Friday, August 24, 2018

The Secret to Retaining Loyal Clients

The client chase just got more interesting.  In a world of changing priorities, changes in government regulations and musical chairs’ change at the top, our search for client loyalty appears to be shifting once again. Are loyal clients an endangered species?  A training program I developed two years ago, “The Paradigm Shift is Selling Professional Services”, was a harbinger for these changes.
Now this reality is sinking in for most firms.  This is no longer a surprise attack. It can’t all be tied to improving economic conditions or social media.  It happens at most firms due to lack of comprehensive planning.  Firms with a “we have always done it this way” approach to business development and marketing are finding a shrinking client base and more difficulty in acquiring new business.   In other words, they are taking the “I want to be forgettable” approach to client acquisition.  Top of mind means you are unforgettable in the clients’ thinking. How do you get there?

What do business development professionals need today to navigate the swamp that is the marketplace? What role does the firm play in creating a navigation process that leads to success?

First, is your social media and web content acting like a magnet to attract clients?  Firing a shotgun out of a window is a difficult way to hunt tigers. There is a lot of sound and fury, but no results. Every hunter will tell you that it is always better to have the prey come towards you rather than trying to track it down in its territory.  The prey can play too many tricks when it stays within its comfort zone.  There is always a sweet spot when it comes to client acquisition. Understanding the sweet spot of every client is a good start. It is only a start.
It is one thing to get a prospective client out of its comfort zone but another altogether to get your firm out of its comfort zone when the hunt is on.  There are too many variables and behavior patterns that can cause us to chase the wrong client at the right time and the right client at the wrong time.  It can be about money, prestige, favors and so on. “Our most loyal client just fired us,” was the tagline for an airline ad a few years ago. The ad went on to show the CEO sending his top executives out on the road to show clients they cared about them. Has your firm ever been in this position?

Expanding your comfort zone during the hunt requires the following:
1. Absolute focus on why this opportunity makes sense for the firm both short term and long term.

2. Although fee is a consideration, the decision can’t be just about fee. Chasing a client solely for revenue doesn’t build enduring relationships, remarkable work or outstanding companies.
3. What will the experience be like, if the client hires you for this project? Is there team chemistry? What is the client’s performance history on other projects or with other firms?  Do you share the client’s vision or do you even know what the client’s vision is?

4. Can your team have fun and laugh with this client?
5. Risk and reward considerations. What resources will be needed? Do you have these in-house now or will you need to expand your services?

If management keeps saying, “show me the money,” your firm is not coming out of its comfort zone.
Client loyalty is a two-way street. It is like respect, it has to be earned. You can’t expect a client to be loyal, if you haven’t shown loyalty yourself.  If you haven’t gone the extra mile in servicing the client. With that being said, you can’t expect a quid pro quo just because you have serviced the client. 

When I headed up the national business development for an engineering/architecture firm, the CEO  at a corporate quality meeting responded to a question about recognizing employees for superior quality this way, “ Their recognition is their paycheck.” Firms and project teams that believe providing good service is enough to ensure client loyalty are treading on thin ice in today’s market reality.  Loyalty then is in the eyes of the beholder. 
Every industry is under attack from healthcare to corporate facilities to higher education and everywhere in between.  Client competitors seeking to expand their operations and start ups looking to create new opportunities which might make your client’s products obsolete, all put pressure on our clients and their loyalty to our teams. Throw in government regulations that impact the bottom line and client loyalty is tested even more. You need to look inside the industry dynamics your clients are facing and help them develop strategies for strengthening their positions.  A trusted advisor is not easily kicked out of the boardroom.

Always remember, if you don’t have a seat at the table, you are probably on the menu.  Every firm should take their business development and marketing staff through the proven steps toward improving client loyalty.  And, then don’t put baggage in their way as they move your existing clients into the client advocate categories.  Every CEO would agree that the world would be a better place if all their clients were client advocates. There is no magic wand or secret formula for securing client loyalty.  It is a mind set and attitude that pervades the organization from the top down.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Thrive When a Client Fires You

This is the time of year we start thinking about next year’s marketing, which leads us to a discussion
 of how many clients will leave us in 2019.  You don’t have that conversation?  You never lose clients?
Benjamin Franklin told us that “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.”  It is obvious he didn’t work in our industry.  We can add loss of clients to life’s certainties.   

Client loss doesn’t have to be a disaster.  In many cases you can do something before it happens.
Clients don’t leave us simply because we performed below expectations or the project went south.  There are four reasons why clients leave a firm:

1. You performed excellent work but the client doesn’t have another project.  We call this client evaporation.

2.  You performed acceptable work but the client thought you stopped caring about them and fired you.  We call this client dissatisfaction.

3. You performed acceptable work, but a competitor came in and won the client’s business. We call this competitive disadvantage.

4. Your made mistakes, the project went over budget and promises weren’t kept, and the client fired you.  We call this client outrage.
It should be noted that only one of the reasons had to do with poor work or project delivery. There is nothing you can do about client evaporation except to stay in touch with that company for the time when it does have another project.  The amount of resources spent on that will depend upon what your marketing research tells you about the company.  However, there is nothing you can do to save the client who is at the stage of outrage.  There is no time for grieving.

Obviously, there are things that should have been done before it got to that point.  Some of those things were out of your control.  The contractor might have slipped on a tight schedule or tried to make up some lost profit by sending in a pile of change orders.  Your project team might have changed and the new people needed time to get up to speed.  Team and client chemistry might have been out of balance. You might have made promises early on that were shaky at best and you never went back to the client to explain the reality of the project. Or, worse, your project manager might have made promises you didn’t know about that weren’t kept. Broken trust is the result of allowing any of these things to get between you and your client.  You were in control of more than you thought.  Communication is the critical success factor. Do you understand disaster communications?

An airline ran a commercial a few years ago that opened with a CEO in a conference room with his sales team.  He tells the gathered employees,” The first client we sold when I started this firm fired us today. I have plane tickets for everyone here and we are going to personally visit every key client to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

If you want to prevent reason 2, then you should do what the CEO in the commercial did.  Call it psychology 101, personal dynamics, or how to win friends, but the key to exceeding client expectations is letting them know how much you care.  Sometimes that is easier said than done.  This is especially true for the client that will evaporate next year.  Does management have a list?  The list of key clients along with staff assigned to maintain and build the relationship.  Does staff know what is expected and is there accountability?  Is it included in your marketing plan and part of performance reviews? Anything less than this means a valued client has a chance to fall through the cracks and into the hands of a competitor.

Starting with the premise that clients like you, how can competitors take clients from you?  It probably looks a lot like the way you take clients from your competitors.  We like to pull clients out of the cracks of our competitors. First, the client has to be open to change.  Are any of your existing clients open to change?  Perhaps the client is obligated to issue RFPs for all work.  Change, therefore, is part of the institution.  Yet, you have been their service provider on multiple projects.  Maybe it was because they trusted you to help write the RFP.  Although an RFP gives the impression of shopping around, we all know firms are often “wired” into projects.  You train your staff on quality projects, meeting delivery schedules, timely submittal of meeting minutes and other communications, including answering questions.  How much time do you spend on client service outside of the required project deliverables?

The amount of time spent on client service training is directly proportional to the number of clients lost to competitors in spite of your good work. You have heard of the leaky bucket analysis for business development.
When it comes to servicing your client, it is good to remember this jungle saying:

Every morning when the sun comes up the lion knows he has to start running otherwise he will starve to death.

Every morning when the sun comes up the gazelle knows she has to start running otherwise she will get eaten by the lion.

Moral of the story: It doesn’t matter who you are, by the time the sun comes up you better be running.
The industry moral to this story is that without clients your firm will starve and your competitors are running not to be eaten by you.  Yet, you and your competitors play a dual role.  When your staff understands the daily importance of client service, your firm will do more eating than being eaten.  As we teach in our training programs, you also need to reassess the 80/20 rule when it comes to existing clients.  Since it costs at least 5 times as much to obtain a new client than keep an existing client, it makes economic sense to spend more on client retention.  How to do that is a question we can help you find the answer to.

In the meantime, get ready to fill your leaky bucket and develop a client-centric 2019 Marketing Plan.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Improve Your Business Pipeline with a Story

When you are given the opportunity to make a client presentation, what is your action plan?  At this point you have completed the “go-no-go” process and are looking forward to winning new business. Don’t let your competition or ego get in the way. Frame your next presentation as a journey and you will win.  If you understand that humans are wired to listen to stories, is the story you're planning to tell compelling? Is the client listening?  Since your story and the stories of your firm are more involved than a 30-minute presentation, your biggest challenge will be deciding where to start and where to end. You can lose the audience in a heartbeat when you assume they have more knowledge than you do or when you bury them in jargon.  Being yourself might be a cliché, but the journey begins with who you and your firm really are. The middle is filled with what the client really needs you to solve.

The owner of an engineering firm I consulted with a few years ago had received a heart transplant and from that started his own business.  What do you think was his story during client presentations?  His message was simple and his journey was clear.  He did a superb job of quickly introducing the value his firm brought to the important client issues while wrapping the journey in his ability to overcome obstacles.  He made clients believe he cared about their needs and would deliver the solution they needed.  The client saw the world a little differently after his presentation.

What can you learn from this? Do your presentations make the client see the world differently? Your presentation team must be passionate about what they are doing.  The quality of the client solution is important and how you wrap it in your narrative is key.  Although there is not a best way to deliver a client presentation, there is definitely a bad way: Don't make it appear to be a formula. You have a plan and each team member plays a part.  Rehearsing eliminates the outcome that your presentation sounded like a Google response to a trivia question.

The presentation could be defined as the art of persuasion.  When we need to persuade, when we need to move people away from one way of doing things towards another, stories are the way to go.  What is really at the center of all business activity: Persuasion.

Clients relate to stories because they give continuity to the facts and case studies that every short-listed  firm is showing them during the interviews. Stories connects us and engage our clients. They give meaning to what we communicate. It allows clients to relate to your solution on another level.

Is your presentation an exercise in brand superiority?  Does your brand matter to the client?  One of the intended outcomes of your presentation is to create an emotional bond with the client. Never waste precious presentation minutes slapping yourself on the back.  Stories make your brand unique and act as the glue to tie all the other parts together.  There is no better way to differentiate your firm from your competition.

When our presentations include great stories, as opposed to ‘just’ communicating, we create meaning and reinforce a common sense of purpose. We get the client to enter our playing field where common goals and solutions are easily recognized. If this makes sense to you, presentation coaching might be a cost-effective way to improve your performance.  Contact for information.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Paradigm of Creativity: Change Business Outcomes

A lot has been written over the years about creativity.  People who market professional services are thought to be creative.  Creativity is expected, if you want to enter this business.  What do you know about creativity?

Many think it is simply a right brain condition where creative people have strengths while left brain folks are better suited for the technical, numbers and details of the industry.  Viewing creativity as solely the realm of one side of the brain limits ideas and possibilities. It fails to respect how creativity impacts science and rational thinking. Creativity comes from an assortment of traditional and non-traditional sources.
Are you a broker of possibility and hope? 
If not, you need to look at your creativity in the context of emotional intelligence. The chart shows how both sides of the brain come into play. The quadrants of emotional intelligence include: Self-Awareness, Social-Awareness, Relationship Management and Self-Management.  Understanding each of these will enable you to unleash your inner and sometimes hidden creative forces.
You might be asking yourself how creativity comes into play with your relationships.  Vision, influence and leadership drive creativity to support your relationships. 
Have you gotten tired of people saying, “Think outside the box?”  The creative marketing professional doesn’t think outside the box, they create a new box.   Marketers don’t like to play on a level playing field.  They are under constant pressure to create a competitive advantage.  If they believe they are on a level playing field, they will look like a community college against a Clemson in the National Championship game.   The services that your firm delivers to clients are like hundreds of others.  How do you make yourself and your firm memorable to clients?  The internet has made it easy for clients to assess the capabilities of firms they want to do business with.   In an industry that considers sales a dirty word, the word creativity brings on images of crazy, outrageous, and unwise.  Therefore, your creativity must be tempered by your flexibility and adaptability.  Management realizes that traditional marketing and the status quo no longer build business.  A change agent must be a leader first. 
 Think about what these people had to say about creativity:
“A truly creative person rids him or herself of all self-imposed limitations.” Gerald G. Champoski
“Creativity is a highfalutin word for the work I have to do between now and Tuesday.” Ray Kroc
“Creation is a drug I can't do without.” Cecil B. DeMille
It is interesting that the movie maker, De Mille, and the entrepreneur, Kroc founder of McDonalds, both viewed creativity as essential for their work.  You should feel the same way.
Six Myths Of Creativity
A groundbreaking study about innovation in the workplace uncovered six myths of creativity. The study, conducted by Teresa Amabile, a professor and head of the entrepreneurial management unit at Harvard Business School, was summarized in a Fast Company article, "The 6 Myths of Creativity."  Here is what she found:
• Creativity comes from creative types: The reality is that anyone with normal intelligence is capable of doing some degree of creative work.
• Money is a creativity motivator: The reality is that money isn't everything.
• Time pressure fuels creativity: The reality is that time pressure stifles creativity because people can't deeply engage with the problem.
• Fear forces breakthroughs: The reality is that creativity is positively associated with joy and love, and negatively is associated with anger, fear and anxiety.
• Competition beats collaboration: The reality is that the most creative teams are those that have the confidence to share and debate ideas.
• A streamlined organization is a creative organization: The reality is that creativity suffers greatly during a downsizing.
How do these findings relate to the conditions in your firm?

You now know that both sides of the brain are important in the creative process.  Do you ever believe something in your gut but are afraid to offer the idea or proceed?  Intuition is one of the strongest ways to deliver your creative process.  There are other things to consider, if maximizing your inherent creativity is a goal in your career path.  Don’t second guess yourself or live in the pit of self-doubt.  Accept criticism but don’t accept it as an absolute. Observe and learn from your mistakes.  Become a risk taker.  
Break free from the naysayers, external constraints, internal biases and fear of reprisals or consequences.  Your curiosity should compel you to ask questions.  Marketers who are afraid to ask questions continue to play on a level playing field.   We are all solution providers and are, to one extent or another, creative people.  If you are having problems with this, stop asking “why” and start asking “why not.”  The paradigm shifts when you use creativity to change the outcomes of your firm's business opportunities. The change agent is yesterday's news.
You will be well prepared to become a broker of possibility and hope. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Massage: Social Media and Your 2017 Marketing Plan

Every firm that has included social media in its 2017 Marketing Plan, should take a lesson from a media expert from the 1960's. In the 1962, Marshall McLuhan created a firestorm with his book,  The Medium is the Massage.  McLuhan, a Canadian professor and communications theorist, adopted the term "massage" to denote the effect each medium has on the human senses, taking inventory of the "effects" of numerous media in terms of how they "massage" the senses.

McLuhan believed that modern audiences have found current media to be soothing, enjoyable, and relaxing; however, the pleasure we find in new media is deceiving, as the changes between society and technology are not the same and he thought were perpetuating an Age of Anxiety.  And, so it is with Social Media.

He coined the phrase “the medium is the message” which summarized his view of the potent influence of television, computers, and other electronic disseminators of information in shaping styles of thinking and thought, whether in sociology, art, science, or religion. He regarded the printed book as an institution fated to disappear.  Yet, 50 years later, printed books are still around.  His views on media were right on target.

In 1982, John Naisbitt wrote Mega Trends, a book that accurately predicted socio-economic trends for the next several decades.  He predicted that as we rely more on technology, we will feel the need for more human interaction.  He believed that “high tech required high touch.”  People will always want to be connected despite the impact of technology that keeps us apart.  Communities, neighborhoods, work and church were places where these connections have traditionally been made.

Today, human connection is more often made through social networks. The landscape of the work environment has changed as well.  Although social networks do connect us, they don’t connect us in a physical way.  This is not the networking that is done during a cocktail reception when you meet people face-to-face. Thus, it is time to take another look at McLuhan and peel back the onion of social media to determine whether it is simply a massage of our senses or an important place to conduct business.  Some believe the title of McLuhan's book was an accident made by a typesetter. Yes, before computer printing and email, someone actually had to set the type that appeared on the printed page. However, when it was brought to McLuhan’s attention, he proclaimed that was the perfect word.  The important thing about communications is that words matter.
Everything social from LinkedIn to Twitter to Facebook has an impact on our senses that goes beyond the content of the communications.  When people tweet their locations and what they are doing tonight, is it really important communications or something that makes them feel good? Therefore, in a real way, social media is a massage.  It gives us everything we expect from a good body massage.  We feel different when we are finished.
Communications, on the other hand, is about the message.  This brings us full circle to the purpose of Business Development Professionals and that is providing training for professional services firms in the areas of marketing and business development.  It is about understanding how to deliver consistent and clear messages to clients. 

Messages that move your business proposition forward.  There is no doubt that social media has a place in doing this.  When it is done correctly, there is power in social media. Firms need to understand that a social media component in their marketing plan is not a guarantee of success.  No matter how cool the CEO thinks it is to have a large following on Twitter, it is still the content of the messaging that will make the difference in attracting clients.
Is social media part of your marketing plan because everyone is doing it and it is the cost of doing business today?  Is it the massage that makes you feel good about what your firm has done in the past?  Is social media the message and not the content of what you are trying to communicate?  Every firm needs to honestly answer these questions. Many firms are simply trying the even the playing field.  Our training programs and consulting services have a module on client communications.  Here are three tips you can use to assess your social media strategy:

1.    Is your firm considered a thought leader in the industry?

2.    If they aren’t already, have your industry experts start posting articles/blog on your website

3.    Start tracking all communications sent through social media.  In short time, you will understand whether social media is the message, massage or vital component of your marketing strategy.

Finally, if the communication stands on its own and is important for your clients to understand, using other media should be part of your comprehensive marketing plan. 
For example, most firms will announce major projects or successes on their social media platform and website, but also deliver press releases to industry media, including magazines.  On the other hand, what you had for dinner or whether your daughter won her basketball game, is probably not worthy of a press release.  Remember, if you or your firm posted it, every client and potential client can read it.  For this reason alone, you should make all of your communications worth reading.  Go some place else for a good massage.  If you really want to feel good, buy a dog from a shelter.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Memorable Presentation: 6 Steps to Success

What are the chances that the audience or selection committee will remember what you said in your last presentation?  Everyone is challenged when they are faced with creating and delivering a presentation. 
When a project is on the line for a client presentation, the consequences are high and nothing can be left to chance. Selection is the only way to verify it was memorable.
It is hard enough to think about how you measure up against the competition, but how about measuring up against the client’s perception of your presentation?  Research shows us that after a 10 minute presentation, your audience will remember only 50% of what they heard.  By the next day that memory will be reduced to 25% and within a week only 10% will be remembered.  Hopefully, the selection committee makes their decision at the end of the first day.

6 keys to making a memorable presentation

The following should help anyone who is tasked with making a presentation and enable firms to raise the bar on the success of their client project presentations.  It goes without saying that you need to know your material and that notes, if used at all, should be minimal.  However, much more is needed to make your next presentation memorable.

I was taught a long time ago that there should only be three parts to a presentation: 
1. Tell them what you plan to say.
2. Tell them.
3. Recap what you told them and give them a call to action. 

Science tells us that the human mind can only retain 3 to 7 points from a presentation in the short term.  Too often in client presentations, principals want to throw in everything, including the kitchen sink.  It is the job of the marketing professionals to reign in the free thinkers and focus the presentation on the client’s needs.
The question still remains as to how you make that process memorable.

It begins with the central message.  You should have one message you want the audience/client to remember.  Although this needs to be concise and short, it must be repeated as the common thread running through the entire presentation.  Is the main point trust, competence, experience, depth of staff, or some other important element?  You need to remember it is one point and not all of the above.
Memorable presentations are easy to understand.  Leave the jargon for industry conferences and complex information for design meetings.  Jargon combined with complexity results in confusion on the part of your audience.  Condensing your body of work into a 30-minute presentation can only confuse a client who was ready to hire you. Don't make it hard for your client to say yes.

Every firm will use visuals in their presentations. Use of visuals takes the retention factor from 10% to 65%.  The key to this statistic is relevant visuals.  I worked with one architect who would fly an airplane over a proposed building site prior to a presentation.  He would take the visuals from that and turn them into powerful elements in his presentation.   Visuals of previous work are worthless unless they clearly leave a positive impression in the client’s mind of what their dream will look like.
I have written several blogs that point out the importance of stories.  Memorable presentations are filled with stories and anecdotes.

 Stories create images that remind our audiences of their life experiences, challenges and successes.  The audience visualizes your idea without seeing an actual visual on the screen.

I am reminded of a prestigious museum project in the Midwest where some of the world’s most renowned architects were invited to make presentations.  While all the others had a project team show up with dozens of displays, one architect showed up empty handed.  He walked over to where the selection committee was seated, took off his overcoat and scarf, sat down and asked, “Do you have any questions.” They did. He answered and was awarded the job.

When I was the marketing director for a national trade association in the construction industry, I was in charge of the process for selecting an advertising agency.  Three of the agencies came in with polished dog and pony shows and teams of agency professionals.  They presented relevant experience with design and construction firms as well as trade associations. The president of the last firm showed up by himself with a leather case.  After introductions with the selection committee, he sat down at the table and stated, “I don’t do this often.  Most of my business comes from word of mouth.” He spent the next 45 minutes having a conversation with the committee.  Occasionally, he would reach into his case and pull out an example of his work.  Later that afternoon, he was retained as the association’s advertising agency.
Do these examples represent the exception to the rule, or do they show us what happens when creativity meets at the intersection of preference and selection?  You and your firms have thousands of stories to tell.  What do you pull out of the case when a project is on the line?

Next, the presentation has to have movement and action.  If several members of the team have been assigned speaking roles, they all can’t assume the same position in front of the selection committee.  If you are doing a solo presentation in front of an audience, you must leave the comfort of the podium and move across the stage.  Memorable presentations connect with the audience and it is crystallized when the presenter connects through body language and movement.  Pace and pausing for affect are critical in delivering a memorable presentation.  Some of the most memorable speeches have lived on in our memories because of the way the speaker used inflection in delivering the message.  There is no room for a monotone voice in a memorable presentation.  Of course, your audience might remember the monotone, but they won’t remember the message.
Finally, the memorable presentation must include a call to action.  As you recap what you told the audience and hammer home the common thread once again, you must challenge them with something to do.  Winning the job is the real purpose of the client presentation.  It could go something like this:  “We came here today to show you we are a trusted firm in the industry and have shown you a clear process for making your project a success.  You wouldn’t have invited us, if we were not qualified or our project team lacked the experience needed for your project.  We are excited about sharing your dream and seeing it fulfilled. 

When you weigh the pros and cons of the firms interviewed for this project, we want to be the firm chosen to move forward with this project with you.  We simply want to be partners with you on this journey.”  A simple recap and call to action is the way to end a memorable presentation.

Nearing the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, I would be remiss, if I didn’t end with a reminder of one of the most memorable presentations in the history of our nation.  Without a white board or PowerPoint presentation, Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address four months after the battle that turned the tide on the war.

"Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” begins the address.    The visual is a nation at war and a bloody battlefield. It was simple and concise. Lasting only two minutes and less than 200 words, the Gettysburg Address will be remembered for centuries.  Think about this the next time you are conflicted about the fancy graphics, swirling transitions and video clips you are considering for your presentation.  These might make us feel good, but it is the perception of the audience where the rubber meets the road.  When you implement these six steps, you will take a cool presentation and make it memorable.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Face It: Three Ways to Overcome Communication Barriers

Only the fear of death is ranked higher than the fear of public speaking on the list of what people fear the most.  It is no different for professionals in our industry.
I have developed a Communications Skills program for industry professionals and written about use of jargon and communication pitfalls to avoid in previous articles.  However, before we get into the dog days of summer , I thought it would be helpful to continue the dialogue on communications skills. 

Why are face-to-face communications skills important?

Remember, there is no emotion, body language, tone or facial expression in a written communication. 
Social networking is really about the written word and many in the industry have come to rely on this for their primary communication links.  Even communication on the telephone lacks many of the tools you use in face-to-face meetings.  Firms that use Hangout, Skype, Microsoft Lync or Go To Meeting bridge many of the communication barriers but are in no way equal to a face-to-face encounter.  The fear factor is higher when we are asked to present to a group or even an individual.  Whether you are just starting out in the business development
arena or a seasoned professional who could benefit from improved client communications, this article is for you.

Today, I want to review the three skills that are essential for building trusting relationships with clients. 
The first skill is your voice.  I had an economics professor in college who made a boring class absolutely intolerable because of the tone of his voice.  He had a monotone cadence and would cough or clear his throat after every other sentence.  The pitch of some voices brings the same reaction as scratching on a chalk board.  If this is you, you need to practice voice control.  You could find a voice coach or simply contact your local Toastmaster club for assistance.  Improve your voice and you will see immediate results in client reaction to your presentations.

Are you an introvert, shy or quiet person?  None of these qualifies you to be a poor speaker.  You just need to expand your comfort zone.  Speaking with a client requires a clear and strong voice.  This is not to be confused with shouting.  Listen to great speakers and learn how they project their words.  A simple search of YouTube will get you on the right track. 
Confidence is the second skill you must master. 
Why would your client give you a million dollar deal, if she doesn’t believe what you are telling her?  Are you afraid to look the client in the eyes when you are making your presentation?  The client is more likely to give you careful attention when you make it a point to make eye contact first.  However, you don’t want to get into a staring contest.  Look down to take a note or remove something from your briefcase.  This makes it easier for the client to pay attention to you because she has had a chance to check you out without having to do so while listening to you.  Are you excited about what your firm has to offer, or  does your facial expression remind the client of someone who has just gotten out of bed? 

Confidence in what you are presenting will make the client more interested in selecting your firm than you are in selling it.  Understanding the nuances of the client’s business, the industry, and market is the beginning of your homework.  How he thinks and reacts to pressure points is probably the hardest area to quantify.  However, when you have done all of the required homework, your confidence will soar.  Remember what legendary basketball coach Bob Knight has to say about preparation, “The key is not the "will to win" . . . everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.”
Remember, you client likes you or you wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to stand in front of him or her to make the presentation.  The same is true when you have been asked to make a presentation in front of a group.

Finally, you don’t want your body language to betray you or sabotage your message. Experts tell us body language accounts for between 55% and 65% of our communication. 
 Just what is body language?

It is carriage, facial expressions, and gestures. All go into establishing your presence and making a connection with the audience. Gestures can be made with your hands, arms, shoulder, torso, legs, feet or a combination of these but hand gestures are probably the most common. What does the client think of your message when you present it with your arms crossed against your chest?  If you are confident, why are you slouching and not standing tall? Many speakers worry about their hands and keep them in their pockets.  However, appropriate use of your hands can result in a marked increase in the understanding and retention of your message. Correctly used, hand gestures can help you say more in less time, show what you mean without having to resort to visuals, signal your conviction and confidence and add texture and dimension to your material and ideas.
This might seem simplistic but don’t forget to smile.  In fact, you should practice pleasant expressions in front of a mirror.  Try it until you see one you like and then hold it for 15 seconds and repeat it.  Remind yourself of this expression as you go about your daily business until it becomes a memory.  The conditions that surround you during a client presentation or speech in front of a large group can be uncertain and frightening.  But, this memory will keep your expression pleasant and positive.

Whether you are presenting to one person or a hundred, you still have to deal with nerves.  Everyone gets nervous before a major presentation.  My simple advice: Take a breath!
I went with my wife to a Lamaze class when we were expecting our first child.  I still remember the breathing exercises that were intended to calm the mother during childbirth.  Similar breathing exercises are used by public speakers because they release fear, lower stress levels and  enhance their speaking voice.

Incorporating these tips into your client presentations or speeches in front of groups will help you be more effective and enable your message to be understood clearly. The bottom line to clear client communications is the bottom line.