Good listening skills are crucial for handling difficult clients

Am presenting a talk next week on how to deal with difficult clients. One of the points I’ll address and which I haven’t previously written about on this blog is the importance of demonstrating good listening skills.  Here’s just a few of the ways you can do this, especially when a client (or indeed anyone else) is being difficult:

  • Stop talking – you cannot listen if you are talking.

  • Put the client at ease – help the speaker to feel they are free to talk.
  • Show the client you want to listen – sound interested.
  • Remove distractions – don’t doodle, tap or shuffle papers.  Can you reduce noise?
  • Empathise with the client – try to put yourself in the client’s place so that you can see their point of view.  First try to understand then try to be understood (Thank you Dr Stephen Covey!).
  • Be patient – allow plenty of time.  Do not interrupt.
  • Control emotions and temper – an angry person gets the wrong meaning from words.  Avoid jumping to the wrong conclusions.
  • Go easy on argument and criticism – otherwise you will put the client on the defensive.  They may ‘clam up’ or get angry.  Do not argue: even if you win, you lose.
  • Ask questions – this encourages the client and shows you are listening.  It helps to develop points further.
  • Concentrate on what the client is saying – follow the main ideas; sometimes we hear only the examples, stories and statistics.  Don’t allow your reactions to distract you from the key concepts.

What else would you add?

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Promo email received from 'innovative' accountant

I received the following message recently. (Edited to remove identifying information):

Mark,

I feel this will to be of interest to you.
My 3 most recent clients told me their reasons for now doing business with [ABC Accountants].

1 – They only ever had communication with their previous accountant once a year at year end.
2 – I was the only accountant who was promoting himself and looking to grow his business.
3 – They had to pay an audit bill once a year which normally proved to be a big headache and difficult on their cash flow (as opposed to a payment plan from €29 per week).

Since May 2010 in particular, I have met some great companies, from sole practitioners to SME’s.
I have spoken to at least 30 business owners and given them some good information that they can use as a “bargaining tool” with their accountants.

As I started to read this I thought it was an interesting example of someone trying to be more innovative – as I recommend in many of my blog posts, talks and seminars for accountants.  I thought he was proudly telling me about the success of his efforts.

Then I read the final line:

Mark, as a contact of mine on Linkedin.com, if you wish to have a conversation, about options to help you overcome any challenges you are having, I am more than happy to have a chat.

Many thanks,

That’s when I realised this is simply a round robin and that the sender has taken a big risk in spamming all of his linkedin contacts.  That’s really NOT a good idea. It’s likely to alienate many of the recipients who may look for a way to disconnect or  blacklist the offender.

Then I went back and reread the earlier parts of the email more critically. Interestingly the sender starts by referencing 3 new clients but later mentions he has “spoken to at least 30 business owners”.  Is it unfair to assume that he has only converted 1 in 10 of those into clients? That’s not a hit rate I’d want to shout about.

And if I were being picky I’d also suggest that the three opening points are all rather weak.

  1. This says nothing about the accountant in question – just what other accountants do.
  2. How many other people would move their affairs to an accountant “who was promoting himself and looking to grow his business”. Even assuming it’s true, it’s barely worth mentioning as promotional messages should instead focus on prospective benefits to clients/prospects.
  3. Given that only companies with turnovers above £6.5m are audited I found it really odd to see reference to the difficulties with paying audit fees contrasted with “a payment plan from €29 per week”.  It doesn’t really make sense to me. Would it impress prospective clients? I think not.

My conclusion. A poor attempt by someone who hasn’t thought through the impact his message would have. Or tested it out on some friendly contacts (or on any experts) before sending it out willy-nilly.

What do you think?

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

by

Promo email received from ‘innovative’ accountant

I received the following message recently. (Edited to remove identifying information):

Mark,

I feel this will to be of interest to you.
My 3 most recent clients told me their reasons for now doing business with [ABC Accountants].

1 – They only ever had communication with their previous accountant once a year at year end.
2 – I was the only accountant who was promoting himself and looking to grow his business.
3 – They had to pay an audit bill once a year which normally proved to be a big headache and difficult on their cash flow (as opposed to a payment plan from €29 per week).

Since May 2010 in particular, I have met some great companies, from sole practitioners to SME’s.
I have spoken to at least 30 business owners and given them some good information that they can use as a “bargaining tool” with their accountants.

As I started to read this I thought it was an interesting example of someone trying to be more innovative – as I recommend in many of my blog posts, talks and seminars for accountants.  I thought he was proudly telling me about the success of his efforts.

Then I read the final line:

Mark, as a contact of mine on Linkedin.com, if you wish to have a conversation, about options to help you overcome any challenges you are having, I am more than happy to have a chat.

Many thanks,

That’s when I realised this is simply a round robin and that the sender has taken a big risk in spamming all of his linkedin contacts.  That’s really NOT a good idea. It’s likely to alienate many of the recipients who may look for a way to disconnect or  blacklist the offender.

Then I went back and reread the earlier parts of the email more critically. Interestingly the sender starts by referencing 3 new clients but later mentions he has “spoken to at least 30 business owners”.  Is it unfair to assume that he has only converted 1 in 10 of those into clients? That’s not a hit rate I’d want to shout about.

And if I were being picky I’d also suggest that the three opening points are all rather weak.

  1. This says nothing about the accountant in question – just what other accountants do.
  2. How many other people would move their affairs to an accountant “who was promoting himself and looking to grow his business”. Even assuming it’s true, it’s barely worth mentioning as promotional messages should instead focus on prospective benefits to clients/prospects.
  3. Given that only companies with turnovers above £6.5m are audited I found it really odd to see reference to the difficulties with paying audit fees contrasted with “a payment plan from €29 per week”.  It doesn’t really make sense to me. Would it impress prospective clients? I think not.

My conclusion. A poor attempt by someone who hasn’t thought through the impact his message would have. Or tested it out on some friendly contacts (or on any experts) before sending it out willy-nilly.

What do you think?

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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