Every entrepreneur is familiar with client disputes. Some might consider this quite gloomy that arguments with clients are as certain as death and taxes (sorry for ruining the moment). Whether you’re a freelancer, small business owner or the CEO of established company chances are you’ve had your share of difficult conversations with your clients.
Here’s a guide that will help you get a sense of how to navigate these tough conversations.
1. Know the context
In most of the cases, client disputes are … just tough conversations regarding business matters. Just that. It’s not a marriage-endangering talk with your spouse or being called by the school to hear the worrying news about your kid struggling with his exams.
It’s not personal, It’s business:
2. Know the facts
Since you already know it’s just regarding business matters, then let’s get to the point. The conversation will be much easier and professional if you establish the essentials:
- what happened?
- who did what? Additionally, do you have the relevant data to back it? Tracking time can help significantly.
- costs/profits/loss of profit involved?
- what were the mistakes/wrongdoings?
- how can we fix the situation?
3. Is it worth it? When it’s not worth arguing?
Sometimes, the person you’re dealing with might not be just looking out for their business. Or they want to refrain into strongarming you into something. You need to be aware of the context and evaluate the relationship.
And it means asking yourself one question:
Is it worth it?
This might be a no brainer, but the sooner you position this conversation amongst your priorities, the easier it will be to engage in the talks without the unnecessary emotional weight. Be aware that in business you need to always brace yourself for the following:
- some clients will leave
- some Clients will avoid paying you
- and of course, then there are legal disputes, well, then:
4. Being firm vs. looking for common ground
This, of course, is a really tough one. Business negotiations can take several hours or an exponentially larger amount of e-mails and phone calls. But you want to make sure you take into account the following:
- be firm with what you need/expect to achieve
- also, be ready to seek out a compromise and common ground
- assess if you’re in this relationship for the long run or is it just a short-term gain
Remember that you winning this argument and losing a client isn’t considered a victory. If you carefully assess the situation based on context and data, you should have a better idea of what sort of strategy you should apply.
On the other hand, if you manage to end the conversation with a healthy compromise chances are it will solidify this relationship for the future.
And to all of these thinking that you should have as many clients as possible and rip your heart out during every difficult conversation with a client, I’ll leave you with a parting meme:
Let us know if you recently had any difficult arguments with clients. How did you deal with that?