Workplace Advice: My Client Won’t Listen to Me

Getting a Grip - Personal workplace advice from Handshake 2.0Dear Getting a Grip:

I am a professional in residential real estate and I have a question that could apply to people in a number of professions where their advice and direction is sought. I have a client who simply will not listen to me. She is paying a lot of money for my advice to sell her home, but she goes for advice to her family, her friends, her employer, even the person next to her in the grocery line, then comes to me with it as if it were the final word in real estate. Usually it is illogical, illegal or simply stupid. How do I get control of a situation that has gone awry?

Dear Last in Line:

When our friends ask us for advice, we give it for free, tending to let go of the outcome.  When a client hires us for advice, we tend to attach ourselves to the client taking action on our advice because we believe our advice is important to the success of the client’s enterprise.  For our clients’ well-being, for our own professional ethics, and for the sake of our future business with clients or for the clients’ referrals, we want clients to do what we think is best for them.

Clients ultimately have the right to choose what they think is best for them, sometimes in accord with our advice, sometimes not.  Negotiating upfront that the value we provide in exchange for hire is the expertise behind the advice, not the outcome, can leave both parties satisfied with the give-and take of the transaction.  Attempting to give advice, then control a client’s choice, usually results in frustration and resentment on both sides.

When clients question or challenge our advice, it’s either personal or not personal.  If it’s personal, clients have doubts about the quality or value of the advice we provide.  That requires an upfront, right-now conversation.  “Your satisfaction is what’s most important.  If you’re satisfied with the value I’m providing you, let’s continue working together.  If not, may I refer you to one of our other agents that may better serve your needs?”

When clients consult others and then quote that advice to us, it’s usually not about us.  When people are uncertain about an action to take, they seek a “Yes, but…” from as many sources as they can find to justify waiting, even stalling.  That requires an invitational conversation.  “You seem to be gathering advice from lots of sources.  Are you concerned about proceeding?” 

And, frankly, bad clients happen, or bad fits between clients and advisors happen.  Time spent advising and re-advising one client doubtful of the value you offer could be time spent with two clients who appreciate your expertise.

Getting a Grip:

When an individual is hired by another individual to give advice, whether as an agent, attorney consultant, accountant, coach or counselor, the advisor’s job description is this:  Give advice.  This is not in an advisor’s job description:  Make the client take the advice.


Need to start “Getting a Grip” on a personal problem at work? Need workplace advice? E-mail your question to [email protected].

Getting a Grip, a workplace advice column, is written by Anne Giles Clelland. Getting a Grip regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Anne's Giles Clelland's workplace advice column appears monthly in Valley Business FRONT. A version of this column appeared in the November 2010 issue.

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