Being your own boss boasts wonderful opportunities, but challenges like dealing with difficult clients can really throw you off course.

Don’t be dismayed when a client dilemma presents itself, accept that it’s part of business.

When I coach our Leadership Circle Community Members through the experience of dealing a difficult client situation, I tell them to take three steps – pause, put emotions aside then focus on trying to understand the perspective of the client. I break down each step below.

#1 Pause
It’s easy to spin when things aren’t going smoothly in your business. A tough client or client issue can really throw you off. Start by STOPPING. You can’t be productive and constructive until you have your feet firmly planted on the ground. Know that this is just one client and you have other great clients to take care of. This will pass. Stop spinning, take a deep breath, get grounded then move onto step two!

#2 – Put emotions aside
I’m not suggesting that you turn into a robot, but if you want to tackle a tough client situation, you can’t if you are overly emotional. It’s natural to be emotional, as leadership expert Rebecca Shambaugh, states in the Huffington Post:

“Men tend to deal with stress much more easily than women, as it’s harder for women to shut down their autostress response.” She adds, “Women’s brains favor more emotional activity in the mid-brain region, while men show more rational activity in the top of the brain.

While it’s part our genetic makeup to be more emotional, do not allow yourself to be a statistic. Do not panic and act based on emotions. Catch yourself, remember that emotions are okay and normal, then take a moment to park your emotions so you can get to the business issue. Focus on the issue, not on the emotion that issue gives you. If you can remove your emotions and get to the root of understanding the core problem, and try to see the client’s perspective, then you can communicate, navigate and guide a problem to a solution SO much more effectively. There have been SO many times I have wanted to reply to a snarky email immediately, but I don’t. I do sometimes, type out (in a clean email so I don’t accidentally hit send – ha!) what I truly want to say to get all my toxic venom out. Once I do, I am clear and more ready to move to step three!

#3 – Understand the client’s perspective
In order to turn a problem situation into a solution-focused one, you have to break things down to have the breakthrough to resolution. While you may not always agree with a client when you are dealing with a problem (and it is OK not to agree), if you can step outside your ego and look at it from their perspective and understand where they are coming from, then it helps you move closer to understanding. When you can work from a place of understanding, you have a lot more power in steering things where you want them to go.

One thing I like to do when I feel emotional (heck yes, I get emotional!) is to simply take a step back. I stop, remove emotion then get in a place to be understanding. To begin, I take a breather – be it 15 minutes or an hour. This allows me to look at the situation more clearly and from the client’s perspective. Step away from the phone or computer and don’t reply (reread step #2) then come back.

When there is a problem, accept that somebody has to be the bigger person. It might as well be you.

Be the one who takes the first step and suggest solutions. Offer a couple of solutions so the client has something to choose between…A vs. B will get you so much closer to closure vs. Yes vs. No.

All challenges are a learning opportunity. What can you do to improve the relationship with this client? How can you rectify things so they don’t come up again? Can you better serve the client? If the situation is due to your fault, own it and figure out what you can do to make it right. Is this client someone you want to keep working with? If not, break up so you can see other people! So often, I work with women who waste time on the wrong clients, which takes them away from their ideal money-makers!

Always look at ways to elevate how you’re doing business. In the last 10+ years I have run my web-based business, I have leveraged tough clients challenges then channeled any lessons into improving the process of my business. All challenges have gifts…if you are willing to see them. I’m so much better today about NOT taking on a challenging client to begin with because I have gotten so much better at streamlining how I sell (and who to work with!)

Before you go into battle, know what you want, own what you want and be prepared to own it in the conversation.

Remember that you have the right to choose who you work with. Working with clients should be seen as a partnership, and if you’re not meeting eye to eye, you have the right to say that this relationship is not working for you. Like Tony Gaskins, a respected life coach, said, “Evaluate the people in your life; then promote, demote, or terminate. You’re the CEO of your life.”

If you are dealing with a tough client, know that we have a team who can support you. Feel free to reach out if you need a secret weapon…we are here for you!

Lorrie Thomas Ross, MA

The Marketing Therapist® and Wild Web Women® Founder
Of all the things Lorrie imagined she would be someday, Wild Web Woman® was never on the list. But thanks to the wild, wacky and wonderful web, she is living a happy, healthy life and enjoying a lucrative career she loves helping women brand, build and boost their web-based businesses! Read More

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