October 1, 2010

Difficult Clients

I had a heart-to-heart with a colleague last week about one of her tough clients. She prefaced the conversation with “this is just my side of the story".

After half an hour of railing, I asked her what she was going to do and she said she was going to leave them alone.

You can’t get ‘em all

This is not to suggest you give up during the sales process – and yes, we are all in the sales process – but once you can be completely honest with yourself that you did your best then perhaps you need to leave them alone.

Early in my media career I worked with a fantastic sales manager. This guy got the product as much as anyone creating it. He priced it properly, he didn’t bow down to difficult clients wanting a better deal and he was fiercely protective of the entire team.

Not right now

Years later, as I began my consulting career, I called him up to get his advice on prospecting and he simply reminded me that most people you speak with won’t want to buy from you, today. And he’s right. That's why it's called a process and you need to earn their trust before you can sell anything.

If you bat 1.000 with every prospect meeting, you must be counting your billions. It simply doesn’t work that way. That is even more so in our customer driven economy.

This does not mean the client is always right or has to be rude. Conversely, it doesn’t mean they will buy today – or ever.

Here's a list of ideas from eHow

Listen carefully. 
By asking calm questions, see whether you can discern what is bothering the client.

Don't interrupt immediately.
Unless the client is abusive, it pays to hear what they're saying in full. If someone is abusive, politely ask them to tone down their language.

Keep records.
Document all your dealings with difficult clients and steps you have taken to deal with their concerns. This will help you with future difficult clients.

Client's point of view.
No matter how unreasonable or how irrational he or she seems. What seem to you to be nagging, repetitive phone calls may simply be an expression of the customer feeling stressed for reasons that have nothing to do with the work you're doing.

Avoid arguments.
Your goal is to come to an understanding, not to win a confrontation.
Acknowledge different viewpoints.

Be encouraging.
Often people become hostile when they feel frustrated or confused.

Stay calm.
If you can't stay calm, terminate the call or meeting until you can respond less heatedly.

What do you do about difficult customers?


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