Have you ever cringed when your caller ID let you know “that” client was calling? That client who constantly complains, is abusive, and is frequently late in paying. The toxic client appears in all business settings. If you have not had one yet, know that you will. All of your business contemporaries have a story about at least one challenging client.

But how do you avoid taking on such a person in the first place? In a home-based business setting this can be harder than usual. The body language of a new client can be quite revealing. Those who fidget, avoid eye contact, swallow repeatedly – among other movements and mannerisms – are frequently not clear with their conscience.

They may not have the money to pay. They may want free advice for as long as you will give it. In many cases, they are telling you all that you need to know in deciding to accept them as a client or even continue the conversation.

If you exclusively deal with people over the phone, you will not be able to judge their outward mannerisms because you cannot see the person.

How do you get around this barrier? One of my business friends advises that all initial client interviews be conducted either in person or over Skype. She feels that it is important to see the potential customer – at least from the start – to  take an accurate measure. Again, how the client moves and handles the interview can tell an experienced entrepreneur in most, but not all, cases how the relationship will go.

If an in-person or video meeting is not possible, listen carefully over the phone. What are the client’s concerns? Is it the quality and reputation of your work? Or is it how fast you can get it done and how long they have to pay?

Engage in active listening. Too often we are distracted by emails, text messages, and even cat videos while we are on the phone. You will miss the clues the client is giving.

Too often, business owners see listen­ing as a two-step process:

  1. Listen to what is said.
  2. Respond to what is said.

But this does not account for your processing of the information you take in when listening. Rather, you should consider engaging in active listening, which is a four-step process:

  1. Listen to what is said.
  2. Interpret what is said.
  3. Evaluate what is said.
  4. Respond to what is said.

As you listen to the client, you need to interpret and eval­uate what is being said. Actually, you unconsciously do this anyway. But by recognizing and focusing on these steps, and making them a priority, you will be much better at identifying the true natures of your potential clients.

When you force yourself to actively interpret information as it is given to you – rather than passively taking in the infor­mation as it’s presented – you are assigning meaning to it. If you are not sure that you have correctly interpreted what has been said, ask questions until you are able to make a clear interpretation.

When you make an evaluation, you weigh the information and decide how to apply it. The task is to keep listening – and to ask questions to further your understanding – until you have enough information to make the correct decision.

Active listening requires singular focus. Again, too many of us are trying to do too many things at once – checking emails, looking at notes, responding to texts, and thinking of what to say next. But if you are going to avoid a toxic client, you cannot be distracted.

The post Avoiding Toxic Clients in the Home-Based Business appeared first on Home Business Magazine.

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