Adversarial clients drain energy

We’ve all had those super great clients, right?  It’s a pleasure to work with them all the way through the entire sales process.  Wouldn’t it be sweet to have those perfect clients all of the time?  Unfortunately, the reality is that we will also have to deal with the challenging ones.  These clients seem to have an interaction style that is perhaps a bit more icy or resistant.  It can happen the very first time that you speak to them and that adversarial style can remain all the way through your interaction. It will grind against every forward movement that you make and it can be physically and mentally demanding – sucking up your time and energy.   In addition, a client process that is out of control leads to a confusing mix of errors because you will enviably make mistakes when you are flustered.  You might even find yourself unable to sleep at night as you mull over the struggles with that client. As small business coaches, we have helped our clients fine tune their client leadership process and increase their business success.

What if you could change this? 

The fact of the matter is: You’ve lost your Leadership.  If you haven’t lost it entirely – you are, at the very least, continually having to arm wrestle for it. 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); it will give the client a higher level of satisfaction which will, in turn, increase future referrals.

To create this type of environment with your client, you will need a process that carefully builds rapport; a process that clarifies the client’s needs and wants; and something that manages their emotions skillfully through the sales process including the product delivery. You will need a Relationship Agreement that covers all of this (and a bit more).

A simple leadership tool – the relationship agreement

Why a relationship agreement? Because we can’t ever assume that the client has the exact same expectations that we do. This assumption is where the problems begin because the expectations of each person involved can be very different indeed.

Developing a mutual working relationship with your client is therefore very important. To begin with, the very discussion itself will highlight any discrepancies in expectations you and your client have. There will be no surprises, because the client will understand what you expect; and in turn, you will be clear on what the client expects from you. It’s a win/win.

It outlines how and when you will work together, your communication, and what the common objectives are.  Some industries may already 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.

Some people find this agreement hard to set up with their client.  When we hesitate to discuss the working relationship, there is a greater possibility for misunderstandings in the future. There will be no clear and mutual consensus and this will ultimately lead to lost clients and lost revenue.  Take the time to be clear with your client what you expect and what they can expect.

Things to include in the relationship agreement

  • Communication – phone, email, etc.
  • Common Objectives
  • 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

If you cannot come to a mutual agreement on issues, you may want to decide if you want to 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.

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. Choose people who are fun and exciting to work with.  You are qualifying them as much as they are qualifying you.  At the end of the discussion, you can make an assessment as to the viability of a prosperous client relationship. Pick the clients you want and perhaps leave the others for someone else.

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