As an attorney, I have to give people bad news all of the time. It is especially hard when clients want a specific resolution and I have to tell them that it is not possible or that attempting that resolution will cost them a lot more money than any rational person would want to spend. I do not like having to tell clients that there is no hope and I do not like being told there is no hope.
Recently, I spent time on the phone with a graphic designer trying to get a certain look that I wanted for a graphic. He proceeded to tell me all of the reasons why what I wanted would not work. With every alternative I offered, he shot that down as well. But here is the thing, he never offered a solution! Not once!
It is not easy saying no. But if you do have to say no, you should at least provide alternatives that a client could try to at least give some hope to their situation.
Customers know what they want . . . not necessarily what they need.
Most customers start with an end goal in mind. Perhaps they do not know how they are going to get there but they know what they want it to look like. As a business owner you should be able to guide your client to the end result. If you are a designer and your client wants a Pepto-Bismol pink room, you may try everything to talk them out of it. But if you show alternative pink rooms that are not so revolting, maybe you can get them to change direction without telling them how ridiculous their ideas are.
Give clear alternatives.
So maybe as a make-up artist cannot you cannot make someone look like Halle Berry no matter how hard you try. But you can ask your client about what she like about her look and then try to duplicate those things so that the client is satisfied with the end result. If your client is asking for something that is completely not doable, do not just leave them hanging with “sorry . . . it’s impossible.” Give suggestions and alternatives that may give them what they want just not necessarily how they want it.
So maybe your client wants a flying car and well . . . they just are not on the market yet. It is impossible to fill that desire. But why do they want that flying car in the first place? What desire or need are they trying to fill? If you can understand the root of what someone is asking then you can understand how disappointed they are when they cannot get it. It is the reasons doctors give you candy after you had a shot. Sorry I hurt you . . . here is something to make you feel better. What can you do to make your client feel better after delivering bad news?
Shahara Wright is an experienced and highly sought after business law attorney and business strategist. She is the author of From Entrepreneur to CEO and host of the CEO Collaboration Circle. Shahara founded The CEO Effect, LLC to work with small business owners who want to implement strategy to build capacity.
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