Agent Essentials

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Learn how to carefully handle a difficult client and, if necessary, sever ties if the relationship goes too far astray.
September 14, 2018

How to Handle and Fire Difficult Clients

by The CE Shop Team

Don’t Let a Difficult Client Disrupt Your Business.

Working with a challenging client is something every real estate agent experiences. If you’re properly prepared, even the most frustrating clients won’t intimidate you.

Below are just a few ways to help you navigate the complications of working with a difficult client without exacerbating the situation...including how to fire a client if the relationship becomes too sour. 

Screen Beforehand

Ironically, the best way to handle a difficult client is to screen them before taking them on. This gives you an opportunity to identify if the relationship will work. Remember, it’s okay to say no if you do not think you can work together. It’s also important to acknowledge the client’s process and thoroughly understand their needs from the very beginning. This transparent communication is essential to avoid clashes further down the road. 

Listen Carefully

Once you do take a client on, and you discover these underlying issues, it's best to kindly approach them and ask them what is going on. The key in this situation is to be the listener in the conversation. Difficult clients often desire a platform to be heard. Perhaps they’re tired of compromises or they didn’t understand what the home buying process was really going to be like. In cases like these, it’s important to let that person open up to you so you can properly assess their perspective. As REALTOR® Cynthia Nakaya says, allowing the client to talk until they finish “serves two purposes: One, they get their concerns off their chest and they know you care. Two, you find out if any of their concerns are legitimate. Many times the concerns have no ground, but if it's important to the client, you need to give them a place to express those concerns.”

Remain Calm Regardless of Who is Wrong

The one thing that is guaranteed to escalate an issue is becoming angry and adding fuel to the fire. No matter how your client rants and raves, it is never okay for you to lose your cool. Instead of fueling the argument, take a pause and try and understand things from the client’s perspective. Home buying and selling is a difficult process for everyone for many different reasons. Losing your cool instead of assessing if the client is experiencing common issues like buyer’s remorse, procrastination, or other common emotional phases will only expedite the situation down the rabbit hole of turmoil.

Discover the Underlying Issue

If we haven't hammered this in enough, let us repeat ourselves: you need to learn as much as you possibly can about why the client is upset before taking action. There are many times when people are arguing about what seems like some minute detail and instead it's actually about an undisclosed issue. For instance, if your client is stuck on how much they hate their prospective home’s shower size, it might be wise to dig a little deeper and discover it deals with something much bigger, like the drainage system isn't up to their standards. The issue could even be something much bigger, such as an issue with finances or legal action being taken against them. Learning everything you can will help you properly approach the relationship and uncover if this relationship will work or not.

The best thing to do is to ask as many nonintrusive questions as possible that inquire about what’s going on in their life. This will help you get to the root of the problem and move on towards a much healthier relationship. As a plus, your client will appreciate and value your genuineness.

Walk Away at the End of the Day

Sometimes, a relationship just does not work out. If you feel like the client work stress is becoming too much baggage for you to handle, it's best to sit them down and have a one-on-one conversation where you bluntly state that you'd like to dissolve your relationship. Be kind in the way you do this, but also make sure you clearly get your point across. An alternative situation is to hand off the client to a colleague who may be better suited for their needs. That being said, make sure you're straightforward with them as well. There's nothing worse than giving away a client and making your colleague miserable. 

If that does not seem like a viable option, always remind yourself that it’s better to lose business than struggle with a terrible client. Yes, money is great, but losing peace of mind has so much more value when it comes to your life.

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