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Dreading a Client Disagreement is Understandable
Alright, now onto this week’s post! Disagreeing with a client is probably top on your “hate to do” lists. It’s most likely right up there with listening to mind numbing hold music for 40 minutes, talking about money with well anyone, and scrubbing toilets after 14 young children have used them. Actually, given all of those options, disagreeing with a client may still be at the bottom.
And I get it. Disagreeing with anyone, much less a person who is actually giving you money to work for them, is like nails on a chalkboard. You don’t know what you’re going to do or say. You don’t know what they’re going to do or say. It’s just this large and looming cloud of uncertainty hanging over your head, with so many ways for it to go wrong. So you avoid it. You don’t speak up. You don’t say a word. And you know what? Often times, that’s totally okay.
Mutual Respect is Your Number One Goal
And it’s ok because you don’t need to feel like you have to direct a client away from every bad decision. You don’t need to feel like your job is to constantly set them straight. It isn’t. Sure, your job is to steer them in the right direction when it really matters, but, getting a client to agree with you 100% of the time, or you agreeing with what the client feels 100% of the time isn’t your goal.
In fact if you make it your goal, you and your client are going to have a very unpleasant time working together. It’s just too much pressure. So what is the goal then? What do you strive for when it comes to getting you and your client agreeing on things?
Well, your goal is to simply maintain a mutual level of respect. Your goal is to show the client that you aren’t there to change their mind constantly or push them into an entirely different set of opinions. No, instead you’re there to broaden their horizons, help them get what they want, and work to have their project succeed as much as they’re comfortable with. And that’s it.
A Step by Step Plan for Handling Disagreements and Differing Opinions
How do you handle a disagreement with respect though? What do you say if the disagreement is inevitable and necessary, and you know there’s no way out other than through it? Well, you then want to follow a few steps to successfully get yourself to the other side.
Step 1. Don’t feel the need to redirect or correct them right away, or to redirect them at all if it isn’t necessary. Ask yourself first, will responding to this be helpful or hurtful to the relationship and/or project? If they’re sharing that they’re going to shop around for better pricing on the items you’ve just presented, then responding is necessary. If they’re sharing however that they think HGTV has the best design advice or that Home Goods has high quality furniture, no need to respond. Just smile and move on.
Step 2. If the client is disagreeing with something you’ve recommended for the project, first let them think through it on their own. People will often talk themselves out of their own bad ideas. Give them the time and space to do that. It’s much easier for someone to prove themselves wrong, than for someone else to do it for them.
Step 3. If the client still feels confident about a decision you highly disagree with, gently offer an explanation as to why you feel differently. Start with validation of their opinion and then offer yours as well. It should sound something like this, “I can totally understand where you’re coming from. Blue is a beautiful color and wonderfully calming in a space. I’m thinking that in this room, using a cream for the walls would be ideal. It’s great at unifying this big open space like I know you wanted and then we could incorporate blue as a sophisticated accent. I think it could be just beautiful. What do you think?”
Step 4. If the client agreed with your explanation, wonderful! You can move on. If the client disagreed and it’s something that you really think could degrade the overall look of the project, have them think on it a bit. Reiterate your point but also show that you respect the fact that this is their home and their investment so the final decision is theirs. Say something to the effect of, “You know if you’d like, you can take some time to think on it a little bit. I think that in order to give you the feel you want in here, it’d be best if we (fill in the blank of what you think), but ultimately the decision is yours. So why don’t I call you in a few days once you’ve had some time to think on it and see what you’re thinking.”
And that’s really it, 4 simple steps. It’s nothing overly complicated, nothing overly forceful but also nothing that will turn you into a doormat. Just a simple plan for leaving both parties with a feeling of mutual respect for one another.
A Response May Not Be Necessary, but Respect Is
So the next time you find yourself with an opinion that’s opposite that of your client’s, remember first that you may not have to even respond. You may not actually need to share that the work that HGTV does isn’t realistic or high quality, or that tile countertops are actually not the next big trend in kitchen renovations. Some things are better left unsaid. Some things are better just left listened to, rather than responded to.
And the fact that you didn’t respond or react, doesn’t mean that you’re allowing yourself to be disrespected or pushed around, or that you’re not doing a phenomenal job. Instead, it simply means that you want to respect the fact that sometimes, people don’t agree with us. It doesn’t always mean that you’re not doing a great job of presenting, designing, or selling. It doesn’t mean that your skills or abilities are fundamentally lacking in some way.
No it simply means that some thoughts and opinions just can’t be changed or adapted. And that’s ok. Your job, is to focus on those that can.
Sweetly Simplified Action: Read through Steps 1-4 above 2 more times. Familiarize yourself with how to confidently handle a client disagreement. Then, the next time you find yourself in that situation, follow the plan to the best of your ability, reminding yourself the entire time that it’s ok to have a different opinion than your client.
Let me know in the comments below, how do you feel about disagreements with clients? I’d love to know!
And don’t forget to snatch up the 20% OFF SUMMER SALE prices here, and finally know the exact steps you need to take for an exceptional client experience!