If you love helping your clients, and give loads of value and service, then I bet you sometimes experience clients who test your boundaries. Hey, it happens!
Maybe it’s unexpected – a client surprises you with a difficult request. That’s not a tough situation. You know it’s a tough one when you experience that "heart sink" feeling upon seeing your client's name on your appointment book …or hearing her voice on your voicemail.
Warning signs are apparent early on. We CAN prevent difficult client situations from occurring and minimize those that pop up unexpectedly. Either way, arriving at a solution means you must be willing to love yourself MORE than you love your client!
For example, Suzie, a success coach whose practice is growing slowly, enjoys working with all her clients, except for one. Mary is typically five minutes late for appointments. Mary’s initial client agreement arrived late. Then, after three months of success coaching work, Mary’s check bounced.
What's difficult here is that Mary isn't being all out terrible... but she is crossing some lines. If Suzie ignores the situation, and hopes that it will improve on its own, then Suzie is allowing Mary to act disrespectfully.
The lack of respect will not only be felt in Suzie's relationship with Mary, but its ripple effect could damage relationships with other success coaching clients! Mary’s disrespect impacts Suzie's confidence to make big coaching challenges, ask for valuable referrals, or raise her fees. It could also diminish the results of their success coaching sessions.
So what are Suzie's—and YOUR—options?
Here are five quick tips for handling difficult clients with grace and elegance:
Speak the plain truth and speak up for what you want.
Being direct and honest about a situation is THE best way to create a positive outcome. What that looks like varies depending on your situation, but it doesn’t include mincing words or being vague.
Suzie can explain to Mary that it is important to be on time and prepared for their sessions. Remember, the client EXPECTS us to hold her to her greatest potential! We accomplish that by voicing what we need to make the relationship work. Then she can decide if she’s willing to participate. Which leads me to tip #2...
Be willing to let the client go.
This can be a tough one, but I guarantee that once you release the need to keep the client, you free yourself. You automatically create more credible choices for how you want to proceed once you mentally release your difficult client. I've noticed that the more willing I am to let a client go, the faster the client comes back along!
Be clear about your standards.
In all fairness to your client, you must be crystal clear about your standards and the boundaries that support them. When the tables are turned and I am the client, I find that the more straight forward my coaches/suppliers/vendors, the more I enjoy working with them. Their clear standards make me a better client… and I get more from them!
Don't waffle or over apologize.
The best way to encourage your difficult client to take ownership and responsibility for her actions is to model the behavior that you expect. Waffling or over apologizing about a standard you've set sends a signal that you’re not true to what you say.
Don't wait! Take care of the situation sooner rather than later.
In my horse whisperer work, I must be crystal clear on my boundaries at all times. The horse, on the other hand, is always looking for any "leaks." It's as if the horse is thinking, "Hmmm... what can I do to get my human to ____ (fill in the blank)?"
So I've learned to be clear and firm at all times. That doesn't mean I nag at my horses. But I make sure I have their attention and respect. If I don't, the horse whisperer in me is
immediately doing something to get it back!
My coaching request to you: Love yourself more than you love your clients. Let that love show by creating clear standards for the clients you let into your world. This creates a powerful magnetism that will attract many great people and events to your life and business!