Business Coaching Canada: How to Deal with Difficult Clients – Leadership Training for Business Owners and Salespeople

Business Coaching Canada:  Adversarial clients drain energy

If you have been in business or sales long enough to do a few sales, you know that some clients are a pleasure to work with all the way through your interaction, while others seem to be a challenge right from the very first time you spoke to them.  They seem to have an interaction style that is adversarial and it grinds against every forward movement that you make.  These clients seem to suck up all of your time and energy.  You might even find yourself unable to sleep at night as you think over all the days’ struggles. As a business, leadership and sales coach business coaching in Canada, I have helped many of my members’ fine tune their client leadership process and increase their business success.

What if you could change this?

What if you could repetitively create an environment that would give you the highest probability for success with every single client, regardless of his or her personality?  The reality is that you can create an environment that will successfully handle even the most difficult of clients effectively all the way through the sales process.  This effective type of sales interaction will lead to a higher success rate in less time and gives the client a high level of satisfaction thus increasing future referrals.

Leadership dictates the flow in the client process

The one consistent factor I see that shows up with a tough client is that the business owner or sales person has lost leadership of the process at some point or at least is continually fighting for it.  A client process that is out of control leads to a confusing mix of errors and normally fails in leadership to guide the client to move forward.

To create this type of environment with your client you will need a process that carefully builds rapport, clarifies the client’s needs and wants, and manages their emotions skillfully through the sales process including the product delivery.

A new way of thinking

Each sales interaction has a series of steps that lead the client towards their goal of making a purchase.  If we were to watch several interactions on a hidden video camera the steps would be noticeable.  It would become apparent that the successful salesperson was doing something ‘different’ than those that seem to struggle through the sales process.  You might not be able to say what was different between one interaction and another yet you would sense that something was.  Instinctively you would feel the difference and since sales or the decision to buy is considered to be an emotional interaction, you would ‘feel’ it rather than ‘know’ it.  And that is exactly what the client is experiencing.  They “feel” it and respond at a subconscious level.  If you are wondering if this really applies, test it with yourself.  Imagine a time when you wanted to buy a product or service and came in contact with several sales people.  Some salespeople you would have spoken to and received valuable information from, yet deep down inside you felt that you didn’t want to work with them.  If you think back you will probably notice that the salesperson that you finally purchased from left you feeling positive and possible excited about your purchase.  Another product of that interaction was that you find yourself looking for them the next time you go into that specific store.

A simple leadership tool – the relationship agreement

This is a consensual agreement to have a working relationship with your client.  It outlines how and when you will work together, your communication and what the common objectives are.  Some industries will have a mandatory written document for this purpose to outline legal responsibilities and the flow of the interaction.  If you use a form like this make sure to include any other agreements verbal or written that you feel are important. Remember we usually over look this and assume that the client has the same expectation that we do; that is where the problems start.

Some people find this agreement hard to set up with their client.  When we hesitate to discuss the agreement there is a great possibility that there will be no understanding and this will lead to lost clients and revenue.  Take the time to be clear with your client what you expect, what they expect and if you cannot come to an agreement you may want to consider if you will work with this client at all. Remember, if you are not leading the client they will lead you and the sales process will take longer and have a much higher failure rate.

Things to include in the relationship agreement

  • Communication – phone, email, etc
  • Payment and advances – when, how, what happens if no payment
  • The work flow and process
  • Responsibilities – yours and the clients
  • Scope of work – what is covered and what is not
  • Documentation and contracts
  • Contingency Plans – what happens when the unexpected happens
  • Changes and add-on’s – how they will be assessed
  • Deal Breakers – what you will not allow as it affects your work

Now go into your next business interview with the attitude that both you and the prospective client are in a two sided qualification interview.  Having a client who is not excited about what you do and the service you offer is very draining so pick people who are fun and excited to work with.  You are qualifying them and they are doing the same to you.  At the end of the discussion, you as the professional will make an assessment as to the viability of a prosperous client relationship. Pick the clients you want and leave the others for someone else!