‘Meetings, meetings, meetings!’, a delivery leader exclaimed irritably after a session with a client who had given them the verbal hair-dryer treatment about an imminent milestone and its associated payment. ‘They don’t want to pay, even though we’ll have met the milestone in full’, the leader grumbled before berating themselves for not having walked out of the meeting. The Badger smiled. Memories of his own difficult meetings with clients came flooding back.
Notwithstanding the comprehensive training in meetings and negotiations that companies provide, it’s real experience in difficult client meetings that hones your approach to getting the right outcome. The Badger’s approach developed over the years to have essentially three things at its core. The first was that the client is not always right, and that being in command of irrefutable facts, and using them calmly, consistently, and assertively rather than petulantly and confrontationally, is crucial to getting the desired outcome. The second was mental resilience, to have as much background to the client’s position as possible, and to decide tactics that are unwaveringly focused on the desired outcome, before the start of the meeting. The third was to always have a walking out option in the kitbag as a weapon of last resort, but not for use to assuage personal ego or frustration.
Had the Badger ever walked out of a client meeting, the delivery leader asked? Yes, but rarely. One occasion was some months after a system with a fractious delivery history had become operational with a client’s end-users. The meeting was to a) formalise that the delivery contract’s deliverables had all been delivered, and b) that the client would make the final payment due and close the contract. It should have been a formality, because the client’s staff had already confirmed everything had been delivered to contract and to their satisfaction. Item (a) was indeed confirmed at the meeting, but the client refused, without giving any reason, to pay the outstanding money.
During a break, the Badger and his team agreed we were wasting our time because the client had no intention of paying. After the break, the Badger asked the client to confirm that although no contractual deliverables remained, they would not pay the money due. They confirmed this, and the Badger got up and left followed by his team. The shock on the client’s team faces was palpable. It was not something they’d anticipated! Payment was received three days later after the Badger’s CEO phoned the chairman of the client’s Board of Directors to complain and threaten litigation if users continued to use the system.
With a twinkle in their eye, the delivery leader looked at the Badger, grinned broadly, and said ‘I was wise not to have walked out. If I had, the client might have thought I was a petulant, over-sensitive, snowflake with no backbone’. The Badger laughed aloud…