Dealing With Difficult Clients One of the most rewarding things about real estate is you get to help people and make a real and valuable contribution to the quality of their lives. You make a difference.
More often than not, they are grateful. Gratitude expressed by clients is a bonus. Testimonials are a bonus. Referrals are a bonus. Recommendations on-line are a bonus. Positive word-of-mouth is a bonus. The difference you make can be reward enough, but the bonuses are always nice.
I find that if you expect gratitude and all those bonuses, you are frequently disappointed. But if you express your gratitude to your clients first, you feel better, and they usually reciprocate when you ask them to.
There are times in the people business when you run into a difficult person. Someone who is having a bad day. Someone who attacks you personally or threatens your reputation. And it’s usually someone who is acting out of character, being unreasonable, or overly demanding, someone who is loudly complaining. Or someone who refuses to communicate.
Difficult people can be confusing. Their attacks hurt, and they are frustrating. They can really get you off track and out of sorts for weeks at a time, if you let them.
What to do? Here are a few recommendations that will help get you back on track, and diminish the drama.
- Fly up in the air for a bird’s eye view and ask yourself, is it me? Have I done or said something to cause this? That question is one of the most valuable parts of Floyd’s AHA system. What % am I responsible for? It’s rarely 0%, but it’s never 100% either. Maybe this difficulty is an early warning to a flaw in one of your systems. Be open to the possibility that something can be learned from this, and something can be put into place to prevent it from happening again.
- Remember that buying and selling and moving is a stressful time for people. An outburst or an attack might be a one-time aberration brought on just by the stress of making a big change. Give people a one-time benefit of the doubt. If you get a nasty email, text, tweet or voice mail, it may have been sent in the heat of the moment. The sender instantly regrets hitting SEND, and wishes they could take it back, but they are too embarrassed.
- If they are being consistently difficult and a pattern is developing, document it. Protect yourself. Putting multiple difficulties on paper, or in a file, helps give you perspective and keep a cool head.
- Don’t make their problems, your problems. When they hired you, you promised to make their #1 goal, your #1 goal. That’s the basis of your relationship. You didn’t promise to make their problem, your problem. As Floyd says, “You are responsible to them, not for them.”
- Get face-to-face and ask, “What has changed?” A lot of unintentional hurt and miscommunication is created by the relative safety and anonymity of email, text and tweets. Most of that can be avoided by getting face-to-face, expressing concern, asking the right questions and listening, listening, listening.
- Finally, be willing to let toxic people go. Weigh the damage they do to you personally against the potential business benefits. Will this transaction be worth the suffering? Will this relationship result in future business and referrals? If it’s not worth it, politely tell them you can no longer help them achieve their real estate goals, and that you would be willing to recommend a replacement if they are interested.
The rewards we get from the people we serve in real estate far outweigh the damage from the occasional psychic vampire. But they are out there, and the more deals you do, the more likely you are to come across one. Be prepared with a few strategies to cope with difficult people, and you’ll enjoy the ride a lot more.