What you expect from clients is what you will get – from 37Signals

I’ve been a fan of 37 Signals philosophies and products for a few years and we’re about to move some functions of our company over to Highrise, their CRM product.

Yesterday I wrote about how much I disagree with Michael Lasky‘s premise that creative firms need to protect their intellectual property presented for a competitive pitch. The premise was that you treat prospective clients like they are going to try and steal your ideas. Now, as luck would have it, Matt Linderman from 37 Signals makes it very clear. You will get what you expect from clients. If you expect them to steal, they will. If you expect them to not agree with you, they won’t. Matt comes at it from the perspective that if you’re not on the same page with clients, you’re going to lose.

Below is his complete post. You can read it on this page, or even better go check out 37Signals.

Work hard, respect your clients and get results. This will save a lot of money of legal fees trying to sue your clients;-)

What you expect from clients is what you will get

Matt Jul 30

“We get it. But our clients would never understand.” It’s a frequent rebuttal to our Getting Real philosophy.

Read between the lines and there’s a disturbing undercurrent to that message. It’s really saying, “I get it but these other people could never understand. They don’t have the wisdom and the understanding that I do.” It’s like the way some LA or NYC people sound when they talk down about the masses in the flyover states. It’s insulting.

The truth is folks can usually handle a lot more than these wizards think. Are their clients really imbeciles who couldn’t possibly understand why they’re foregoing a spec to build something real ASAP? I doubt it.

A lot of times people are just stuck in patterns. Process gets done a certain way because that’s the way it’s been done in the past. Sometimes the arteries of work get clogged up simply because no one stops it from happening. Inertia happens.

Set a new course
Instead of looking down at your clients, look for ways to convince, educate, and guide them. That’s part of your job.

Start off by agreeing on your common goal: to create the best final product possible. Agreeing on a common goal is an old Dale Carnegie technique that works well because it gets everyone to realize they’re on the same team and fighting for the same thing. You start getting “yes” immediately.

Then steer them in what you think is the best direction. Take the initiative. Set expectations. Explain why you want to do it a new way. Tell them how you think the project should go.

Will this approach lose you the job? If it does, maybe it’s a bad fit in the first place.

But you may be surprised by the results. This kind of effort shows you’re someone who genuinely cares about the final outcome. And a lot of clients would love to work with someone like that. They’d love for you to tell them there’s a better way. They’d love to know that you want to do more than just phone it in.

Don’t assume ignorance. People live up to the expectations placed upon them. If you assume intelligence and flexibility from your clients, you just might get it.”


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