8 Things Your Project Customer Should Never Hear – Part 2

Tape-Up-MouthIn Part 1 of this two part series, I covered items 1-4 of the eight things your project customer should never hear you say…or hear your team say.  You may actually have to say these things to them, but not in a negative way and not as an immediate response to a question, thought or statement.  Never let out an immediate negative.  You don’t want to sound like you are unable to do something or that what they want is silly or doesn’t make sense.  Always give yourself an out…tell them you must go analyze it and will respond back.  What could have been an initial “No way!” out of your mouth may end up being a very lucrative change order if you handle it properly.  Read on…

That was not part of our agreement.

It may very well be the case that what they are asking for is not part of the maintenance agreement or requirements for the project.  But don’t ever let that be the initial response.  The best way to handle a situation like this is to ask for more information on what it is they need or are asking for and tell them you’ll check with the account manager or you’ll check the contract or you’ll review the requirements and get back to them as soon as possible.

That is not a function of our software solution.

It could be…so don’t say it isn’t.  You’re the project manager – if your project customer needs a particular function in the software you are offering then other potential (or current) customers may need that functionality too and they don’t even know it yet.  And they won’t until you roll it out as a new function in your latest release.  And guess what?  If you handle it right and present it as a change order to this current customer – because they really, really, really need it, then you’ve just managed to get them to pay for the development of new software functionality that will now make your product more desirable to and marketable to future customers.

That’s too technical for you.

Never belittle the knowledge level or technical competence (or incompetence) of your project customer.  I’ve known very technical individuals – I’ve managed them on my project teams – who would do this on a moment’s notice with anyone in the organization or in the customer’s organization without a thought.  It’s not a great way to build lasting relationships but somehow it’s more acceptable coming from the very techie gurus who – in some cases – are considered to be lacking in the interpersonal skills department anyway.  But the PM must be an ambassador of sorts so never let this come out of your mouth and make sure you never let it happen during any project status meetings as an output from one of your team members.  Educate them on proper meeting and customer etiquette if you have to.  It may, indeed, be too technical for the customer – administration of their implementation or further configuration or customization of the solution or reporting may be beyond their abilities, but it would be far better to discuss it separately with them and possibly present a change order that would cover their needs separately with some additional work performed from your organization.  Look at it as an opportunity to fill a need, not a way to shoot them down.

We aren’t going to be able to meet ‘x’ deadline.

I’m not stating that you should ever keep potential bad news from the project client.  Be upfront with them.  But don’t bluntly state that you’re going to miss a deadline either.  Discuss with your team what the concern or issue is and come back with the deadline matter and potential solutions.  Be ready to present an alternate date, or a way to meet the current date by moving certain tasks of phases around.  Always try to avoid just stating bad news.  If you see something like this as being an issue on the project, gather the team together and come up with some alternatives or solutions to present along with the negative news.  It will always work to soften the blow…it will always work in your favor.


That’s my list of eight things for now.  I may come back with more, but I’d really appreciate hearing from our readers as they discuss these items and hopefully add to the list.  The key is to never give the customer an initial “No.”  You may turn them off and you certainly don’t want to turn down what could be a huge feather in your cap by coming up with new, profitable add-on work on your project in the form of a change order at the customer’s request.

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM author with over 25 years experience as a developer, manager, project manager and consultant. Brad is married, a father of 9, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV.