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Guest Post – “When Clients Lash Out”

October 31, 2010

I’m happy to introduce you to Carla Bobka of SocialPie.  I love her blog and we’re thrilled to welcome her and her expertise to NeedleShover!

Carla has 20 years experience in sales and account management. Sales being “bring in new business” and account management “hang onto existing clients, cross sell, upsell, renew and grow revenue.” She has a track record of being brought in to work with clients with systemic customer service and revenue problems. She wears Kevlar 24/7.

rt @gapingvoid: the trouble with clients is that there’s always a “Our lives suck, your life should suck too” subtext going on.

The tweet above came through Tweetdeck as I made coffee this morning. Does it sound like one of your clients? Yeah, me too. Not at this moment, but I’ve had my share.
It isn’t you. They don’t hate you. Misery loves company and if no one will come sit by me, I’ll go lasso someone and rope them in.

Ignoring the screams won’t make them go away, at least not for awhile. And then when they do go, they will take their business with them. None of us can afford that.

This is a moment for you to shine. When you do, you will actually strengthen the relationship, despite the momentary tension. Here are some ideas. Use them all, or a combination.

10 Steps to get Through the When Clients Lash Out

1. Have a meeting; in person whenever humanly possible.
2. Listen.
3. Nod your head while keeping your mouth shut. They want to be heard. Defensiveness will only make the situation last longer.
4. Watch-body language is revealing.
5. Listen for what they aren’t saying-there is subtext and you have to discern what the real drivers are.
6. Inquire-be in a state of inquiry to explore the situation to get at the real problem. Inquiry is different than inquisition. Tone means a lot. Watch the tone of your voice, no matter what the tone of theirs.
7. Restate what they tell you-it proves you were listening and demonstrates you care. Right now that’s a lot of what they are looking for.
8. Explore possibilities-don’t make promises. Explore to create something that works for their real purpose. Neither of you know what that is yet, and that’s OK. Explore enough dark corners and you’ll find the right solution.
9. Create a sense of certainty about when you will be in touch again with an update on the topic. Don’t create artificial deadlines unless you are personally in charge of every aspect of the solution.
10. Don’t go alone. Take someone else along. Their job is to keep you calm. Clarify their role before you walk in. Tell them what to look for in your behavior, and have a signal they can give you to point out when you have reached a state of upset/defensiveness. It can be a hand gesture, a phrase or other body language signal. Their pointing to it will likely be enough for you to get yourself back in control.

Most important for the meeting: leave your phone in the car. No distractions. (Actually, that should be the case in every client meeting, so if that’s not you now, get there)

About the Author-

Carla Bobka is the Owner of SocialPie, a social media expert, and an authority on all things “social” and “media”.  We’re thrilled to welcome her to, and encourage you to follow Carla on Twitter and on LinkedIn

  1. Joe DiCioccio permalink
    November 1, 2010 9:38 pm

    Brain, thanks for posting. Carla, thanks for the info. It doesn’t seem to matter how long you’ve been in sales some of the most important things are the simplest traits; listen, watch, ask and learn (sounds alot like school). Is it ok to share this with my sales team?

  2. November 1, 2010 11:07 pm

    You should definitely share with the team. And for what its worth I have an elderly Great Aunt that still insists on calling me “Brain” on every birthday card I get. :-)

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