Tough clients aren’t necessarily evil souls or belligerent troublemakers who like to torment people left, right, and center.
Instead, think of them as self-made businesspersons who value every penny they earn. As a service provider it’s your duty to know what they’re about and what they’re looking for.
Just like a stern teacher who employs the harshest tactics to make students understand, tough clients teach us something we might not otherwise understand.
Here are a few lessons one tough client can teach you that 20 nice ones can’t.
Being clear when handling a tough situation can give you headway in resolving it. When a client throws out accusations like “this isn’t working” or “this isn’t good enough,” it’s time for you to get into the specifics of the problem and ask the client how you can do better.
Whatever you do, just be focused on the solution; don’t get bogged down by their rants or worked up by their accusations.
Clients want to be understood and valued, and for that you need to be transparent with them. Hidden costs, technical hurdles, or drastic delays can rattle anyone. Tough clients especially need to be closely attended to. They will appreciate hearing the bad news straight away and without any sugarcoating.
Bad news will come out sooner or later. By bringing the issue to light right away you can at least assure your client that you’re on top of things already and trying to ascertain the cause.
Do what you’re told all the time and you may still lose a client.
When you do only what you’re asked to do you’re not impressing anybody. No one wants a one-size-fits-all solution. Go the extra mile, be proactive in taking initiatives, and show your clients what you’ve got.
Trying to win arguments all the time is a surefire way to annoy clients enough that they’ll discontinue your services.
It can be nerve-wracking, but by choosing not to react and by answering in brevity you can avoid the ordeal. To listen to their side of the story wholeheartedly is a sign of respect, but this doesn’t mean that you let the client walk all over you on unreasonable grounds. It only means that you should make your point after the storm is over, but again without showing the slightest sign of disrespect. Being neutral is the key here.
A tough client is akin to a tough teacher who goes after the mischievous students first. They want to address the core areas before anything else, areas that demand attention the most, which is why they don’t ask easy questions.
Be thoroughly prepared before every meeting and even before a phone call. Have all the data and figures at your fingertips, but don’t overwhelm them with what you know; listen to them instead. Then paraphrase what they’ve said and sneak in your advice at the end.
—Harman Bajwa is chief strategist at Ismoip Digital, a digital strategy, marketing, and design consulting and execution agency. He has lead his team to deliver 400+ projects in the past 10 years, for large corporations to SMEs. He strongly believes that a good marketing strategy should have three objectives: brand awareness, sales, and advocacy.