Do you sometimes find it hard to get along with your clients?
Have you ever spent a long time on the phone or in client meetings trying to convince them why a particular decision is a bad one?
Have you ever found yourself frustrated when you can’t do what you know is best for your client?
Do you hate it when you client has to get their way regardless of the decision being the best one?
Well, you’re not alone.
Like I mentioned a few days ago, I’m currently reading the classic human relationship book How to Win Friends and Influence People.
There’s a whole section in the book titled: “How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking.”
And I can’t thing of any group of people in the world (except maybe politicians) that could use some help persuading people to their point of view more than freelancers.
2 secrets to convincing a client you’re right
Here are two big secrets that Dale Carnegie shares in How to Win Friends and Influence People.
First: Never say, “You’re wrong.”
Your clients are wrong.
Sometimes, they’re wrong a lot.
But you won’t ever get anywhere by telling them so.
Because what you’re really saying when you tell your client they’re wrong is this: “My opinion is better than yours because I’m smarter than you. I know what you need and what works well for your business and you’ve actually got no idea.”
Imagine being told that about your own business!
Even if it’s true, it’s a hard pill to swallow.
No one likes to be told they’re wrong–much less that they’re incompetent.
But what if they are wrong?
If your client is wrong, that’s fine.
In fact, I’d say it’s to be expected.
But there’s no need for you to be the one to point it out.
So what should you do to get your way?
That’s where the next piece of advice from How to Win Friends and Influence People comes into play.
A few chapters after the advice to avoid telling people they’re wrong comes this gem: Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
Let me illustrate:
If your client comes to you and tells you that they want a funny cat video on their home page because they think it will help people have fun on their web site, but you know it will hurt their overall branding, you have two options.
You can either tell them they’re wrong (bad choice).
Or you can help them see they’re wrong and discover it on their own (the right choice).
For example, you could say something like, “That cat video will annoy most of your site visitors and really kill any chance you have of converting site visitors into paying customers. That’s a terrible idea and we really shouldn’t do it.”
But, if you’re wise and you want to get your way without creating any feelings of resentment or anger with your client, you’ll say something like this (notice how many times your client would have to answer “yes” in the following conversation):
“I see why you like the cat video. It’s definitely funny and I can see why a lot of people would like it.
“Remember when we discussed the purposes of your site? (yes)
“I remember you told me one of your top priorities in building this site is to sell widgets, right? (yes)
“Every decision we make in the design and content of this site, then, should help you sell more widgets, right? (yes)
“And should I try to remove anything that might distract from selling widgets on your site? (yes)
“Then I think, although the video is really funny and would make a lot of people laugh, I’m not sure it’s going to sell you any more widgets. Would you agree? (yes)”
See the difference?
In the first instance, you insulted your client’s intelligence by inferring that they were wrong.
In the second scenario, you allowed your client to discover their mistake on their own. And in no way did you make the decision personal. It was all based on what they want to get out of their web site.
At no point in the second conversation was your client’s intelligence, pride or judgment in jeopardy. At no point did you pretend to know more than your client about their business.
At no point did you create feelings of resentment or animosity.
And yet, you still got your way.
(PS: did you notice I used this same technique to draw you into this article? Did you answer “yes” to a few of the questions at the introduction of this post?)
Am I right to think this will work well? Leave a comment on this post and let’s talk about it!
(PPS: All of the links to How to Win Friends and Influence People in this post are Amazon affiliate links. I get a few cents every time one of you clicks through and buys the book. But I never ever ever recommend products or books that I haven’t read or used and think would really help you build your freelance business. If you do click through and buy the book, which I highly recommend, please leave a comment and let me know and we’ll talk about it. Thanks!)