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Turning A Difficult Customer Into Your Ally

By Carole Nicolaides
Posted Monday, October 4, 2004

Having spent many years consulting Information Technology (IT) type companies and supervising IT projects I have learned one thing… IT people are very analytical. In fact, they can be down right difficult to communicate with.

I must admit, working with these people is not always easy and many non-technical people simply can’t understand them. IT managers can come across as cold, sarcastic, authoritative and arrogant. But personally, so do many other groups. I think we generalise too much in our society and we tend to put everyone on the same plate.

If I was going to approach and work with IT types I was going to have to find a way to make these often cynical people my allies.

I’ll share with you what I’ve found out over the years. Here are some valuable tips on how to turn that difficult target audience into your special niche, one of your best customers and your partner.

1. Care about them. It is often difficult to care about someone who comes across as unreasonable. However, consider the fact that most business people, especially business managers, are under a lot of stress. People react to stress differently. By showing your difficult customer that you are interested in their success, you will break down barriers that they may have built up over the years.

2. Speak their language. This is a simple observation, yet vastly misunderstood. People don’t trust others that don’t communicate at the same level. Words have different meanings for different industries. Get closer to your target audience by learning their “language”.

I speak 4 foreign languages. When I visit one of the countries whose language I speak, I find something truly amazing. Even if the people I’m working with speak English – when I make the effort to speak their native language, they open up to me. They treat me as more of an equal. The same goes for learning the jargon and key industry phrases of your customers. They will indeed open up to you more.

3. Become a friend. People follow people that they like! If they like you, if they see that you care about them then they will follow you. It is much easier to talk to your customers if you keep this simple tip in mind.

4. Disagree with compassion. Do not make them feel belittled. Many times you will disagree with your customers. They think they know better, after all it is their job to know. You may be right but don’t argue about it. Disagree with compassion. Even if you are right, make every effort to communicate your point without belittling your customer. If they feel “put down”, I guarantee you that you will loose them as a customer.

5. Don’t focus on their weaknesses. Don’t ever try to “change” your customer. No one likes the feeling of another person trying to alter their behaviour. When you work with a person and provide a focus on things that excite them, things that they feel proud of, then their major weaknesses starts to deteriorate.

Take a personal interest in your customers… even the difficult ones. Once you do, they will begin to support you in response to the way you support them. They will become your ally and quite possibly one of your most loyal clients.

About the Author
Carole Nicolaides is President and Executive Coach of Progressive Leadership Inc who thrives on helping individuals and organisations achieve results by coaching them on how to discover and build upon their strengths. She also offers teleclass training and consulting in Organizational Effectiveness, Branding Strategy and Leadership Development. Visit ( for more info & subscribe to her FREE Ezine


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