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Good point, but what are the exact words to say to get your point across, without totally offending? I am on both sides of the boat, facing pressure from salespeople calling me all the time, even though I am only in research mode now, but these are salespeople and they never take "I'm not eady yet" seriously. And on the other side of the coin, clients who can't get their act together on time, makes you doubt thier ability to pay you for your time. In the end we are all so busy, so we only call back the people that we value and the things that are super high priority. The rest gets dropped until it becomes an emergency. Maybe this is a result of being pestered too much, or a result of being expected to do the work of 4 people for the pay of 1, and nobody really gives a damn anymore.

Susan Martin

I agree, the way businesses are run these days doesn't help, but all the more reason to learn how to set clear boundaries.

However, it's not only what you say but how you say it. Setting boundaries can be difficult, but a skill well worth developing.

One of the best ways I've found is to first calm down and let go of any emotions that have surfaced for you in the interaction.

Once you're grounded, think about what you want to say, and how to phrase it. If possible, write it down and see how it sounds.

Then, watch your tone of voice. To be effective, it must be delivered very matter of factly, without emotional charge, without blaming them or trying to make them feel guilty. You don't want to push their hot buttons in return.

This may sound like a process, but once you do it a couple of times, it will get easier, and start to come naturally. For more on this subject check out my March 07 post entitled "Learning to say no".

Daniel Sitter

I agree with you. Not every customer or prospect is worthy of our time. I recently wrote an article "Learn to Sell Only to Deserving Customers," demonstrating that all customer relationships are not beneficial.

People (and companies) view us as we see ourselves. We can't afford to be timid.

I enjoy your writing!

Best regards,
Daniel Sitter

Barry Welford

This is an excellent topic. I think the only worthwhile supplier/client relationship is one where there is mutual respect. Life is short and you've got to enjoy what you're doing. If you find a project where the client doesn't do her/his part then you should terminate the relationship as soon as possible while fulfilling any obligations. Thereafter you should plead that you're too busy and can no longer take on any more projects for them.

Patrick Kilhoffer

I think there are three different issues here. One is providing service another is pride and the third is longevity.

On the one hand, you are a vender. Your job is to be available and a certain percentage of your efforts are going to be wasted on people that never buy. It's a harsh reality that you need to accept. If your percentage of proposals that don't result in a sale is unacceptable to you, then do a better job of qualifying before you put together a proposal or learn to put together a better proposal, but either way it isn't the prospect's fault, it's yours.

The second is pride. You worked hard on that proposal. Is it too much to get a thank you? Maybe some feedback? Ok, so show the proposal to your spouse or someone else in the office. Get your pat on the back and get back to work.

The third is longevity. I've had many times where literally years go by between producing a proposal and making the sale. The longer I'm in business, the longer the record for the longest sales cycle becomes. The key is too survive long enough for them to get around to buying, and making sure you have a method for staying in touch that is painless for both of you.

Your followup process needs to less emotional for you if it bothers you that they aren't calling you back. Keep your pipeline full with valid prospects, stay in touch in a painless manner for both of you, and focus on making your existing customers happy.

They will get around to buying when it suits them. Your pipeline should be full enough that you don't care how long it takes them to buy.


Hi - I was doing some research on dealing with rude clients, which led me to your web site. I am hoping you can give me some advice.

I have a client, who basically, is wound up tighter than a rubber band every time she calls or sends me an email. I cringe when I see her phone # in my caller ID and get knots in my stomach before she even speaks. I react this way because I care too much about those around me and strive to do my job well.

The client is an HR Manager, I am an Account Manager for a brokerage. She is 30 and I am 46 years of age.

She has been with her employer for six months; I have been with mine for four months.

In all verbal or electronic correspondence she always comes across abrupt, cold and irritable. I am always conscientious that what and how I write is respectful to the receiving end (because you NEVER know when something could come back to haunt you).

I found out today that she is under a lot of pressure from her superiors. I too am under a lot of pressure to perform and keep up with all my accounts, yet I understand how valuable soft skills are in working with our clients and coworkers.

Today I responded to an email of hers where all she wanted was to know a date for making a decision on a deal. Due to many variables, the answer was not black and white, which I explained to her within a couple sentences, yet, that we were ahead of schedule and that I wanted to set up a conference call with her to discuss further. My superior would need to be part of that conversation. I suggested to her an exact date and time and to let me know if it worked for her.

She immediately calls me on the phone starting off the conversation that she was frustrated with me. She wanted "an exact date" for closing the deal, not the answer I supplied. I suggested that I conference in another coworker of mine; someone who was actually responsible for the client before I began with my agency and luckily was in the office. She agreed.

Before we connected, I showed my coworker the email I sent and she thought it was great. Then we get on the phone call. I left my coworker take the lead. Within a few minutes of conversation my coworker made a comment that there could be some extra charges for a service, which I personally never heard of before (especially when the 3rd party we were doing business with I had actually worked with for 9 years) The client then accuses me of intentially not disclosing the possibility of extra administrative charges. I just sat there taking it all in. I found it a little frustrating that because the conference call was unplanned, my coworker and I were unprepared to work as a team -- yet everything worked out ok. It later came out that I was right pertaining to the information the client said I intentionally withheld from her.

I am waiting for the right moment to let her know how I appreciate her as a client, that since she is new I have been working hard at learning the needs of her company to better service her; blah, blah, blah...

How can I tactfully let her know that I too am frustrated with her and that we would have a far more productive working relationship if she didn't act so much like a...you know.

Thanks for listening.

Jill Konrath

Candance - First read the comments of the other people on this topic. They have offered excellent advice and insights.

Steve reminds us that clients are so busy that they often can only focus on priority items. He's right. They expect vendors to jump through hoops for them. It's not about you!

Susan's emphasis on setting boundaries in a calm, but firm manner is right on. Learning how to do this is a skill - and clearly one you need to start working on.

Barry talks about mutual respect being an imperative. If the relationship isn't working, you don't have to be there.

Patrick cautions us to have a full pipeline so that you're not so dependent on one client.

And I'd like to add a few thoughts to the discussion. The fact that you brought up age is important. Many 30 year olds think differently than you do. She's very direct and expects you to be as well. She doesn't want you to be a friend; she simply needs information from you when she wants it - now!

She's also probably on a career fast track, trying to prove herself. She's driven to accomplish her goal. Clearly she's not thinking about your feelings at all. Nor will she ever. That's the reality of the situation. It's neither good nor bad. It just is the way it is.

I've had to learn to alter my own approach to certain clients because their style was so different from mine. One prospect drove me crazy because he spoke so slowly and took forever to make his point. Every time we talked I'd have to slow myself down to his pace or else I would have scared him to death.

So think about how you might alter your own personal style so you can work better with this woman. Make your emails short & to the point. Don't ramble or over explain. She clearly doesn't want all the details. Same thing with voicemail. Net things out when you communicate with her.

Practice saying the tough stuff to someone else, so that when you talk to her you're prepared. Have your friends talk like her and make comments like she does. Think about how you can address what she says.

Just remember, it's not about you. It's not personal. You just don't know how to work with her yet.

And finally, if her behavior is truly abusive, you don't need her as a customer.

Hope this helps,


Troy Bingham

most uptight clients are in an environment where things need to get taken care of NOW! You have got to be confident, assertive and results oriented. Also, make sure that after every success, you get something in return, a referral, a case study, anything. The point is, if they continue to sing your praises enough, they will believe their own words and start to love you.

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