October 27, 2020

Irrational Clients – Yours, Mine and Ours

As a serious professional you often come across irrational clients. Behavior that’s obviously wrong makes complete sense to them. Sometimes it’s your own clients who have irrational clients as customers. You need to talk them down off the ledge. Here are a few examples.

  • It’s Not Lying if I Neglect to Tell You Something — People will often make their case by putting their own behavior in the best possible light. They omit details because it puts them in the wrong. They believe ignorance of the law is a valid defense. Big mistake.
  • If it Wasn’t For the Last Minute, Nothing Would Get Done — Your client had months to prepare the necessary paperwork. Someone calls to remind them and check progress. It’s down to the deadline and nothing has been done yet. Often the client seriously underestimates the prep time involved, causing a fire drill at the last minute.  This leads to…
  • I Need This Work Done Immediately (But Will Put Off Paying) — You’ve likely had the client who demands immediate service. Drop everything you are doing and get my job done. You comply. You send out the bill. The client who was on your case every minute is now mysteriously hard to find.
  • Get the Most You Can While Paying the Least –- The problem often develops when you are competing to win business. The client commoditizes your product or service, explains they just want the basics, forget the bells and whistles. If you cut prices and win the business, your new client now expects the concierge service you deliver to fully priced clients.
  • Everything is Someone Else’s Fault -– Some people are experts at playing the blame game. When something bad happens, it can’t be their responsibility. They never got your message. Or your e-mail. Or your text. There must be a problem with their phone. You didn’t try hard enough. Ambulance chasing attorneys reinforce the idea your slip and fall couldn’t possibly be due to their own carelessness.
  • They Consider Themselves “Ideas” People -– You’ve served on a board or committee with them. They pride themselves on seeing the big picture. All we need to do for the event to be a success is find some big pocketed donors. We need some hedge fund guys giving to our charity. Who are they? How will we approach them? Don’t bother me with details. I’m an ideas guy.
  • Avoiding Conflict is Paramount –- Ever lose a client? It’s unlikely they called and expressed dissatisfaction or put you on probation. They vote with their feet. In sales, people don’t want to say: “I’m not interested.” They just disappear instead. Your calls or e-mails aren’t returned. Management theory focuses on communication and sharing of data. Why won’t they just tell you the truth?
  • No One Wants to Take Responsibility -– In business, people often avoid supporting an idea that might fail. If you are arguing for your proposal and someone is pushing the status quo, compliment them on taking ownership of their position. Faced with personal accountability if things go wrong and their name is on it, they may back down.
  • Incremental Pricing –- “Only pay for what you need” is a powerful motivator. It rationalizes steep markups on products in small packages, odd lot fees in financial transactions and hourly rates on hotel rooms. (We wouldn’t know anything about that.)
  • Rules Don’t Apply to Them –- Some people feel they can get away with small, repeated infractions. They often rationalize that it’s a stupid law. Arguing with the authorities or mentioning the names of influential friends just digs the hole deeper. You are guilty and they' know it.
  • People Will Avoid Liability –- You know what you want, but when something goes wrong, you want it to be someone else’s problem. People will pay big bucks to make this happen. Buy a new car and you get a warranty. If the car makes a funny noise, bring it back and let them fix it. You join the auto club and pay for roadside assistance because someday you might break down and need it. The insurance industry is built on the concept people will pay to transfer liability.
  • Let’s Eliminate the Middleman — It sounds logical. Buy direct. They are the low cost provider. But all the savings don’t go to the customer. One way of viewing no load mutual funds is to realize “only one less person is being paid." The sales commission might be removed, but the client is still paying administration, trading, advisory fees and other expenses.
  • Flattery Works -– Most people are highly receptive. In the fund raising business it’s said: “You can never thank donors enough.” In the financial services industry people often use expressions “High Net Worth” and “Wealthy." People don’t identify with them. Try “Successful” instead. Most people identify with it. They feel they are successful at something.

What nonsensical things have you heard your clients say? Share them in the comments.

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