Thursday, January 5, 2012

I Hate My Client Part 2

“Mr. Gitou, I am dealing with a difficult CIO at a financial services company. What does a red car or green car have to do with that?” Verdi asked.

“Verdi, what color car do most people drive?” Tyler asked.

“What? I don’t know. I guess I’d say blue.”

“Really? And what color car do you drive?”

Verdi shrugged. “Blue.”

“Perfect,” Tyler said. “You are a great example of Self-Affirmation. You drive a blue car. As a result, your perception is oriented to look for other blue cars because it affirms your decision to buy a blue car. I myself never realized how many people have gray cars until I bought my first gray car.”

“That’s interesting but what does it have to do with my client being a jerk?” Verdi asked.

“When people reach conclusions they often seek out data that support those conclusions,” Tyler said. “They want to confirm they were right. You, for example, notice more blue cars than any other color because it confirms for you that blue was a good choice. Likewise, once you decided that your client was a jerk, which is a difficult conclusion to reach about someone you work with every day, you become oriented to look for jerk-like behavior to confirm you are right.”

“I can see how that would happen,” Verdi said. “And as a result, I probably don’t pay attention to the positive behavior.”

“That’s right. You seek the supporting data for your conclusion and disregard data that might indicate you are wrong. Self-rationalization also plays into the problem. We are always hesitant to admit we are wrong or made a mistake. Until you are willing to really question your own performance and behavior, you will always be content to blame the problem on the client.”

“I am willing to try,” Verdi said. “How do I start the process?”

“Go back to what I said: get out of your red car and get into a green car. The ‘red car’ represents a negative mind set and while you drive that red car you see many more red cars, or more negativity. When you get into a ‘green car’ mentality, or a positive state of mind, you will see more positive actions on the part of your client.”

“So this is about changing my frame of reference with regard to my client?”

“Exactly. Instead of thinking negatively about your relationship, start to focus on the positive aspects of the relationship. Every time you have a negative thought, you are back in the red car. A Deal Whisperer knows that if you change your attitude, you’ll change your relationship. Tell me, what do you like about this client as compared to other ones?”

“Well, he does hire us for a lot of consulting work and appreciates our people,” Verdi said. “But he always challenges me on the rates. He’ll ask for a discount every time.”

“Why does he do that?” Tyler asked.

“Either he perceives we are more expensive than other vendors, or he feels like he has to ‘win’ something.”

“Why don’t you ask?”

Verdi paused. “Ask why he wants a discount?”

“No, ask why he is asking for a discount. The answer is bound to be interesting. Maybe he will say, ‘because I think you are overcharging me compared to other vendors’ and then you can show him how you compare. Or maybe he says, ‘because I think you have room to move’ in which case you can share some of your own business challenges with him and why this is the best price you can offer. Either way it is going to start a dialogue where you are trying to understand his point of view rather than thinking of him as a jerk because he asks for a rate cut.”

Verdi nodded. “That’s a good suggestion. Thanks Mr. Gitou.” Verdi stood and was about to leave, and then stopped. “By the way, did you ever think that maybe the reason I see more blue cars is because blue is the most popular color?”

Tyler laughed. “It’s white. Blue is the sixth most popular.”


  1. John,

    This is helpful advice, but sometimes the answer is because I want it or because I am the client. I suppose even in that instance you should just try to dig deeper.

    If you hadn't said the client keeps sending more work, I might have also have asked you how to differentiate "red flags" regarding the client's commitment to the deal from a tough negotiator.

    Thanks for these posts.


  2. Jordan-
    Thanks for the feedback. The responses you suggest are often the first line of reasoning from the client. That is the time to challenge legitimacy. A potential response: "I understand you WANT it, what I am trying to understand is what it does for you because it has a negative impact on me and I need to rationalize that value to my leadership."