4 Ways to Handle a Client that’s Too Busy to Collaborate – Project Management Tips

It comes with the territory. Sometimes project managers are plagued by a client who just isn’t responsive enough to move the project along systematically and on time. They will leave you on an island and expect results to magically appear. Needless to say, this can make for a project manager’s nightmare.

These clients don’t respond to emails where action is required. They are mysteriously missing when you call and rarely, if ever, return your voicemails. Um. Excuse me, aren’t you the one who commissioned this project?

What is a project manager to do? Is there a way to handle it without coming off as frustrated and patronizing?

Milestones with Clear Expectations

Draft a project schedule complete with clear milestones. Meet with your client from the get-go and induce their “buy-in” by outlining all short- and long-term objectives. Politely emphasize that it’s imperative that they are active in their feedback and in providing needed resources to move the project along in a timely fashion. (Download a comprehensive Project Management Planning template here.)

Get Weekly Recurring Status Meetings on the Calendar

These meetings cannot be missed. Whether you are working with your client in person or remotely, an aloof stance regarding these meetings can set a deadly tone for the course of the project. Especially during the initial phase of a project, adhere to these meetings religiously. Schedule them in Outlook and get them on your clients’ calendars.

Secure an Alternate Point of Contact at the Client Company

The client liaison can simply be too busy sometimes. Identify whether or not they HAVE to be your primary contact point. It’s not out of line or rude, in fact it is critical, that if the point of contact is busy, you request an alternative team member to deal with. It’s optimal that this secondary contact have some decision authority, if possible. The request must be made tactfully and graciously. You can politely assert, “I sense that you are busy, as we all are sometimes. Is there a colleague I can communicate with on key project milestones?”

After any Important Report, Follow Through with a Phone Call

If you send an important progress report or an action-required item, call your client immediately afterwards. You’re calling not just to check whether they received the item, but you are calling with a purpose – whether that is to highlight mission-critical information or draw their attention to a time-specific action required on their end.

Project management is a fine art and a test of your people skills. It’s a unique combination of dealing with things AND people. As always, the success rests on clear, concise communication. Sometimes busy clients just need a nudge in the right direction.

Download our newest whitepaper, Be a Follow-Up All-Star: The 1-2-3 Method:

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Garrett Hollander

Garrett Hollander

Director, Content Strategy at SalesStaff
Garrett Hollander serves as the Director of Content Strategy for SalesStaff. In that role, he serves the B2B sales and marketing community with premium content, posts, and ideas around various topics related to B2B sales. In addition, he manages SalesStaff's social media presence, building a strong community of like-minded sales and marketing professionals.
Garrett Hollander
Garrett Hollander

About Garrett Hollander

Garrett Hollander serves as the Director of Content Strategy for SalesStaff. In that role, he serves the B2B sales and marketing community with premium content, posts, and ideas around various topics related to B2B sales. In addition, he manages SalesStaff's social media presence, building a strong community of like-minded sales and marketing professionals.