10 Strategies for Dealing With Tough Clients

10 Strategies for Dealing With Tough Clients


Every business deals with challenging clients from time to time. Managing difficult clients can be a daunting task, but there are strategies and techniques you can use to help make the process easier. Whether you work in sales, customer service, or any other type of client-facing role, these strategies will help you make the most out of every challenging interaction.

1. Don’t Take It Personally

It’s important to remember not to take client criticisms and complaints personally. No matter how frustrated or agitated you become, remember that the client’s attitude isn’t a reflection of your skills or worth. Separate the person from the situation, and try to remain professional and courteous.

“Rather than getting defensive or angry, focus on listening to the client,” explains Matt Miller, Founder and CEO of Embroker. “Respond in a way that shows you care about their concerns. Show the client that you are doing your best to resolve the issue while reminding them that their behavior should not be negatively directed toward you.”

If possible, talk the situation through with the client and let them express their thoughts. By understanding their perspective, you decide how to approach the situation more effectively and strategize to find a solution that works for everyone.

2. Try To Understand Their Perspective

It’s easy to take a hard-line stance and push back against a difficult client. However, it can be more productive in the long run to take a step back and try to understand why they are acting combatively. Open up a dialogue by asking them questions and encouraging them to share their thoughts and concerns.

“Once you have a better understanding of a client’s perspective, it’s easier to empathize and come up with solutions that work for everyone,” shares Trina Johnson, CEO of Blue Forest Farms. “Most people who act out or become frustrated don’t mean to do so. More often than not, they are simply overwhelmed and need help navigating their situation.”

Taking the time to listen to a client and helping them understand what is going on can go a long way towards diffusing a tense situation. Empathize with their position to help create a mutually-beneficial arrangement.

3. Communicate Openly and Honestly

Effective communication is essential for any successful business relationship. This is especially true when dealing with tough clients. Open communication allows both parties to express their ideas and concerns respectfully. You should be sure to listen to their opinions and appropriately provide feedback.

“Be prepared to explain your decisions and reasoning, especially with a challenging client,” shares Christy Pyrz, Chief Marketing Officer of Paradigm Peptides. “The goal should be to come to a mutually beneficial agreement.”

Remember that you and your client share the same goal: to make your project successful. By communicating openly and honestly, you can avoid misunderstandings and ensure success.

4. Set Clear Expectations

One of the benefits of open communication with a client is to help set boundaries and build trust. Be straightforward in your communication. Don’t be afraid to speak up if a client is asking too much, and let them know what you are able and willing to do.

“Having boundaries with clients is a must, and you have to set those expectations early on in the relationship,” explains Alexandre Robicquet, Co-Founder and CEO of Crossing Minds. “From working hours to deliverables, let clients know what working with you looks like so that the lines don’t become blurred.”

Ask questions to make sure that everyone is on the same page, and make sure to follow through with what you say. Being honest and direct can help avoid misunderstandings that may arise in the future.

5. Be Patient

Patience is key in allowing both parties to feel heard and understood. It’s also important to remember that while they may have different expectations, they likely just want the best outcome for their project.

Liza Kirsh, CMO of Dymapak offers a simple solution for staying patient with clients: “Challenging clients can create stressful situations. It can be helpful to take a step back and give yourself time to cool off before responding. Taking a few moments to collect your thoughts and emotions will help you remain calm and professional in the conversation.”

Try not to let your frustrations take away from the overall goal of the project. Remain focused on what needs to be accomplished, and don’t let any miscommunications or disagreements derail your work. Set goals with your client, and break down tasks into manageable pieces so that progress can continue without interruption.

6. Be Flexible

Understand that clients may have different ideas or needs than you, so being able to adapt and be flexible is essential. Doing so will help make your client feel heard and respected, which will make them more likely to work with you in the future.

“When trying to be flexible, it’s important to be open-minded and willing to try new things,” shares Sasha Ramani, Associate Director of Corporate Strategy at MPOWER Financing. “This could mean adjusting deadlines, changing designs, or offering additional services. Keeping an open dialogue with your client and being willing to adjust your plans accordingly is an effective way to show that you are willing to address their needs.”

Of course, being flexible isn’t always easy — but it is necessary when it comes to dealing with difficult clients. By staying flexible and adapting to their requests, you can help create a better working relationship.

7. Keep Your Cool

Even in the most frustrating of circumstances, losing your temper will only exacerbate the situation and make it harder to reach a successful resolution with a client. It can be easy to lose your cool in a moment of high stress, but it is important to take a few moments to pause and collect your thoughts before responding.

“Take a deep breath and try to remain calm and professional,” recommends Andrew Chen, Chief Product Officer of Videeo. “Speak calmly and slowly and do your best to maintain a pleasant tone. If the conversation is going nowhere, suggest taking a break. Give both parties a chance to regroup. You may find that stepping away from the situation and revisiting it with fresh eyes helps resolve the issue.”

You may need to rely on outside help to bring an objective viewpoint to the discussion. Consider asking a co-worker or mentor for guidance.

8. Offer Solutions

When you’re facing a challenge with a client, you may need to offer strategic solutions to the problem at hand. Show them that you understand their problem and that you’re willing to work with them to reach a successful outcome.

“Listen, listen, listen,” shares Max Schwartzapfel, CMO of Fighting For You. “Always provide viable options that address the root of their issue. Be prepared to adjust your solutions, if necessary, and present solutions promptly. Taking too long to respond can frustrate the client and further damage the relationship.”

Remain open-minded and willing to try new approaches. It should be an open dialogue. Your flexibility shows the client that you’re invested in their success and committed to finding the best possible solution for everyone.

9. Follow Up After the Project Is Complete

Show your client you care about their project by following up after the work is completed. This can be a convenient opportunity to maintain a healthy relationship with a tough client and ensure future collaborations. This is also an opportunity to ensure that the client is satisfied with the outcome of your partnership.

“There are several ways to follow up with a client after a project is complete,” shares Brandon Adcock, Co-Founder and CEO of Nugenix. “You can send a quick note to thank the client for their collaboration. Ask them if they have any questions or feedback about the project. If they have any suggestions, take the time to listen and consider their points of view.”

Overall, following up with your client shows that you value their opinion and respect your working relationship. Follow-ups also help to build trust and confidence in your work, which can lead to more successful projects together down the line.

10. Learn From Your Mistakes

No one likes to make mistakes, especially when it comes to dealing with tough clients. The truth is that mistakes will happen, and it’s important to learn from them. Being able to look back and reflect on what went wrong can help you in the long run.

“Take a step back and analyze the situation after working with a challenging client,” Victor Mathieux, Co-Founder and CEO of Miracle Brand recommends. “Ask yourself what you could have done differently or better. This can help you develop strategies for dealing with similar situations in the future.”

Try to focus on the positives that came out of the situation as well. Perhaps you learned something valuable that you can use in the future, or maybe it opened up an opportunity for growth. Reframing your mistakes can help you focus on the bigger picture and keep things in perspective.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, working with difficult clients is part of the process of being in business. Luckily, you can use these strategies to help you better navigate the situation for everyone involved.

McClatchy newsroom and editorial staff were not involved in the creation of this content.


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