From Impossible to Loyal: Seven Types of Difficult Clients and How to Win Them Over

Early in my consulting career I had a client who slowly became downright abusive. When we first met he was relaxed, confident, professional, and even charming. But underneath that veneer he was a mean-spirited tyrant. As time passed, he became every-more demanding and even vicious. One day, I walked into his office with a three-page memo I had written to summarize our conclusions.

Senior businessman portrait

He noticed a typo on the second page and began angrily yelling at me. “This is shoddy, unprofessional work,” he shouted across the table, his eyes bulging and face turning red. “How could you show this to me? This is totally unacceptable!” His rant continued for a full minute. I was only 28, and felt utterly trapped in the project.

This man was an extreme case, and I have fortunately only run into a few like him during the ensuing 25 years. But the fact is, you encounter difficult clients all the time.

In my newsletter article this month, I profile seven types of tough clients you need to be aware of, and the strategies for dealing with them. Here they are:

  1. Insecure. These clients are anxious, unsure, and risk averse, and they micro-mange you to death.
  2. No Boundaries. These are the people who send you emails on Saturday night and want to schedule calls at 6 in the morning.
  3. Do Nothing. Some clients never actually take action or move ahead with the initiative or engagement you’re supposed to be working on with them.
  4. Know-It-All. This client thinks they know more about what you do than you, and is constantly telling you how to do your job.
  5. Aloof: Some clients treat you like a vendor and resist all efforts to build a real relationship.
  6. Insatiable: This type of client feels the work is never, ever good enough, and like the insecure client, they also micro manage everything you do.
  7. The Tyrant: They have personality and emotional issues and treat their people—and perhaps you—terribly.

Read the full article to learn more about these client types and the specific strategies that will help build a more productive relationship—and set boundaries when necessary.

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