Top-Shelf Tip No. 134:

"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Theodore Roosevelt

Dealing With Difficult Clients: Six Key Strategies

We've all had them—difficult clients. Sometimes their problems come out of nowhere. For example, you have a status meeting with your client and all seems OK. The client appears satisfied with your work or updates presented. But, by the time you get back to the office, he's fired off an email to your boss and your boss' boss complaining that he's not getting what he needs.

Whether you are part of a large marketing agency, a smaller organization or you work solo, managing client relationships is no easy task. Even the best clients can be difficult at times.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share six ways to effectively deal with difficult clients from business writer, Adela Belin.

Set The Right Foundation. As in every relationship, it's important to set the right foundation from the beginning. Even though you might be tempted to try to impress the client at every stage, remember this relationship is your biggest chance to be transparent about how your team works, so be sure to lay out your process and state your expectations clearly. Be assertive in your communication. Practice being polite yet firm from the first day and you'll evade sticky situations in the future.

Manage Expectations. This is the key to strong client relationships. When you are assigned a new project, understand the client's expectations, but don't be afraid to be realistic in your commitments.

The worst thing to do is to overpromise and under-deliver. If your client asks you for a revision, ask them for clear and constructive feedback in line with their expectations. This will save both you and your client time. There will always be those clients who tend to be rather unrealistic about deadlines.

The best way to deal with this is to assess the workload your team is grappling with and negotiate timelines before beginning any work. If the client insists on expanding the scope of work, make sure you restate this in your contract and are compensated for it.

Provide Updates. Whether you foresee an increase in expenses, face roadblocks along the way or need to share updates on project status—it is a good idea to keep your client informed at every stage.

Do this by sending them status reports, calling them at the end of each day or initiating weekly meetings.

As the project driver, you must be proactive in your approach. Don't wait for questions, give updates or highlight issues as soon as they're known. Keep the client involved from the first stage and make them aware of your efforts.

Document Everything. It can be infuriating when a client has a sudden "change of heart" and decides to go back on their word, thereby sabotaging your efforts. While you cannot change your client's indecisive ways, you can document the agreed upon plan as it unfolds. After important meetings or phone calls, email meeting minutes to the client and your team. This will help keep everyone on the same page.

And when it comes to seeking approvals, ensure you have them well-documented before acting.

Stay Calm. When you're stuck with a disgruntled client who is making life miserable, there may be instances where you're tempted to write a scathing retort. But at such times, remember not to act impulsively. Stay calm, put your point forward clearly and communicate your side of the story rationally.

If the situation worsens, then escalate matters to those with higher authority.

Know When to Walk Away. After spending so much time securing clients and working on their accounts, it can be upsetting to part ways with them. However, when a client becomes difficult to handle and refuses to meet midway, or if you or your agency must make a stand on a particular issue, it is often best to call it quits. Neither party is being served well if the relationship is unsustainable. You'll save time and energy by working with clients who respect your time and have a better understanding of what you can do for them.

Client relationships are always a give and take situation, but they require clear and consistent communication. These six tips will help you tactfully deal with difficult clients and build a solid foundation for future business growth.

Source: Adela Belin is a private educator and a writer at Writers Per Hour. She shares her teaching experience with colleagues, students and writers.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

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