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My Client Is Asking Me For Things That Don't Make Any Sense

Michelle Dale - Thursday, June 11, 2015

If you've been a virtual assistant for a while now, you've probably at some point or another had a client delegate tasks to you that don't make sense. This isn't uncommon, and it really depends on the client, and their level of experience with the tasks they happen to be delegating. But do you quietly conform knowing something isn't quite right, or do you say something?

I recently had a question from a Passport member who had one of these clients, they were asking her to perform tasks that seemingly didn't make any sense, were a waste of time, weren't really what was best for the business and then the client would be 'nit picky' over finalising the work, making minute changes that were holding everything up... Okay, I get that can be frustrating. So how do you handle it?

Well when there are 2 opposing opinions on the work being done, the client's and the VA's, and if the VA doesn't speak up about it, personally I feel that's a disservice to the client.

Then if the VA does speak up, and the client dismisses it, said VA has a clear conscience and has done what they can do to deter or warn the client that they might want to explore an alternative or suggest a better way - at this stage if the client still wants to buy ice in the arctic who are we to say they shouldn't, if that's how they choose to spend their money?

Generally the 'not making sense' scenarios come down to 3 things:

1 - Lack of understanding.
2 - Lack of experience.
3 - Perfectionism / Micro-management.

You need to find out which one or ones it is - let's explore these further...

1 - Lack of understanding

If something doesn't make sense to you, and it makes sense to the client, you have to approach it first off giving the client the benefit of the doubt. Ask the client...

"I see you've asked me to do ABC, could you help me to understand why you'd like to take this approach? I was just considering that XYZ is much quicker and will produce a better result, maybe I'm missing something?"

This is the quickest way to see if the task that doesn't make sense is that way for good reason, or the client just hasn't considered the consequences, or alternatives.

For example, let's say your client would like newsletters created in advance for 12 months, now a newsletter contains the word "news" in it... News would imply the content is current and fresh for the audience, however it won't be once the 5th, 6th 7th - 12th! Newsletter is delivered, it will be very outdated. Therefore it may not make sense to plan them 12 months ahead.

This would (seemingly) be not best for the client's customers, and therefore, as a result, not best for the client's business - you simply put that to them, and say...

"Do you think it would be better to create the newsletters with fresh content each month, so that your customers are best served with current information?"

Once you've planted the idea - simply ask the question...

 "Could you help me to understand why you're taking that approach, and not this one?"

Maybe they'll have a valid reason, and you had completely misunderstood the situation, or maybe, you've just gone and provided a valid point that can't be ignored.

2 - Lack of experience

A client who delegates tasks that don't make any sense could also be showing a lack of experience, maybe they've read something online about how you need to add keywords to blog posts and they ask you to mention "Water Pumping" or "Insulated Garage Doors" in every paragraph of a blog post. This is generally because they read somewhere that if you put keywords in blog posts you skyrocket to number 1 in Google - but they have very little (or none at all) personal experience in the outcomes or results of what they want to see happen.

To tackle this one, you need to try and work with the client to discover what they are hoping to achieve from the task.

"Sure, I'd be happy to help you with this, but could I ask, what results are you looking to achieve from doing ABC?" 

Once you know the outcome they want you'll be able to see whether the task does make sense after all, or if they're actually going about it all the wrong way, simply through a lack of experience in achieving the intended aim.

For this you can offer alternatives or suggestions that would be more beneficial for the client's business.

3 - Perfectionism / Micro-Management

This is a classic, the perfectionist or serial micro-manager will delegate tasks that make no sense often because they are delegating tasks within tasks because they're concerned the first task might go wrong. Usually tasks don't make sense because they are completely unnecessary or a waste of time. This you have to be more careful of as micro-managers tend not to know they're doing it.

If you get a bunch of tasks that don't make sense, you don't want to question the client's authority, after all if they want to pay for things that are a waste of their money - it's their money, but you wouldn't be a very good VA in my opinion if you just allowed them to do that, without at least saying something.

Take the tasks and use the previous 2 approaches of trying to understand the reasoning behind the delegation and pin down the result the client would like to see to then see if you can streamline those time wasting / overly cautious tasks that you really won't feel good about doing because they appear to be not required.

"I want to suggest to you that if I've understood this correctly, you'd like to achieve ABC, and you've set some great tasks for that, but if we do it this way instead, we'll save a few hours of admin time to invest in other areas of your business, plus we'll still get the project / job done to the same, if not better standard in a shorter time-frame. What do you think?"

"Move forward knowing you've done what you can to help and support the client" #VA - @Miss_Friday - Click To Tweet

The most important thing is to never assume you know better until you've first questioned the client as to their approach and they've come back to you in their own words as to their reasoning for doing it that way, and you then find out the result of what they are hoping to achieve, and if at this point you're sure there's a better way, share this with the client, offer the alternative, it could be accepted or rejected, but you can move forward knowing you've done what you can to help and support the client to the best of your ability.

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Hi I'm Michelle, an entrepreneur specialising in virtual assistance, a digital and real world nomad, and a down-to-earth mother of three.

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