First and foremost, I want to state that it’s not in my nature to tell estate sales colleagues how to run their business. However, since I’m seeing so many new ones put between the proverbial rock and the hard place due to impossible clients, I thought they might find this guide on how to handle such clients useful.
Similar to any other business that implies working with people, in estate sales, it would be virtually impossible not to come across a difficult client. Perhaps due to a strong sense of possession or maybe because they don’t really trust people, some clients will bully you, hound you, accuse you of trying to steal from them, claim you are unprofessional and unable to conduct your business… you get the picture.
The worst case scenario
Now, I know that your first instinct is to start yelling back, walking out the door or worse. However, before you do anything rash, take a moment and analyze the consequences of those actions. Think of it this way: since the word that you failed a project will spread quickly in the community, what potential customer would believe you even when you are right?
In a small community, a hasty behavior may entail that you will experience a significantly harder time to get another job. Not to mention that there are some strange people out there who will try to intimidate and bully you and your loved ones. I admit, it’s a bit of a gross exaggeration, but bad publicity usually means fewer and fewer customers, lower sales and in the end insolvency. However, the good news is that there are ways to protect yourself against this type of clients.
Who is to blame?
Psychology teaches that at times people act angrily towards others simply because they make easy targets. Basically, they are angry at themselves, but because they cannot see that and need another target towards whom to express the way they are feeling, they will start yelling, bullying and blaming others instead. In short, sometimes it’s not about you, it’s about them. And, as if things were not difficult already, they will react even more angrily when you try to appease them: the more you give in, the more they will demand. In case you and the client cannot reach an agreement on this matter, then plan to walk away from the project in a calm and professional manner.
The tools are already in your arsenal!
It is very important that you get a signed contract before you start doing any work at all. Within the contract, you should make sure you have all the crucial details regarding the services you provide, obligations, clauses and anything else relevant to this business relationship. In the eventuality that you don’t have a good contract or no legal representative to looked it over, then I strongly advise you to get the professional opinion of a lawyer.
More often than not, clients will try to postpone signing the contract for various reasons, be it that they are too affected by the passing away of a loved one or because they are still unsure whether or not you are the right person to handle the auction. Regardless of the circumstances, it is in your best interest not to give in. Do not allow them to provide you with the signed contract “soon”. Besides the signed contract, there are other things you should be mindful of, such as:
- Never make a promise that you cannot keep
- Be organized and make sure your schedule allows you to allocate sufficient time to each client who hired you
- Encourage your client to refrain from participating in the set-up or sale, especially if they appear too emotionally attached to the objects that are being sold
Don’t let one bad experience ruin it for you!
Once you ran into a client that constantly wines and complains about everything you do, it’s natural to expect trouble from every other customer as well. However, did you know clients pick up on negativity? Therefore, if you’re expecting to come across such a client this is exactly what you’ll get. My recommendation, irrespective of whether you had an unpleasant experience or not, is to view each case as unique and to approach every new project with a positive attitude.
About the Author: Hi, I’m Chad, an estate sales professional that has been in business for over 20 years and one of my recently discovered passions is to share my experience and write about the amazing world of estate sales.