You’ve probably been in this position before. Things are awkward when you’re talking to a client on the phone.
Project progress has been on track. Communication was going well until now. You were a great project manager. You executed tasks, sent deliverables, and satisfied every expectation. But then things started to fall apart.
First, there were budget issues. Then, there was scope creep. Finally, you had to fire a key member of your team. The client went on vacation. Next, you had a project estimation error and then everything unravelled completely.
Now you’re on your phone. It’s not a good situation.
You are not happy with her; she is not happy with you; you are frustrated with your staff; she is about to pull the plug; you don’t want to see her do that.
Everyone is generally tense.
It’s awkward.
This situation must be rescued somehow. The question is: Where do you start?
I’m sure that you can relate to any tense situation you have encountered in your long and successful career as a project manager. Every PM has stories to tell, battle wounds to heal, and ugly flashbacks of client relationships that went wrong.
A good project manager must be able to manage these situations and defuse them.
Let me share a scripted method that can help you make that tense standoff a win-win situation.
Let’s go back a moment. What is the point of this?
This is not a game of blame. This is an objective and cold assessment of the situation.
You can brainstorm all the reasons why things went wrong.
Here are some common culprits.
Communication problems. This is the most important cause. Clear communication is essential.
Scope creep
Oversights in project resource planning
Project estimation mistakes
Planning for projects
Unless you have an impossible client (it happens), both you and your client can share the blame.
However, if you’re trying to diffuse the situation, this is not the right way to present it.
Are you ready to write your script? Here it is.
1. “We blew it.”
Yes, eating crow is the first step.
For this first step, all that is required is a bold declaration, clear explanation, and a pinch of humility.
It’s not a good idea to hedge it. Do not try to cover it.
Grant Cardone, a sales genius, has a great line that can help you set your perspective: “Always Always, Always, Always Agree!”
Consider it from the perspective of the client.
Bad things have happened.
Client unhappy
It’s your fault.
Accept their guilt and agree to them. Do two things. Give them a clear explanation. Second, remember that humility can be a virtue.
Describe exactly what went wrong.
Now, put an end to your mental process for a moment. I must make a very important point. This is not the right time to make excuses.
Excuses are not allowed.
In the last month, we exceeded our budget by $3208. (It doesn’t matter that the client ordered additional features to make this possible.
We are currently 2 months behind in the design process. (It doesn’t matter if your lead designer quit for reasons beyond your control.
We didn’t communicate the progress over the past three weeks. It doesn’t matter if you lost all of your customer data in a security breach.
Yes, you admit to being wrong.
Your explanation doesn’t have to be long but it should be clear. It is important to clearly define the problem you are dealing with.
Now, serve… humble pie. It won’t be easy.
Let’s stop groveling. Let’s get to the good stuff.
2. “Here’s how to fix it.”
It’s time for a power move to help you get over your abject abasement. (I love power moves).
This power move will show you how to fix it.
You must be as clear with your “We blew It” speech as you were with your “We will fix” speech.
Clarity is the key to success. Lack of clarity can often lead to tension.
You don’t have to as

How to turn a tense client conversation into a win-win situation