11/16/2010 04:51 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Managing the High Maintenance Client


Expectations of after-hour calls

Unrealistic response times

Aggressive correspondence

Not taking responsibility for results

Lack of trust and/or too much control

Do any of these sound familiar? They can either be examples of feedback others have said about you or characteristics of some of your clients.

Let's face it, we all have clients whose methods or personality would not be described as easy going and flexible. So what can you do with your more high maintenance clients?

The best thing you can do for your client and yourself is to get clarification. Attempt to clarify the concerns your clients have that are manifesting themselves with unpleasant behavior. Are they unsure of themselves? Are they feeling a sense of scarcity and you are their last hope? Is this all new territory for them and they are frustrated with the learning curve?

Stop the conversation or correspondence and ask:
  • What is concerning you about the process or results?
  • What are your expectations of our roles in this process?
  • What has to happen for you to feel you are getting great value out of this service?

As business owners and experts we assume a level of expectation and don't realize the client has a completely different idea. If it turns out there is an unrealistic expectation, discuss it. In some cases you may need to discontinue the collaboration rather than prolong any frustration for either one of you.

When I notice a client expects I will do things FOR them to create results I deal with that right away.
For instance I had an author mail me his book and write in his letter and the inside cover inscription, "I want you to make me a bestseller." Hmmm...I can't make you anything. I can guide, mentor and teach you what needs to be done to make your book a bestseller but I can't make the results for you. At first glance this may have been his way of getting my attention, or just an issue of semantics but the tone in the rest of his letter was all about what I needed to do for him. There were no statements about his willingness to do whatever it took to make it happen. My instincts told me this was foreshadowing of more of the same. On the other hand, if I saw anything in his correspondence that indicated he was ready to work hard with my guidance, I would have reached out to him and gotten clarity. I chose to turn down his offer.

Think about past clients you considered high maintenance. What could you have done to clarify the situation and resolve any tension? Now review your current client list. What can you do right now to make things easier on both of you? What questions can you ask to gain clarity?

This is a hot topic for many people. I would love to hear how you have handled it in the past. Please share your story in the comments section below.

Peggy McColl is a New York Times best-selling author and an internationally recognized expert in the field of personal and professional development and Internet marketing. As an entrepreneur, business owner, mentor and professional speaker Peggy has been inspiring individuals to pursue their personal and business objectives and achieve ultimate success. She provides effective Internet marketing solutions for entrepreneurs, authors, publishers, professionals, and business owners, who want to establish an online presence, achieve bestseller status, build their brand, grow and/or expand their business online. You can find out more about Peggy at her website,