As a VA you know it’s crucial to act as one with your client. If you fail to get on the same page, you fail as a team.

It’s normal you want to make your clients happy, but are you being heard? VAs that don’t feel heard or appreciated by a client slip into stress and can quickly become resentful. This creates a distance, fence and even a wall between you and your client. It has a negative impact on the future of your collaboration.

In this article, you’ll find out what other VAs do when they get distant from their clients. We’ll look at three mostly used strategies and why they don’t work. You’ll also learn a better alternative which in my belief should be taught in every primary school.

Here are the three inefficient ways VAs try to handle the distance with their clients when they’re not on the same page:

1. AVOIDING

As a turtle you tuck your head in the shell to ignore the tension and distance, hoping it might just go away. It seems so hard to talk about the situation with your client. So you prefer to walk away, divert attention to something else or delay any discussion.

A distance between your client and you is getting bigger with time if left unaddressed. The elephant is in the room, but nobody talks about it. The conversation might rock the boat, and the client might leave you.

Why this approach doesn’t work:

You’re spending a lot of your precious time to mule over about this circumstances. You’re getting stressed, you want to get this solved, but you can’t take action. So the situation doesn’t change for the better. Over time you get resentful, and the tone of your communication shows something is wrong.

The problem with avoiding is that you’re having passionate discussions only in your mind. Unfortunately, you leave the client out of the conversation. He or she is not invited to the party.

What works:

Invite the client to talk to you. Give the client a chance to discuss what could be improved. Explain how a client would benefit from it too. Having a powerful conversation can show what you can both do to make it work. I’ve helped many clients do this. With a few tiny changes, you can build thriving collaboration. Don’t condemn it to failure before doing your best to make it work.

2. TIPTOEING:

Like a teddy bear, you wish to make everybody comfortable and happy. You decide to talk with your client about the issue, but you want to be as gentle and considerate as possible. You don’t want to rock the boat too much.

In a conversation with your client you chat about many things and you also briefly mention the issue that’s bothering you. However, you don’t want to make a big fuss out of it, so you only touch on it. A client can easily ignore or misunderstand such hint of your concerns.

Why this approach doesn’t work:
The issue you want to resolve with your client is essential to you. Incidentally mentioning it can confuse your client. Your client can get the wrong idea or can even miss the point. Moreover, this is precisely what you want to avoid, right?

What works:

Consciously create time and space to have this meaningful conversation with your client. Invite your client to such discussion with words like ‘I have something I’d like to discuss with you that I think will help us work together more effectively.’ In this conversation, you’ll both be sharing your concerns and expectations. You’ll focus on the change that will make your work together smooth and easy. You can do this not with a chit chat but only by having a conversation that will transform your collaboration. My clients learn how they can do it with empathy and style, so they and their clients both win.

3. CONFRONTATION

You’ve had enough of waiting, avoiding and tiptoeing around your client. Things are slowly but surely getting worse. The wall between the two of you is now too high to bear. You’re now ready to talk with your client directly and finally get heard.

However, the conversation is all but what you expected.
The client looks surprised, starts to defend and blames you for the situation. What follows is diarrhoea of words coming out your mouths. It’s impossible to control it or to stop it all together. You’re clear on one thing: this is a collapse of business collaboration with that client.

Why this approach doesn’t work:
Blaming, attacking and offending creates a battlefield. And you want to talk not fight, right?
Here are a few other triggers that make the conversation difficult and emotional. I advise you to avoid them:
* proving one is right and the other person is wrong
* reminding the other person that you’ve warned them before (and they didn’t listen)
* raising the voice

Instead, think what will help you keep things under control?
To have a cool conversation, it’s essential to be calm (and cool). When we get emotional, we can’t find the right words. I describe how emotions hijack part of our brain in this post.

What works:
Prepare for a conversation well. Be clear what you want to say.

Ask yourself questions like what will help my client better understand my concerns? The answers might be something like: it will help to have a fruitful conversation if I’m calm, my tone is optimistic, if I ask my client about his / her concerns and expectations and then I listen really carefully, if I share my ideas on what I think could work to improve our collaboration in the future and so on.

When you’re ready to have such cool conversation, keep calm and trust yourself to lead the conversation towards the desired result.

4. SUMMARY

Having cool conversations with your clients is essential if you want to work with them in your growing business smoothly. The three strategies described above are not used because they work (because they don’t). VAs use them because they don’t feel comfortable enough to have such cool conversations (which are a proven and successful strategy to get on the same page).

I get it. When you need to discuss unmet expectations or some changes, it’s unpleasant and unpredictable. If it goes wrong, you can lose your client, money and reputation.
Of course, you want to make your client happy and not upset him or her. However, by avoiding, tiptoeing or confronting you’re giving your power away.

The only way to be in charge of your business is to have great cool conversations when needed.

I got a call from my client yesterday. He was proudly explaining how he used what he’d learned from me. He was comfortable to invite his client to discuss an issue and had a cool conversation with him. It was not awkward but profoundly transformative. The client thanked him for bringing this issue to the table, respectfully discussing it in a very creative and optimistic way so they could find a way to improve their collaboration. They’re now both more involved to make this work.

Talk To An Expert

If you’ve read this post and you’re finding yourself in a similar situation (but without the happy ending… yet) then scroll down and send me a message and we can explore working together.

Simona Frumen

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