When drafting documents for your clients, you want to make sure you are answering client requests and questions as directly as possible. Your clients are busy and you do not want them searching for the answers to their questions in your reports. You want to make sure client questions stand out as much as possible, and are clear and direct.
A couple of tips for ensuring key client responses are not buried in your product include:
- Answer their questions as directly as possible. If they want a specific answer, do your best to provide it.
- If you don’t know, or if you don’t have any evidence to support their line of thinking, tell them that. You can say “Based on available information, we assess there is no linkage between x, y, and z.” Or “Based on our analysis of available reporting, we did not find any evidence to support x, y, and z.”
- Make sure your responses are clear and concise. Again, we do not want our clients guessing or wondering what you really mean. Particularly if your answer might go against their line of thinking.
- Put yourself in the mind of your client and ask yourself, what exactly do I need to find out when answering these questions? What is my primary concern? How does this impact my executive or the company? What are my key interests?
- Put your most important details first, don’t tease or delay your main points. Make sure your key pieces of evidence are up front to help support your arguments.
- Continue to make sure your bottom line up front (BLUF) sentences and key analytic sentences stand out and are easy to find.
- You can also do this with your client’s key questions–make sure those stand out in your document as well.
- If it is proving difficult to organize your document based on your client’s questions you can put your piece together in a question and answer format. Put their question in bold/italics, and right next to it or right under it, answer the question directly. Another way you could do this is to say something like “In response to your questions regarding x, y, and z” and then answer their questions in the preceding paragraphs.
- Don’t be shy in asking your client if you need clarifications. If a request does not make sense or if a client’s question(s) seem vague or tough to answer, go back to the client and ask them for more information.