I recently attended a debate in which an entrepreneur complained about how often being nice, open and sincere in business ended up with clients taking advantage of him. He was with clients who were all compliments and good words at the beginning, but then ended in defaults, not fulfilling commitments, in total incomprehension before any slip …
Before long, the views of those involved in that debate (other entrepreneurs) covered the full spectrum. From those who concluded that one should not be so innocent when it comes to business matters, even those who advocated remaining a smiling businessman although a lot of daggers stand out nailed in the back.
My own experience is that I do not know anyone (and I include myself) that he has not met with clients that he had never met before.
It happens to all companies and in all sectors. If you are reading this and do not feel identified because it is not your case, then it is simply a matter of time that you end up running into a similar situation.
From my own experience, I would never recommend arriving at the mistaken conclusion that this is a world of sharks and it is best to take the first step.
Going that way is very unprofitable, but it’s true that putting up with unbearable customers is putting a bomb under your seat.
What to do then?
Over time my approach is pragmatic, horrible customers are another element of the road. Like taxes, projects that are lengthened or products that do not end up being the success we hoped for.
Inevitable as day and night are alternating or that on every road there is some bump.
Therefore, the idea to start is to cover your back as much as possible.
You cannot do business without written contracts or go blind everywhere. That is why apart from everything always written, one of our strengths is to consult the Companies.
In case you do not know, the File Empresses manages a database that collects the defaults in which a company or an autonomous company could have incurred. This database is popularly known as a patrimonial solvency file or list of defaulters. When one wants to know if I am delinquent, it usually goes to that list and that is what we must do also to the slightest suspicion.
Once in order that everything is going to be in writing and that we have consulted possible insolvencies, we have to go one step further and have the mentality of not giving in to anything just because we are desperate to get a client.
Especially when you are small, and especially when you are new and small, you have the tendency to communion with mill wheels allowing abusive clauses in contracts or almost conditions of slavery.
If that is the feeling you have when it comes to dealing with a business, then better not sign. Unless we are going to die safely without it, better to endure even if the box is emptied because, in the long run, those who demand abusive conditions are experts at selling despair and squeezing even more into the future.
Worst customers, those who are least willing to pay, are also the ones who will ask. There are real professionals in it and if we sign we are initiating almost a pact with the devil.
Moreover, to say yes to everything (as unfair as it is) is not only a sign of despair, it is also of little self-esteem.
This is not a site of self-help or psychological analysis, it simply happens that if we compromise once it will be easier to do it later and thus, in a short time, the general tone is going to be crossing that line constantly. With that, we will make a small hell of our business full of customers that drown us with unbearable demands every day.
If we believe in the value, we provide we have to show it in our prices and our conditions.
In general, the attitude that has worked best for me in practice to address this issue is based on the following:
1.- Cover your back beforehand
Written contracts, consultation, insurance covering delicate operations, being well-acquainted with how to do things professionally, asking for credentials, or finding out who the one with whom we do business is wise.
It is not a question of being paranoid, 95% of times nothing will happen, but the 5% that can drag us to the hole.
If the person with whom we do business is a wise and professional entrepreneur, he will perfectly understand whatever we do to be prudent, essentially because he would do the same.
It is not about writing 50-page contracts or hiring a detective, but if the other starts to put up with basic things: care.
Seriously, from experience, be careful.
2.- People really know each other in adverse times. Let’s look at the signs
On holidays we all smile, pat ourselves on the back and we are best friends.
However, real friends are the ones who are still there when it’s time to grit your teeth. It is not necessary for a customer to be a friend, but the mechanism is similar, the true character of a client will surface when something goes wrong.
Be good observers of behavior when there are small inconveniences, some unimportant delay, etc. It will allow us to know what foot our client is limping.
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Obviously, we are human, nobody likes to stumble and we will have heated debates some time, but there are normal reactions and excessive reactions.
Look at those moments, being keen observers of reality can be very profitable for the future.
3.- Do not burn and be one of them
Resources for SMEs offers an unconditional guarantee of 60 days, anyone could buy a product, say that you are not interested subsequently, ask for the return and keep everything. Because there is no commitment, questions, rules or anything like that. Essentially that guarantee is a matter of personal philosophy.
More than once I have been looked at by my colleagues in the corner of the eye to tell them that, and I still seem to hear some chuckle.
No matter, I’m a pragmatist, I believe in numbers, to observe and draw conclusions with a complete perspective or at least a little broad.
And the main conclusion is that most people are good, appreciate things of value if you provide what they want is happy and thank you, the minority are those who do not. And when you have a business letting yourself be conditioned by the minority of your customers is disastrous for the results.
The minority are the exploited, the inevitable sharks, so it is not profitable to adopt a stingy, suspicious or aggressive attitude. We are only going to generate more of that that we want to avoid and damage relationships with the sensible majority.
Looking at the numbers, the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks and we cannot play the game against that minority.
Seriously, it is not profitable or real to be carried away by bad experiences, what happens is that when those few times happen we are so painful that they eclipse the objective fact that 90% of people will come to help you if you fall into Sidewalk.
That the negative does not blind us, is one of his more developed and dangerous abilities of that enemy