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6 Ways To Turn Around a Client That Doesn’t Like You

So you’ve got a new client, or you’ve been working with them for a while, but things aren’t going so well. You get the feeling they don't like you.

Don't worry, you can build a long-lasting relationship with someone who started out hating you. 

Here's how.


Open hands

You have to be respected, not liked

If there's one thing I can guarantee, you will work with a client who doesn't like you (and often the feeling is mutual). It can make working with them unbearable, so ignoring the situation is not an option. Unfortunately most people do. But things will not get better on their own.

Before we get into how, I want to remind you is that it's business, it’s not personal.

For the longest time I wanted my clients to like me. In fact I went out of my way to make that happen. And ended up being a doormat in the process.

I realised that clients don’t have to like me (or me them) in order for us to do good work together.  In fact sometimes, it’s better.  As Account Managers sometimes we have to tell a client what’s good for them, not what they want to hear.  And tough love can be difficult to deliver to a client who’s also a friend.

What clients do have to do though, is treat me with respect. 

High five

How to turn around an unfriendly client

  1. Listen more, talk less. People love to talk about themselves. To keep the focus on your client, answer a question with another question. Even if it's more of a monologue than a conversation, what does it matter? Your goal is to get to know them better. It will help you figure out their style, personality, challenges, priorities, and more. Keep track of everything, even small things like the names of their kids and what they like to do. Having that information will help you build rapport.
  2. Meet more often in person. It might seem strange to meet a client who doesn't like you instead of avoiding them. But you'll be able to communicate much better, pick up on hidden messages, and get along better if you do. If you can't meet in person, you can use video conference calls instead. Even if they don't want to, share your video camera.
  3. Do things by the book. Show clients that you are an expert and a professional they can trust. Don't cut corners . Send out meeting agendas, take notes, stick to your strategic account planning process. Keep them informed on what you're doing and what the results will be. Clarity is necessary. It will help you avoid misunderstandings and keep your attention on the work and not on the person. Give every client your best (even if at times you feel like they don't deserve it).
  4. Accept criticism. When a client doesn't like you, criticism is rarely in short supply. Accept it constructively - even if it feels like an attack. Take a moment to reflect. Control your reaction and instead consider if there's something you can learn? Did you make a mistake? Can you take steps to improve? How can you track your progress? What can you do differently?
  5. Ask what they think. It's your client's perception that matters. Their ideas and opinions might be different to yours. So find out what they are. Keep an open mind and think about ways you can work with your client to reflect their preferences.
  6. Set expectations. When things get off to a bad start, friction is inevitable. Most of the time, it's because of the gap between what your client wants and what they get. You might not mention known problems, bugs, or processes that are normal for you but are new to your clients. Customers are more likely to deal with problems if they know what to expect from the start. If you tell your customers what to expect, they will be more likely to stay calm when things don't go as planned.

If you've tried your best to build a professional working relationship with someone but haven't been able to, it might be time to move on.

Talk to your boss about giving the client to someone else. It's good for both of you. And you have nothing to feel bad about if you did everything you could to change things.

6 Ways To Turn Around a Client That Doesn’t Like You

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B2B Book Club Selection. Every month I publish a list of handpicked books to help you with your professional development. This month's titles will help you grow your authority at work, improve your relationships and teach you how to accept feedback (even when you're not in the mood to hear it.

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6 Ways To Turn Around a Client That Doesn’t Like You

Quote of the week

"I will go anywhere as long as it’s forward" ― David Livingston

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Have a great week

Warwick Brown

Warwick Brown


Warwick Brown is one of the leading key account management experts in the world. Through The KAM Club, a global membership community for key account managers, his blog that reaches 20,000 people every month, and a range of training and coaching services, Warwick has helped thousands of key account managers get better results, faster.
Go here to read Warwick's story from key account manager to entrepreneur. If you want to send Warwick a quick message, visit his contact page here.

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