How to be a Closer: A Look at the Art of Project Management.

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Congratulations – you won the business. You worked hard to earn your clients by conveying your expertise and proving to them that the work you do will help them solve their problems and deliver a positive return on investment.  Now, how you manage the relationship will go a long way toward ensuring you retain your client long after the initial project is completed.

Regardless of whether you are working on an initial SEO audit, or a robust social media engagement campaign, you must manage client expectations and communicate effectively with your client. You have a responsibility to your client to develop a plan that ensures there are no surprises that will prevent you from retaining the client moving forward.

Some steps to follow:

1. Build a team. Your team of experts should all be accessible and available to answer any questions as you collaborate on solutions. Each team member’s role must be effectively communicated to the client so the client knows who to go to when questions arise.  You must effectively demonstrate how each team member contributes to the overall goal of efficiently solving the client’s problems. These roles include, but are not limited to:

a. Account Manager
b. Technical SEO Analyst
c. Content Curator
d. Link Building/Relationship Manager

2. Define your process. Define your process and effectively communicate to the client that deviating from this process will hinder your chances for success. Your process, which includes your firm’s unique value proposition, is your differentiator, and is likely the reason why your firm was selected in the first place. This is an important step as it enables you to retain control over the engagement and the dialogue. As you establish the rules of engagement, remember, your number one objective is to solve a problem that the client could not solve on his own. This is your opportunity to reaffirm to the client that you are not only valuable, but invaluable.

3. Diagnose the problem. Many firms like to pitch solutions before they have accurately and effectively diagnosed a problem. It is up to you, as the expert, to evaluate and assess before you prescribe a solution. As part of this diagnosis, once again reaffirm your unique value proposition. Reaffirming helps those clients who may be suffering from “buyer’s remorse,” or who may otherwise have doubts about your ability to help. This reaffirmation will go a long way toward creating an ongoing partnership with the client, and will help you retain the client moving forward.

4. Propose a solution. After you have diagnosed your client’s issues, your proposed solution should include goals and KPIs that reasonably establish your client’s expectations. Make sure to educate your client on the KPIs so that there is 100% buy-in on the goals. Setting proper expectations is vital to having both short-and long-term client satisfaction.

5. Apply your solution. As you apply your solution, the tactical work necessary to reach your goals, you must not make excuses if roadblocks prevent you from following your process. If part of your proposed solution includes having them update blog content, the client must have the resources and wherewithal to make the necessary update. If they cannot, this should have been identified during the diagnosis and proposed solution phases. It is important that both agency and client collaborate effectively in order for your projects to be completed according to the expectations set forth earlier.

6. Measure and reassess regularly. An important step in the project management process is analyzing and reporting on results. When you measure, make sure to report on progress made on the KPIs toward goals agreed upon earlier in the process. Communication is key, regardless of the success of the engagement. An important factor to preserving the trust of the client is to proactively take corrective action in the event that progress hasn’t been made toward achieving your goals. If you have followed your process, agreed to earlier in your engagement, and if you set proper expectations based on your past experience, the client will not be surprised by slow, yet steady progress.

If you effectively manage the relationship from pitch to close, you’ll be retaining more and more clients. You’ll spend more time improving your clients’ business, and less time proving your worth during another pitch.

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