So, what to do with difficult clients?

I have been in situations during my real estate career where it has been necessary not to begin a working relationship with someone, or to terminate it early in the process. More easily said than done I fear; we are not so flush with clients that this is a comfortable decision to make, but I absolutely believe there are times when it’s NOT appropriate or agreeable to work with certain people. Furthermore, I firmly believe that “mutual respect” is essential to any relationship. Without it, we are destined for failure.

My most recent experience in deciding not to continue working with a client made me pause to consider, “what went wrong?”  I am fairly patient and believe that I am capable of working with most people. Therefore, I am deeply concerned when my business encounters don’t work through to fruition. Like many business owners, there have been numerous developments during my career that I would consider difficult or even painful to endure. Yet, somehow we always manage to persevere and get through to the other side, reach the finish line, make it to settlement, and yes, to ultimately get paid. What was different this time?

I can endure a lot of things in the pursuit of finding the best home on the market for my client. After all, it’s the reason why we put our client’s needs first. In fact, our business model is designed to ensure our client’s utmost satisfaction, and we go a long way toward making sure this happens. Nevertheless, there are times in a relationship that makes one question their worth or value to another person. These instances of uncertainty are not always apparent at first, and may take time to become noticeable. Once it becomes clear that a trust has been breached and that the advocate is being made out to be the adversary, we’ve got problems. If conversation and client-education are not working, the time has come to reevaluate the relationship and perhaps make some difficult decisions.

I strongly feel that I am worth what I bring to my relationships, and I honestly believe the people who I give of myself to be deserving of these efforts. It is not always reciprocal but it is usually manageable. When trust is in question, and reason, understanding and consequence are dissolved, the likelihood there will not be a successful outcome can become painfully obvious. As it turns out, in this instance it’s was better to go our separate ways under poor circumstances than to resolve to be tormented while hoping for a most unlikely outcome.

I am not pleased in having to part-company with someone I know I could help. I do not like dissolving a relationship I have heavily invested with my time and resources. This particular encounter was simply untenable and not worthy of my hard work. As a result I needed to begin using that valuable time and energy to look for the next client deserving of my efforts, of my time, and of my many great qualities. Most of all, I look for the opportunity to respectfully work with someone and to have them willing to return these efforts in kind. After all, the lesson here for me is, at a minimum, we are all worth that!

John & Ann VanderSyde, Assoc. Brokers, Virginia Properties/Long & Foster, Richmond, VA 23226

Revised 12/29/11

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