Divining Client Motivation

clientmotivationI keep six honest serving men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.   –  Rudyard Kipling

Risk managers stress client selection as a risk management tool. Realistically, in a competitive, well-developed market, I find that firms generally don’t have the luxury to cherry pick the clients they work with. Having been presented with the opportunity to work with a client, the best risk management tool is to negotiate the most reasonable contract, and a scope of services that accurately describes and outlines your responsibilities. Clients bring the most claims against design professionals, and managing this relationship well will definitely pay off. To negotiate effectively one has to figure out what the client’s motivation is, and rigorously applying the questions outlined in the Kipling’s poem will help you achieve that goal.


What is the client trying to achieve? What is the most important thing to the client?


Why is the client pursuing the project? Asking why often forces the client to describe why they are seeking a particular contract term, forcing them to articulate their thought process.


A key question to ask is the duration of the services. When will you be finished? When will you get paid?


How do you plan on performing the services? How will the client interact with you during the project? Asking how forces you think about the process.


Project location is obviously an important part of your evaluation.


You need to identify who the different stakeholders are in the project. Who is ultimately responsible for any particular piece? Who else is interested in the outcome of the project?

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