One of the reasons we choose the entrepreneurial route is the ability to work with people we like and avoid those we don’t. Unfortunately, life does not always work out as planned and sooner or later we all have to deal with difficult clients.
Here are five sure-fire steps to tame that difficult client:
1. Stop Talking, Start Listening
When a client is difficult, this is often because they feel their needs are not being heard or met. The first, best thing you can do in this situation is step back and assess why you are having problems. Were the problems there from the start (is this a client you should not have taken on) or are the issues recent?
Stop talking, stop selling and start listening to what your clients are saying. Sometimes you need to let the client vent, then you can work together on how to correct the problem.
2. Remain Neutral
A difficult client means there is tension, and the more stressed you get, the more stressed the client will get. You do not want to escalate the problem so be calm, be cool and remain in control of the conversation. Leave personalities out of the discussion, and focus on identifying the problem and the solutions and not who was right or wrong.
3. Acknowledge the Problem and Accept Responsibility for Your Part
Whatever your part is in the conflict (and since you are involved there is always some responsibility on your side), take ownership for resolving the issue. Until both sides acknowledge and agree on the problem, you cannot move past it. Without blaming, identify the issue and reasons leading up to it, and then put steps in place to prevent this from happening again.
4. Under Promise and Over Deliver
This concept probably dates back to the first successful sales person, but it is still valid. Once you have decided on the steps to move forward, clearly promise what you will deliver, than do that and more. You do not want to make a bad situation worse, and exceeding your client’s expectations can turn a difficult client into one of your greatest advocates.
5. Buy In, Follow Up and Feedback
Don’t just promise to fix something and then let things go back to normal. Establish checkpoints and get buy in from both parties to make sure everyone agrees on their responsibilities and expectations. Checkpoints allow both sides to make any changes and adjustments, before things again get out of control.
There will always be clients that you will not want to work with, and in rare instances, it may be best to terminate a business relationship that is no longer working. However, for most situations by following these steps you can take control of a difficult situation and turn it into a successful project and a happy client.