[thelist] How to Talk Down to the Client (WAS: getting rid of the quote builder)

Jeniffer C. Johnson lead at offlead.com
Wed Dec 8 11:45:45 CST 2004

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Andy Warwick [mailto:mailing.lists at creed.co.uk]
> Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2004 10:36 AM
> To: alex at deltatraffic.co.uk; thelist at lists.evolt.org
> Subject: Re: [thelist] getting rid of the quote builder
> As an in-house tool I think it works great. But, as you say, unless you
> do a lot of virtual hand-holding, a prospective client just won't 'grok
> it'.

Nice timing on this discussion. I've been trying to find the time to do a
long and badly needed update to my own site. I've been putting this task off
in part because I've been slammed with paying work, and in part because I'm
not entirely sure what to put IN my own website. I know full well where my
expertise lies, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how to describe it
in language that the client will understand but will not be offended by. I
have a really nicely growing client base consisting almost entirely of
clients who need a LOT of handholding. 

I have two questions. One, just how does one handle talking down to a
general audience? I'm VERY good one-on-one with the clients once I'm talking
directly with them. I'm good at getting a feel for how much I can joke with
them, and I can quickly feel out how much/little detail they want to be
provided with in regards to what I'm actually doing. Some want me to explain
all the technical stuff in terms they can understand and process, others
just want me to work my "magic" and present them with the finished product.
But how does one best handle this sort of dumbing-down to a general
audience, where the voice needs to be a bit more formal?

Second question, less important but to me more interesting: is this the
norm? I understand that few people in the client position in this industry
understand the deep technical details of the web, but is it really the norm
that they don't know ANYthing? It seems to me that it is. At least the
people finding their way to me are that way. My own experiences with other
people who work in web-dev-related positions is that being good at design
and development doesn't necessarily translate into being good with dealing
with customers. I have met many developers who are LOUSY with clients that
need hand holding, and in fact I have gotten some of my very best clients
because some other developer didn't want to deal with them. (They make GREAT
clients! They tend to be grateful, and appreciative. My best and favorite
client has said on more than one occasion that he is still pissed about
being "handed off" to me, even while acknowledging that it was the best
thing that could have happened for him and his site.) I can see how a large
firm handles things...they hire developers to develop and they hire account
services folks to tend to clients. But what about other freelancers and
small companies that don't have "staff"? Are all the clients "dumb"? Or are
we small-timers just dealing with the lowest of the client crop, other
companies that also don't have a lot of staff, and therefore no one to
specialize in a technical field? And how well do you handle dealing with the
hand-holding? What gets you frustrated? 

Just curious. :-)


More information about the thelist mailing list