You want to be an influential project manager by showing you care about your project, its people, and the process. So how do you do this when you’ve got a new project and a new client? It comes down to knowing what makes a project run well—and what questions to ask to make sure you have those details locked in place.

Before you start any project, take some time to sit down with your client and ask some tough direct questions. This will go a long way in ensuring you’re applying the right processes to the project and setting the right expectations about how your teams will work together.

Here are 7 questions to help you get your project started on the right foot.

1. What’s the objective or business goal of the project?

Knowing the why behind a project can help keep your team focused on the goal at hand. It also enables you to devise a project strategy that ensures you meet your client’s overall objective.

2. What’s the project deadline? Are there any key milestones, important dates, or time constraints?

Every project has a deadline. Sometimes it’s arbitrary. Other times, it’s related to a meeting, campaign, or other big event that has a hard date. Using event project management software like TeamGantt can help ensure you get everything done on time. Don’t just sketch out a plan that might make the deadline. Create a project plan that’s based on the urgency of a final date, and keep that in sight.

3. What criteria will you and your client use to determine project success?

Want to set your team up for project success? Then have a goal in mind, and establish some clear metrics around those goals. Work closely with your client to determine what criteria will make the project a success. This simple question can help set your team up for success beyond a single project, whether it’s in the form of client referrals, additional projects, or another long-term win.

4. Who is responsible for which project deliverables? Who are the stakeholders involved?

Responsibility is primarily internal. Who owns what part of the project? Make sure your team serves your client’s needs by staying organized and clearly communicating responsibilities. TeamGantt’s free project management software makes it easy to assign tasks and track progress along the way.

Every project also has an owner. It might be the person you’re talking to. It might be that person’s boss. No matter what, you need to know who’s going to give you final approval—and who’s going to sign those checks. Be sure you loop the owner of the project in, and keep them informed at the right steps. It’s important to sort those details out before you start work.

5. How will you communicate feedback and inform stakeholders of project success?

If you’re accepting client feedback and iterating on any of your deliverables, you want to be sure your clients understand how the process works. There’s nothing worse than receiving 5 sets of conflicting feedback and having to sort through it all—it’ll confuse you, annoy you, and set your timeline on fire. Talk about the feedback process and set expectations early on about how you’d like to receive feedback and who should be involved.

It’s not uncommon to educate your clients about your work. This may come in the form of presenting your plan and explaining your process and each deliverable. It might mean you have to explain the intent of a deliverable before you present it. Either way, knowing just how much effort you put into explaining things will help build trust with your client and set you up as the expert.

6. Has your team been through a project like this in the past?

History can teach us a lot when it comes to running projects. If your client has completed similar projects, they might be able to share some insight on how to make things go smoothly. The more you can learn about what does—and doesn’t—work when it comes to how projects run in your client’s organization, the better prepared you’ll be to create a process that works for them. That way you look like a total pro.

7. Are there any obstacles or barriers that would prevent the project from being successful?

Risks or issues are inherent in any project. As a project manager, it’s your job to predict project risks, then seek and destroy them if possible.So why not ask your client what risks they might see before you even get started? There’s no shame in starting a project with the upper hand! Plus, keeping your clients happy will boost your mood as you keep things on track.

Consider this example: You’re ready to present the biggest deliverable of the project, and your client declines the meeting because their company will be closed for a staff meeting. Your plan’s thrown off, putting the final deadline at risk. You can easily avoid that situation by simply asking for a peek at your client’s calendar. (You also might want to ask this question again midway through the project because schedules change often!)

Keep clients happy with TeamGantt

Looking for a simple way to stay on top of project risk and communicate clearly with your clients? Give TeamGantt a try! With TeamGantt, it’s easy to track progress and share project updates with your clients and other stakeholders.

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