The final topic to talk about, before jumping into the process of the website itself, is managing your clients on a phone call.
You’ll experience the ones who like to ramble. You’ll get the storytellers. And if you have multiple people on a call at once, you can witness some internal arguments. Your job as client manager is to (graciously) move them along and accomplish the goals for the call.
The anatomy of our 30-minute client check-in calls
Brief small talk
In the cultures I work with, small talk is customary to break the ice, get to know each other a little, and be more personal. I start my calls asking how everyone is, if they had a good weekend, how the weather is, etc. If I remember that they told me something from last week, I bring that up. Sometimes I’ll tell a personal (short) story to connect with them and try to make them laugh.
Set the calls intentions
Once everyone is on the call and we did a little banter, I start my calls with intentions. It will usually go along the lines of:
“Awesome! So what we want to review today is a, b, and c. We were especially stuck at the last item, so maybe we can start there. Is there anything else that we need to add to the agenda for today?”
Moving them along
In the midst of the client check-in calls, things might begin to wander. Knowing when to interrupt is essential if you want to be seen as a respectful person who honors conversation ethics. But it’s your job to know when the wandering is helpful, and when you need to bring them back on topic. Sometimes I let them finish, but jump in quickly to prevent them from using the empty silence as permission to continue talking. Some ways you can accomplish this is:
“So from what I’m hearing, we need to ….”
“I’m sorry to interrupt but I wanted to come back to ____. So what you are saying is…”
”I’m sorry – can I ask about …”
”I don’t mean to be rude but may I interrupt quickly?”
”Sorry to interrupt but may I ask a quick question?”
”This is all great – may I jump in here?”
”You made a good point when you said _____. So what it sounds like is…”
Depending on how much they are storytelling, you might need to cut them off. For example, if they are talking too long about their dog, you can cut them off like:
“That’s very funny, my dog can be exactly the same. I have a hard cut-off in 20 minutes, so can I ask you about…”
Usually when they realize that time is a factor, they will be a little more focused. You can still allow them and their story to be heard, but with a respectable limit. With each interruption statement, try to bring it back to the topic at hand. If they are very chatty, you can try asking closed questions where the only answers can be “yes” or “no.” Closed questions should start with words like “can”, “do”, “are” or “would”. This is instead of “how”, “which” and “what”. (For example, “Can I help you with anything else?” is a closed question.). The balance is being professional and letting the client feel heard, even though what they are saying doesn’t really need to be heard in that moment.
Wrap up the client check-in calls
When it’s time, you gotta say goodbye. I typically like to wrap up my calls by repeating back the major action points that were decided on, allowing for final questions, letting them know when they will hear from me next, and saying thank you (aka goodbye).
“So we are nearing our time but I think we made good progress. Do you have any other final questions for today? “So what we will work on is x, y, and z. I’ll send you an email about x later this week and we’ll keep moving forward from there. Thank you all! Have a great day!”