Every time you look at your calendar, there it is. The dreaded meeting. You know it’s going to be a tough one. When your client called to book a face-to-face with you, you could tell they were upset. OR, you initiated the meeting and you know they’re going to be upset.
Why? Any number of reasons:
They weren’t qualified for the health coverage they wanted.
The policy is pricier than you initially proposed.
You or your team made an error that cost them or caused family conflict.
Market performance is in the gutter and they are pissed!
The new statements with transparent fees have gone out and the client is hopping mad.
These or any other challenging situation mean that you have a difficult, potentially emotional, interaction to navigate. If you’re not prepared, the relationship could go south and you could lose the business. On the other hand, if you do prepare and handle the meeting well, you have the opportunity to deepen trust, expand your business with them, and even get referrals.
Here are some key tips to help you successfully navigate the Emotional Meeting.
Before the meeting:
There are two people in that meeting. The client, and you. Your own emotional state is just as important to the success of the interaction as is theirs. As part of your preparation, take a few quiet, uninterrupted minutes to jot down your own worries:
I might lose the business. I hate being yelled at. I feel guilty about my fees/that error we made. I feel responsible for their portfolio’s poor performance, even though I don’t control the market. I don’t know what to do when someone is upset with me. I shut down or get angry back and it never ends well.
Whew! Okay! You got that out. When we can name what’s behind the anxiety it has far less power over us. Take some deep breaths, keep past successes in mind and remind yourself that neither your personal identity nor your entire future hang in the balance of this one meeting. You’re a good person. You care. You provide an important service.
What are the key points you must communicate? Create a short list so you don’t forget. What is an ideal outcome for the meeting? Having that in mind will help you maintain a positive focus. What are some options you can propose? Have a few of them available. This will keep the conversation and the good will flowing.
Choose your mindset.
In the meeting, your ability to remain calm, caring and professional will create a positive environment for the best possible outcomes.
During the meeting:
Acknowledge with empathy.
Your client will not calm down until they trust that you are taking them seriously. Whether you agree with the complaint or not, you can acknowledge their feelings as valid and worthy of respect. You may need to acknowledge and provide empathy a few times as they process their emotions and/or reaction to any challenging news you have to deliver.
Ask good questions.
The purpose of the questions is two-fold: first, to demonstrate that you care and you want to hear about their concerns and second, to uncover important details that may point to a solution that most aligns with what they want.
Find a way to say Yes.
This is where you can leverage the options you’ve prepared. No one likes to hear No, we can’t do that for you. To soften the blow, find at least one or two things that you can say Yes to.
Apologize if necessary.
If you or your team made an error, acknowledge it and apologize for it.
If the responsibility lies with you or your company, explain exactly how you will make it right and what procedures you’re putting in place so the error never happens again.
Remember the Maple Leaf Foods disaster where several people died from e-coli found in the meat? In spite of that, Maple Leaf is one of the most trusted brands out there. Why is that? Because of the absolute ownership the CEO took during the crisis. He didn’t hesitate for a moment. He pulled all their products off the shelf. He spoke directly and repeatedly to the public, explaining every step of the way what was being done. He cooperated fully with – in fact invited – every inquiry into their processes. He made a heartfelt apology and backed it up with action.
Articulate your value.
Your expert advice and planning has value beyond market performance. Practice describing it so you can communicate it in a way that your client understands the positive impact on their life.
Reaffirm your commitment to serving them well.
If you’ve handled all these steps well, your client will be feeling respected, valued and appreciated. You can now paint a positive picture of your relationship moving forward.
Although these meetings can be challenging, they are an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism and caring. You can come out the other side with a more loyal and valuable client than before!