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I’m not a great skiier, but I absolutely love skiing. And here’s the best part, I actually learned one of the most valuable life and marketing lessons right on a ski slope — it was a black diamond (difficult) slope as well and I’ll never forget it.

“You have to throw yourself down the hill with controlled abandon”

This seemed counter-intuitive to me. I mean, I understand that I want to get down the hill fast, but every part of my body wanted to hold back as if to save myself. And as it turns out – this is completely wrong. Holding back actually causes you to lose control and fall.

This is a valuable lesson that I’ve applied to working with who appeared to look like “Difficult customers”. I make it a habit to not work with difficult people, but sometimes even the best clients and customers can be difficult. That’s what it means to be a human being. And if I didn’t take the time to run these magical 7 steps during those difficult conversations I would have lost a?lot of wonderful customers whom I now call friends.

Your Difficult Customer is Someone’s Ideal Customer

Uuugh! Difficult customers. Everyone has them. And everyone wants to know how to deal with them. Well, today you are in some BIG luck because I’m going to share some absolutely transformational tips for dealing with difficult customers that don’t look, feel or sound like anything you may have heard before.

It’s hard to believe, but just think, your difficult customer is someone’s ideal and not only that, they are someone’s parent, child, brother or sister. They just appear to be difficult for to you because they want something that you and your business process or system just don’t deliver very well. That doesn’t make you bad or your customer bad — it makes them NOT IDEAL.

NO. You don’t HAVE to work with difficult customers

How many times have you heard people say that you HAVE to work with difficult customers — as if there aren’t enough customers to go around and you have to suffer working with customers who don’t value what you have and those customers have to suffer working with a company that doesn’t deliver the value they want. This is silly.

How to Turn Difficult Customers Into Ideal Customers

But what if an ideal customer starts turning into a difficult customer? ?This is the time to ask what happened to

  1. Decide on who YOU are going to be in the relationship. Take the time to really think about who you are going to be. Are YOU going to be difficult or defensive or are you going to be understanding. By simply making this decision first, you will ACT exactly that way. How you start the conversation will tell your customer how to act. If you act aggressively and decide that who you will be is RIGHT — then they will do exactly that and the relationship will go nowhere.
  2. Set the context for the conversation: It’s not about what you say, it’s how you say it. Tell them exactly what you’re committed to for this conversation. This might sound like this: “Before we begin this conversation, I want to make sure that you know that I’m committed to working together as partners and coming up with a solution that we can both be excited about.”
  3. Listen FOR instead of listen to — as you’re listening, try to hear exactly what they are committed to, what was their intention, what was missing that created the difficult situation.
  4. Repeat and restate to make sure you got what they are saying — once you think you know what they truly wanted and didn’t get, ask to make sure you heard them correctly. Start by simply repeating exactly what they said to you. This might seem awkward to you – but believe me, even repeating exactly what they said will assure them that they were heard and you will have the opportunity to SAY what you heard. Just saying it will help you understand their point of view.
  5. Clearly state what actions each person is going to take and by when.
  6. Follow through on those actions completely and on time.
  7. Check in later to make sure that each person got exactly what they negotiated in the conversation

photo credit: m01229 via photopin cc