I work in a professional field where I am relied upon for advice. Unfortunately, sometimes my clients or prospective clients don’t like what I have to say. They want to force me to take actions to achieve their goals—they want to ignore all the red flags and warnings. Assuming a legal line hasn’t been crossed, should I help them achieve what they want? That’s a difficult question I have to ask myself nearly every week. Here are some of the excuses people use to question your advice as a professional:
“I had a Friend in the Exact Same Situation and Their (Professional) Did X and Achieved Y.”
When I hear this line of reasoning, I have to remind the individual that every matter is different. The factual realities of two matters will never (or rarely) be exactly the same. Laws change, people change, the world changes—–every day. Providing some resources to the client or prospective client showing why you’re standing behind your advice can also be helpful in this situation.
“We Need to Achieve Y.”
The best professionals find a way to achieve their client’s goals. A focus on creativity can sometimes move walls. But every so often, there is a situation where even if the client’s goal can be achieved, it might be a pyrrhic victory. Sometimes the best thing to do in this situation is to write a formal cover your ass (CYA) letter to your client. You can say:
“You have asked me to do X, Y & Z. I have advised you that the following results might occur should I assist you in your request. Moreover, I have advised against pursuing X, Y & Z. You have indicated, however, that despite my advice, you still wish to pursue X, Y & Z.”
“I don’t care about the (money, etc), this is about the principle.”
Over and over again in my business, I see people who are fighting (for the principle) get burned…..badly. They will ignore rational and logical ways to move forward and insist on either (proving they are absolutely right), or, more often, (trying to inflict pain or revenge on somebody else.). Again, a CYA and perhaps even withdrawing as the services provider might be necessary when dealing with such clients. It’s nice to have principles, but to an extreme, anything can become dangerous.
“I hired you because you’re cheap and I guess you get what you pay for.”
If you sell yourself short in pricing a professional service, then people will think you suck. This is a tough thing to learn, but people who only shop based on price are nearly impossible to work with—-90% of the time. (in my experience). The best thing to do is to price yourself fairly and market yourself on your skills, customer service, etc., rather than your price. Don’t be the Walmart of CPA’s or lawyers or dentists—-or you’ll be treated accordingly.
“I Come to You Because the Last Professional Screwed Up”
The truth is they probably stiffed the last professional and now they are going to stiff you. Another possibility is that they are simply tough to work with and will soon be griping about how much you “screwed up.” If you take on enough clients like this, make sure you upgrade your malpractice coverage.
The “I know more than you,” Client
You’re not going to change this person. Either accept that you’ll be tortured or get out while you can.
The “I don’t have the money right now, but”
There’s no time like the present. Somebody wouldn’t walk into Subway and request a sandwich that will be paid for later. Your professional services must be paid in advance (or at least a retainer, payment plan, etc) because if they don’t have the money now they probably never will.
These are just a few of the difficult client types. Sometimes the best thing to do is to get out or never take them on. Remember to always CYA.