How to Understand and Know your Client

It is important to realize that the continuous existence of any business depends on the number and quality of clients at any particular time.

Business clients, either in the Design, Architectural, Engineering and Construction firms or in any other industry belong into two categories:

  • Knowledgeable clients – this group of clients are versed with technical and expertise knowledge in the contracted project. Because they understand professional language and technical terms, therefore communication is smooth.
  • Clueless clients – these clients are only concerned with the end product or result because of lack of technical know-how or production knowledge. As a result communication with such clients becomes laborious and lay-man language is encouraged.


Who is a Client?

In the Building and Infrastructure sectors, the general concept of a client is someone that has a need to develop new building, renovation to existing building or construction of new structures and facilities. In order to accurately define a client, any client in this sector will satisfy the following:

  • It involves a one time or recurrent individual or entity.
  • A client contracts out a project.
  • Have a control and interest in the project.
  • A client satisfies a purpose of trade, business or undertakings. 


A client is a one time or recurrent individual or entity who contracts out project(s) with a vested interest and control for the purpose of trade, business or undertakings.

Potential clients will normally approach your firm due to your ongoing marketing efforts, referrals or walk-ins. These prospective clients can be:

  • Housing developer
  • Industrial developer
  • Public business sector
  • Private business sector

While you are prepared to welcome a client to your firm, you should be prepared to appoint authoritative personnel to care for client’s need, deal with client concerns and provide adequate response. 

Wear the cap of an educator

Usually, it is not uncommon to deal with different clients who possess varying degree of experience with projects.

To efficiently manage the proposed project, it is important to educate the client as a minimum on:

  • The importance of planning early.
  • The need to provide required information on a timely basis and the impact of failure to do so.
  • How to reduce energy and life cycle costing.
  • The concept of sustainability.
  • Clarity of contract management, emergency procedures and reporting requirements.


Are you close to your Client?

Irrespective of how close the relationship or the connection or familiarity with your client is, a well-drafted contract is required because of one or more of the following:

  • Your client may be involved with Third Parties such as the Bank or Insurance Company. Though your client may not have the intention to create legal relationship but as a result of issues arising from the project, the Third Party can sue to recover any invested interest in the project. This might bring damaging effect to your firm as there is no well-drafted contract limiting the extent of responsibilities.
  • There is possibility that without any binding or underlying contract, your client for no fault of his can re-assign the project or sell the project even before completion to a different client with a different expectation.


Should Project Team engage Clients?

It has become a common practice on the part of clients, engaging in communication with project team member who is directly involved in the project work. Can we conclude if this is right or wrong? It is debatable especially when time is of essence or when the project Manager is unreachable. In this scenario, the client might deem it fit to pass on some important information to benefit successful completion.

Sometimes, any member of the project team can receive additional information but in a situation where the client demands or requires a change, addition or something outside of the project scope, the affected project team should consider some or all of the following:

  • Follow organization’s code of conduct for dealing with clients.
  • As a team member, unless assigned to assume the responsibility of the Project Manager, do not agree or approve client’s unusual or questionable request without consulting a higher authority.
  • Think about the rules of dealing with clients and the precautions you must take to avoid ethical problems.


How difficult is your Client?

In order to keep the client happy it is necessary to identify and meet the needs of the client. Occasionally, you may have to deal with difficult clients who demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • Engaging your time for no charge.
  • Failure to respond to emails or answer your calls.
  • Emphasizing on insignificant details.
  • Refusal or delay to pay for services provided.

Due to today’s Technological development client’s unrealistic expectation(s) can lead to rush or overtime. Alternatively, it may require you to do more work in a short period of time (within a few hours or within a day).

How do you deal with angry Client?

In rare cases will you experience angry client showing up at your office doorstep shouting and demonstrating their characters. On the contrary you can easily receive an email or a call from your client expressing dissatisfaction due to failure to deliver on time.

When you receive such complaints follow these courses of action to deal with the situation.

  • Listen carefully and actively by paying full attention to their complaints.
  • Repeat the client’s concern to show your understanding of the problem.
  • Propose a solution.
  • Take action to resolve the issue and follow up.
  • Establish the root cause of the problem and take appropriate actions to avoid future occurrence of the same.


Skills you need

  • Staying cool even if under pressure.
  • Ability to stay calm.
  • Anger management skills.
  • Emotion management skills.
  • Conflict resolution skills.
  • Be assertive in your decision.


Do you have a repeat Client?

Your firm will perform better when you can get, retain and maintain repeat clients who can continue to give you referrals to prospective clients. Some of the things you can do to accomplish this involve:

  • Establishment of personal connection.
  • Be transparent and be honest in your dealings.
  • Reciprocity – recognize the client on project completion anniversary or on any other dates important to the client. Occasional surprise gift will be appropriate as well.
  • Establish loyalty programs.



In order to engage and keep a client, it is vital to make a good first impression and provide a satisfactory service at the end. The major key in dealing with clients is the ability to listen to your client, understand their viewpoint, concerns, past project experiences and eventually build a long lasting business relationship.


Olajide Ageh