5 Things You Can Do to Win Over a Tough Client

5 Things You Can Do to Win Over a Tough Client

“What kind of presentation was that? I’m not seeing what I’m looking for. This entire meeting was a waste of my time.”

Have a client like that? Relax, you’re not alone. Everyone has a tough client at one point in their career that the entire team dreads meeting with. Although… there is always one person on the team who gets along just great with that client. Knows what to say and always gets her work approved in the spot. What is she doing that you aren’t?

Simple. There are five things you can do that will win over the toughest of clients. I use these and can attest personally to how well they work. They usually all stem from one issue your team is having: It’s not that your client is tough; it’s that your team isn’t presenting to them in a way that they expect, prefer and feel comfortable with. Keep reading. I’ll show you all the secrets.

1. Make the feel special

Have a client that complains about their superiors a lot? You’ll hear a lot of phrases like, “I can’t show this to my boss the way it is now.” This type of client is probably in a bad career place where they are the company scapegoat. Make them feel special.

Randomly surprise them with a dog and pony show type of meeting that includes industry trends. Use a good designer to build the presentation. Unless you have superior design skills and by that, I mean you either went to art school, or are often sought out to build decks. Don’t make it a bullet point fiesta. Use full screen images and minimal text.

Remember their birthday, anniversary, kids, etc. Send them cards on holidays. Don’t send corporate cards. Go to the store and pick one out yourself. Don’t hand it to them. Mail it. It’s a small thing, but people really remember it and it will make them feel special.

2. Make them look smart

Everyone wants to look smart. Don’t go into a meeting spewing out industry jargon or technical terms that your client clearly doesn’t understand. That doesn’t make you look smart. It makes you a pompous ass. And as Will Wheaton’s Law states, “Don’t be a dick.” You’re only impressing yourself.

Instead, use clear, simple language. If you have a tough subject to explain to a non-technical person (API requests, for example), use simple analogies. Invite them to a conference that will keep them up to date.

Make them look good (in front of their boss)

Invite a guest speaker from their industry to speak at their status meeting. Invite the client and her boss out to lunch with the speaker and you.

Email your client links to articles they should know about. CC her boss. Pick one day of the week to do this and keep it consistent so they have something to look forward to and you can squeak it into your workflow.

I used to have after hours phone calls with a client I had a really good working relationship with. She would send me decks to redesign for her that had nothing to do with our agency work. But it made her look good in front of her boss to have smart presentations with beautiful graphics and custom illustrations I did for her. She got promoted. Twice.

Make them remember why they hired you

“We’re terminating the AOR with your agency.”
“May we ask why? We’ve done everything you’ve asked.”
“Yes, you have. But that’s all you’ve done. You never went further. We saw you do things for other clients that we were never offered. We never even got to see your entire roster of agency offerings. We’re putting up an RFP for a new agency, and you will not be asked to take part.”

That painful conversation was true. It happened at an agency I worked at. We did everything they asked, but we never went the extra mile and reminded them why they hired us. We never showed them new capabilities we had added. They became a “factory client” (Churn out the work). They became a job, not a client you want to brag to your Mom about.

The fact is, many clients weren’t even the one who hired your firm. They might be new to the company, or it might have been a handshake deal their boss made ten years ago over a golf game. Whatever the reason, your client needs to be reminded why they hired your company.

Making them feel special, look smart and look good in front of their boss certainly helps put you in a good light. Those things make you, as an individual, appealing to your client, but they don’t remind them why they chose your company.

To do that, you need another dog and pony show, but this time, not to impress them for the sake of making them feel special. Wow them with facts. Remind them of the successes of the year to date. How they’ve exceeded sales goals (ahem, assuming they have).

Ideally, you’d do this quarterly. Have a meeting with them to showcase your capabilities—even the ones they have no reason to use. They need to know what you are can anyway. Bring in employees they aren’t used to seeing in meetings who work in each discipline. They like to see new faces too, and it brings them a fresh perspective. You never know. The one employee you dreaded bringing in may be the one to sell them on a whole new project. I’ve seen that happen many times.

Take work off their plate

This is a big one and so few people have the common sense to do it. Sure, we all know the key to promotions is to take work off your own boss’s plate, but your client’s? Absolutely.

This isn’t something you need to do all the time, or you’ll never get your own work done, but when you can, and you sense your client is overloaded, ask them what you can do to help them.

Bonus tip: Mimic their sensory language

My favorite and this could be a post unto itself. Almost everyone has a dominant sense. You can nearly always figure it out without asking because it invades their daily language.
Someone who is olfactory-dominant (smell) will say things like, “That really stinks,” or, “I smell a rat,” or, “Something doesn’t smell right about that.” An aural-dominant (hearing) will say, “I’m not liking what I’m hearing” or, “You’re not listening” or, “That doesn’t sound right to me.” A visual-dominant (the most common) will say, “I see” or, “That looks right to me” or, “I can’t picture what you’re describing.”

Can you see (visual) where I’m headed with this? Find out which sense is dominant with your client (or anyone you work with) and use their sensory words when you’re in conversations with them. You’ll find they connect with you, find you easy to talk with and are more receptive to your ideas.

Conversely, using a sense they are not dominant with will often interrupt the flow of conversation, cause more friction between you and your client.

Final Note:

Everything I’ve taught you can also be used with your own boss. You’ll find yourself rapidly becoming their favorite employee if you do.

What has your experience been with a tough client? How did you handle it?

PHOTO CREDIT: lintmachine via PhotoPin cc

Five Things Vendors Always Get Wrong

Five Things Vendors Always Get Wrong

Hi Vendors! I love meeting vendors and startup founders. I really do. But (most of) you haven’t quite mastered the social skills necessary to properly contact an executive, or what to say to us to keep our attention. But there are (at least) five things vendors always get wrong. So here’s some free advice…

1. My name is not Dear Sir or Madam

First things first. If you cannot be bothered to look up my name, I cannot be bothered to respond to you. Sorry, but I will mark you as spam and you just lost a sale. Happy with your efforts now? I didn’t think so. I’m not alone in this, by the way. Most of the executives I’ve spoken to say they mark mass emails and generic messages as spam.

2. Read my profile before you contact me

Or at least skim it. Really. You’ll see that I’ve been doing this for a long time. Most executives have been at their position a long time. We go to the same conferences you do. We were probably speakers on the panel of the last con you attended. When you start communiques with an introduction on “how social media is taking over” (or mobile, or local, or augmented reality, et al), we tune out. We know it has.

I’ve spoken all over the world about that very subject. I’ve trained literally hundreds of executives. Had you read my LinkedIn profile, my Facebook, About.Me or bios on any of the other 200+ networks I belong to, you would know that I probably know as much as you do, and possibly a lot more than you on the subject. This is not a boast. It’s a fact from nearly 20 years experience in the digital marketing industry. You’re insulting my intelligence, belittling my experience and wasting my time.

3. You do not have “the one app that will solve all my marketing problems”

So stop claiming that. It’s impossible, and any tool that got close to achieving such a lofty goal can’t possibly do all of them well. I am quite happy (and prefer) to pay a little more to work with more vendors on more one trick pony apps that get it right. This goes double for social media. Most apps that claim to be great at monitoring barely scratch the surface, yet convince their subscribers they are getting everything. No one can do this. Privacy settings, anyone?

4. Don’t message me in two days, telling me that I “still haven’t responded”

Guess what? I’m not going to now. You just told me a lot about your attitude. That your time is worth more than mine. It’s not; we’re both busy. That I am obliged to respond. I don’t. That I am under a time pressure to respond to you. I wasn’t aware that I was, as you didn’t mention that, but being a salesperson, you probably are under a quota to deliver by a certain date. I get that. But I’m still not responding. Because I don’t have to.

5. Just because you worked with a colleague of mine…

Doesn’t mean I’m necessarily interested in your product or service. Messages that make assumptions about “what a perfect fit your product/service is” don’t excite me. You don’t know what products I am already using. Or if I have built my own. You don’t know if I’ve read reviews on your brand and chosen a competitor. You don’t know because you assumed. And you know what happens when you assume.

Now here’s how you can do better:

1. Address me by my name. And do this for everyone, not just me. Generic emailing is from the devil.

2. Read my profile so you know my experience level. This will prevent you from embarrassing yourself and having an awkward conversation with me.

3. Tell me about your app in a humble way. The best email I ever received from a vendor was from Josh Little (Qzzr.co). That guy knows how to write a great email. Polite, no assumptions, did his homework and mentioned that he’d be in the area, but with no presumptions that we had to meet. Just a “hey, if you’re free…”. We had a great meeting as a result. Josh is forever in my cool book.

4. Be patient if I don’t respond. If you feel the need to make sure I received your well-written, humble email, do it in a non-threatening way. How about, “Hey [person's name], just checking in. I sent you a message about a product that I thought was up your alley. Just wanted to make sure you got the message? If you did and it’s of no interest, that’s cool. If you have a spare minute, could you reply and tell me what wasn’t appealing to you? If not, no pressure. Just checking in.” See that? Written like a friend, not a machine.

5. Perhaps ask that colleague if I would be a good fit first. Don’t just ask them for “the name of whomever is in charge of your digital purchases” (Which you all do, don’t deny it. We all know how social engineering works).

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

PHOTO CREDIT: rogerdominh via photopin cc

CASE STUDY: Artisan Plating

Case Study: Artisan Plating

CASE STUDY: Artisan Plating

This month’s case study is about Artisan Plating, an interesting company in that they specialize in electroplating all kinds of precious metals. While they specialize in plating designer work, they also electroplate for government and military applications, which means they reach military-grade tolerance levels. They’ve even plated parts for NASA’s space shuttles. Pretty cool client!

I designed and developed artisanplating.com twelve years ago and then, I told David Vinson, the owner, that sites that can give something away always outperform sites that do not. After the recent Google Hummingbird update, this is still clearly the case.

Since he clearly could not give away jewelry, I suggested he give away his vast knowledge of electroplating, precious metals and metallurgy. He wrote up dozens of articles and since then, they have been linked to, ripped off, copied and discussed by his competitors, universities and scientists, globally. He’s also been a featured national speaker on metallurgy and electroplating precious metals.

The articles also played another role: they kept him on the first page of Google organically for 12 years! The reason for the redesign? After 12 years, Google’s algorithm changes finally bumped him off page one. Granted, the articles hadn’t been updated in years.


For the redesign, I talked Artisan Plating into four new ideas:

  1. Mobile-first Responsive Design.
  2. A portfolio of his exquisite work.
  3. New articles on areas that his competitors seem ignorant of, but he is on top of.
  4. Contact information available on every page.


Site traffic has increased by over 300% and he’s getting rave reviews on the new design from his customers. We haven’t sent the pages jump back to page one of Google yet, but it’s only been two weeks and we are not using any paid media or keyword buys.

CASE STUDY: Artisan Plating