Difficult clients come in all shapes and sizes. Some people like to be abrasive on purpose, while others simply do not know how to make a decision. The following tips and scenarios will help you navigate the tricky business of disarming difficult clients and standing your ground.
Tip #1: Active Listening
Whenever conflict emerges in relationships, it often boils down to one thing: miscommunication.
Miscommunication can stem from misinformation, but more often than not it stems from a lack of active listening by one or both partners. When it comes to client business relations, the same conflicts emerge. The way business can intercept this issue—whether it has begun or has not happened yet—is through the practice of active listening.
Active listening is total observation. It is reading vocal tonality, body language, and hearing the meaning behind the words the consumer is saying. The way to flush out these signals is to ask questions as the consumer is speaking.
This shows that you as the business owner care about your client’s opinion. So when dealing with a tough client active listening is key to understanding his or her concerns.
By asking probing questions like whys, whats, and, how-do-you-feels the leader is in a better position to understand what objections the client will bring to the table and how to alleviate those before they even come out of the client’s mouth.
Tip #2: Address Each Concern Succinctly
When it comes to meeting client objections, the best way to approach this is to be succinct. Use as few words as possible to get your point across and use measurable examples to show your client why your product or service is what they need.
Data and statistics cannot be argued with—although a difficult client may try. In this case, simply repeating the truth of what you’ve said is crucial. The fewer words you use, the more firmly you establish yourself as an authority. The more specificity you have, the less ammunition your difficult client will be able to argue with.
Tip #3: Respect Your Client’s Time
When someone is losing interest in what you are saying, their body language is very clear. Oftentimes, people lose interest in a product or service because they do not feel heard. Even if you have listened to what your client has had to say, ask them specific questions and gauge what their answers are truly saying.
If they’re complaining about traffic or looking at the clock constantly, recognize that they likely have an appointment elsewhere.
While they are in your office, their time is yours. However, respecting their time by giving them is the succinct answers will likely help them to digest the information quickly and make an informed decision.
Time is precious. Business people and consumers alike, struggle to find enough time to complete their daily tasks. As a business owner, you have probably done research on productivity and working smart a zillion times and are still not done. Using automation techniques to give yourself more time to conduct business with clients is considered a must nowadays. You expect your time to be respected, but remember that clients need to feel that their time is being respected as well. They do not have software that can pick their kids up from soccer practice.
Respecting your client’s time is key to establishing a solid relationship.
Tip #4: Establish Boundaries
Sometimes clients create a toxic environment.
For example, let’s say for a moment that you are a therapist.
As a therapist, you are working with people of all different emotional and mental states. This requires a type of mental toughness that is not found among most people.
However, even a therapist can get a client that brings overwhelming toxicity into sessions that are meant to be healing. This often manifests in the client being clingy in the therapist’s personal life. The client will abuse office hours, will abuse the therapist’s phone number that’s meant to be only for emergencies, will tell the therapist that they are their only friend and try and guilt the therapist into giving them free sessions, etc.
In this example, you as the therapist need to set professional boundaries. You need to be straight and honest with the client stating, “I am your therapist. These are my business hours. This is when we will discuss your issues.” The same kind of attitude needs to be applied to the business world when a client becomes abusive, clingy, or simply an overt waste of time.
Tip #5: Learn When to Let Go
Knowing when to let go has a lot to do with the boundaries that you set.
Now, some clients will not overtly break these boundaries. Some clients will simply spin in circles because they are unable to make a decision. Knowing when to let go is the point when you’ve answered their questions at least three times and the client is unable to commit to a decision.
While you should not give up easily, you need to recognize when your time is being wasted. Sometimes, a client simply needs more time to consider their options. However, more often than not if a client is unable to commit after you have given them all the information multiple times, they’re going to be a no sale and it’s time to move on.
At the end of the day, there are several strategies for dealing with difficult clients. Each strategy you implement depends on what kind of scenario you are engaged in. However, the previous tips are able to be used across the board. Whether you have an overtly difficult client or client was simply cannot make a decision, active listening, setting boundaries, and respecting your client’s time are all fundamental business practices for dealing effectively with people.
Jasmine Williams covers the good and the bad of today’s business and marketing. When she’s not being all serious and busy, she’s usually hunched over a book or dancing in the kitchen, trying hard to maintain rhythm, and delivering some fine cooking (her family says so). Contact her on Twitter @JazzyWilliams88