Productivity Arata! Finding clients who pay your price can be a big challenge if you are an independent professional, a freelancer or part of a small business. And when you do get a client, it’s natural to have the desire to do whatever it takes to satisfy that customer.
It’s great that you’ve got the professional attitude of wanting to do anything to please your customers. But that may not always be realistic. There will be times when you will need to say “no” to a client.
You don’t want to clash with the person who’s paying your bills. Your client has chosen to work with you because they believe you’re the kind of person who will deliver what they expect. However, some customers may start to believe that, since they’re paying, they can demand anything from you. Well, you also have limits, principles and the vision of the best way to deliver your work.
1. Saying “yes” all the time may be detrimental
Instead of being rewarded, you may feel like you’re being punished. Whenever the client hears a “yes” they may start to demand more and more and your life may become chaotic. They may start to take advantage of you when you depreciate yourself.
You must to understand your motivations and limitations from the outset. Maybe you’re afraid of losing the customer. Even worse, maybe you fear that the client will be dissatisfied and ruin your reputation. Or maybe you fear the way you will feel if you don’t say “yes” to everything. You want the client to like you and approve you. But at what price?
If you begin to wear yourself out and commit to do activities that don’t add value to your work, you could end up spending all day doing useless little things that would only take up your time, making you do what you shouldn’t be doing. You may even start delaying the delivery of things that are really important. If you find it difficult to organise your priorities, you can do our course FOCUS, which is a crash course and will help you concentrate on what’s important.
2. Give your client the opportunity to speak first
Somewhere inside of you, you believe that because you have all the experience, you are the one who knows the best way to do your work. You can feel contempt towards your customer when they ask you to change things that will bring the quality of the final work down. This is typical in cases of intellectual creation. For example, if you develop websites, logos or visual art, often your customer will ask for modifications which, in your opinion, will turn the work into crap. Hold back your desire to wave in your client’s face the fact that they’re making an unreasonable request and that you are brilliant. This will create a conflict between you.
In any professional area, if you work directly with customers, the first thing to do is hold back you desire to reject their ideas. Actually, you should give your client space to talk.
Let them open up and express what’s on their mind. In that communication, let your customer understand that you respect and appreciate them. You are a professional whose mission is to hear what they need.
I need to make an important clarification: you must genuinely appreciate your client. This is not a technique for you to pretend to feel something that you’re not feeling. It’s paramount that you, as a professional, understand what is behind your client’s comments and requests. Your client’s got needs. And is your professional duty to translate what they’re saying into an appropriate solution.
When you understand what’s behind the request made by the client, you will understand their real need. And then, you may put forward other suggestions that are also suitable, according to your professional ethos, and that will also satisfy the customer’s need.
3. Seek cooperation and avoid conflict
In other words, hold back your willingness to annihilate your client by pointing out the mistakes and problems on their idea. This will throw you right into a kind of combative dialogue.
Your client may even think that you are slacking off or that you haven’t understood what they want. The risk here is a passive-aggressive behaviour, in which they may just keep quiet, pretending to agree with you, but they will never come back to you as a client and won’t refer new customers to you.
When your customer makes a request, this is a very valuable opportunity for you to understand their needs that haven’t yet been met. You can obviously do literally what they’re asking for or you can use your experience and knowledge to create something that’s good for both of you.
4. Acknowledge your mistakes and limitations
So far we have talked about the art of listening with empathy. It’s important to listen carefully and confirm that you have understood everything correctly. If your client says that you have indeed understood everything, you can now move onto the next step, which is explaining your concerns.
However, if the client points out any mistake you may have made, then it’s time to realise that this is something you need to fix. Acknowledge the mistake and suggest ways to fix it. The worst thing is the professional who makes up excuses not to acknowledge their own mistakes.
5. Be professional and keep clarity in communication
If the client is confused and needs guidance, then you will give them the necessary explanations. And you will explain everything not only to help them in this particular case, but also to avoid confusion in the future.
You want to maintain the quality of the communication with clarity, respect and interest in solving problems and being practical. Your customer wants to know if they can count on you to listen and offer practical solutions. And if you say “yes” to everything, you may not be practical.
Maybe the customer doesn’t understand exactly what you are doing or what exactly is your work (in case you work for a big company), and try to ask for things that are not within your area. So it’s part of your job to help your client understand how you can help. You need to educate and empower your client. Otherwise you’ll suffer the consequences.
Extra tip: after thinking about the kind of answer you want to give, the best way to test it is by sending the answer to yourself. Try writing yourself an email and read your own words. How do you think your client will take your “no”? This is a great activity for you to put yourself in their shoes and make the necessary adjustments in communication.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot you can learn for your professional communication, and that’s why we have the course “How to Say No”, which will help you communicate more assertively. Please go this link to have access to the full training.