out a way forward that still meets the agreed criteria (and contract conditions) and takes account of the changed goals; and
- Be prepared to walk away: I’ve only had to walk away twice in my consulting career and in both cases I made it clear that as things had changed, I was no longer the right person to advise them. In one case they came back to me later on, in the other case they didn’t. I didn’t mind. Sometimes things do change. And we are just consultants, so that does mean that sometimes we need to be replaced too.
I hope this doesn’t happen too often to you, but when it does, think about these four points and see whether they can help you towards a better results for you and your client.