Marnie Beauchamp: 10 ways to cope with difficult clients

In the world of real estate, it is commonplace for emotions to run high.

Regardless of your role within the industry, dealing with clients often requires strategic and empathetic conversations.

Whether they are going through an extreme life event or exhibiting built-up frustration and anger, it is our job to manage each situation as respectfully and efficiently as we can.

Using the right language (verbal and non-verbal) will enable you to move challenging client interactions towards conducive agreements and outcomes.

With the use of some practical techniques, you will be able to cultivate empathy and connection, which ultimately deflates the initial emotions being raised.

When you’re dealing with highly strung, emotional or angry people the best course of action is to give them the space to speak first.

Below are 10 techniques that will help you in any difficult client situation.

  1. Active listening. Give your client your undivided attention, without judgement. Let them speak freely about their concerns, needs and opinion on the situation at hand. Be engaged and make sure that your body language matches your words and your demeanour. Examples of active listening are leaning slightly into the conversation, nodding and maintaining continuous eye contact. Don’t butt in, keep a friendly and open facial expression and be fully present, so you hear every word spoken.
  1. Show empathy. Understand what your client is going through. Just because you don’t agree with someone’s opinion or their perspective, does not mean that they are wrong, and you are right. Often there are other reasons behind their difficult behaviour, which aren’t always apparent straight away. By expressing empathy and showing your understanding of their perspective, you are basically acknowledging their emotions and often that is enough for people to completely retreat and become calmer, enabling amicable conversation.
  1. Validate. Acknowledge and validate your client’s feelings by labelling their frustration, anger or other overriding emotion. This will immediately make your client feel as though you understand them and that their voice is being heard. An example of this might be, “It seems like you are frustrated that your offer has not been accepted. Is that right?” Or, “It sounds like you are angry that we have not yet brought you an offer for your home. Would that be accurate?” This type of acknowledgement, when laid out on the table and referred to them, is a powerful way to defuse a situation as your client will feel confident that you’ve heard their concerns.
  1. Ask measured questions. In order to get to the bottom of what is really going on, ask open-ended questions to get your client talking more. It will encourage them to open up and provide further information, which often reveals what’s really behind their angst. By doing this, it gives you the opportunity to talk through the underlying issue and find some common ground. An example of this might be, “You mentioned last time we met that you weren’t in a hurry to sell. Now it seems you are frustrated with not having received any offers yet. Have you found another property that you would like to buy?” Or to a buyer, “I know how much you love this property and I understand your frustration with the owner not accepting your offer. Are you scared to increase because you are worried about interest rates going up, over-capitalising or is there some other reason you are not prepared to meet the owner’s expectation?”
  1. Mirroring. We have all heard about the power of subtle matching and mirroring. Mirroring your clients words, tone and body language, helps you develop rapport, trust and a previously missing connection. An example of this would be if a client tells you the offer is too low and they won’t accept it. You would repeat, “The offer is too low, and you are not going to accept it?” This also puts it back on client to reason with themselves and justify their decision.
  1. Setting clear expectations. It’s important to establish clear expectations with your client at the beginning of your relationship. Go through the upcoming process and clarify timelines, give them scenarios that could occur, discuss any challenges which may arise and ask what frequency and form of communication they would like from you. Then stick to that plan. Having these guidelines and possible outcomes front of mind, will limit unwanted surprises down the track! Examples include, “How often would you like to hear from me and in what manner is best for you? Call, SMS, email?” This should all be done at your set-to-sell meeting. If you’re not doing this, start now.
  1. Focus on solutions. Approach the situation with a solution-based mindset and go in with a focus on finding a mutually beneficial outcome. If you go in with a combative or closed-off approach you will inflame the situation. Ask your client what they want to achieve and brainstorm mutually viable ideas together. Make sure that you’re open to options that will address their concerns and still align with your objectives. 
  1. Cool it down. If you’re in a heated conversation or confrontation with a client, and things are escalating, it’s not wise to continue. Break away in a respectful manner and allow some time for everyone to cool down and think everything through before you try again. Aim to go back in and discuss the issue with a fresh perspective.
  1. Stay professional. No matter what the situation relates to, you are the professional. And it is very important that you remain so. It is easy to get caught up in the emotion, but the worst thing you can do is to get defensive and fight back. Stay calm, composed and humble. It is very hard to argue with someone like that. 
  1. Know when it’s time to walk away. There are going to be times when no matter how hard you try, nothing will change your client’s opinion of a situation, despite your best efforts. So, you must evaluate whether it is worth continuing the business relationship or knowing when you’ve reached your limit and the only solution is to part ways. Often, it’s easier to do so amicably at this point rather than engaging in a drawn-out dispute, which will take up your time and energy.

Of course, every client is unique, and you are unique to your clients.

So, there are always going to be different disputes and situations.

You will probably find that different strategies will work with different clients, so adapt your approach according to the circumstance and the personalities of the clients involved.

Always aim for the best outcome possible for all involved.

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Marnie Beauchamp

Marnie Beauchamp has over 30 years experience in real estate & business ownership. Accolades include Business person of the year, business of the year & most outstanding real estate agency multiple years. With a passion for hard work, Marnie looks to revolutionise the way agents and agencies work.