Do you find yourself bending over backwards for your clients, doing things for them that take too much time, or aren’t part of the product or service that you offer. If so, maybe it’s time you set some boundaries with those clients. It’s only good business sense to set up professional boundaries of what you will and won’t do for your clients. Sure, this may mean we lose a client from time to time but did you really want to deal with their hassles anyway? You can always deal with others. As a successful business owner or successful salesperson you’ll find you have all sorts of different clients, it’s your choice to pick the ones you want to do business with and the ones you choose not too. I’ve always found if I don’t like dealing with a person or company, it’s probably best the company I’m working for (in sales) doesn’t deal with them as well. I’ll try to illustrate some good rules for setting up professional boundaries you may use to help you out with your career.
In order for me to take on a new client, they have to be professional. This usually isn’t a problem (I work in digital advertising sales) because 99% of the prospective clients I do business with are very professional. However, from time to time you run into a bad apple. Some examples of things I don’t tolerate is constant use of foul language, clients getting angry with me, clients trying to change the contract, clients constantly complaining, etc. I’m a pretty understanding person, just like the next guy, but I won’t tolerate people being unprofessional in business. I don’t tolerate it with my colleagues, and I won’t tolerate it with clients as well. I look at professionalism as a two way street, if both parties are professional, no problems will occur. However, if only one party is professional disaster is bound to happen.
Rules of engagement
It’s very important to have contracts, they will serve as your rules of engagement. They don’t have to be a long legal document that goes on and on forever. However, you do need to be upfront when beginning a professional relationship with a client. You should try to get a lawyer to review any contracts you draw up. When you properly use a contract, they can be a powerful motivational tool and will add to the professionalism of your relationship with the client. Additionally, you can outline what the client and provider should or should not do.
When doing business with a client, I always try to have a performance clause. What I mean by this is that I’m not going to guarantee anything. I know this doesn’t sound too appealing, but it’s something that advertising buyers have become accustomed to. As a successful salesperson, you should always try to set the bar high. Illustrate your products features and benefits, and align them with your prospective clients needs. However, you shouldn’t guarantee anything unless you can deliver on it.
After hours work
When you work with a number of different clients, you can find some can be a bit needy. That’s fine if they’re needy and you should always try to go out of your way to help your clients, they expect it and you want to get ongoing business from them. However, you need to establish specific boundaries for some of the work you do for them. For example, if you’re working on a project for them and you have to get creative materials from them by a certain time, you should let them know it and it should be in the contract. If they don’t get the materials to you by a certain time, you should cancel the deal. I know it’s not pleasant to lose a deal, but your time is valuable and the client usually recognizes this. However, it’s important you set up a company policy and don’t bend on this as it will pay off in the long run.
I could definitely write a lot more about boundaries in business as it’s a field that’s widely discussed and there have been many books and lectures on it. I think what’s most important with boundaries is you treat your clients well, but don’t let them take advantage of you. Hopefully, I’ve illustrated some basic “principles to live by” you find important.