No doubt about it; all estate sale professionals have these experiences at some point or another in their career. Though we prefer not to think about them, we do have to work with difficult and demanding people occasionally, and sometimes personalities and behaviors can shift unexpectedly and without much warning. Here are some suggestions that will make life a little easier for you, and maybe also for some of these clients:
1. Before committing to the estate sale, make sure you understand that a demanding person will rarely be satisfied.
Sometimes it seems like they came into the world this way, and you are not going to change them. Perhaps they are going through a very difficult time in their lives. For reasons unknown to us, we may not know all that is going on with them and/or their families. Think long and hard before you accept the sale. The income might be tempting, but will the difficulty you encounter really be worth it? Be honest with yourself.
2. Realize that no matter how good you are, they will think you could have (and should have) done it better.
You've done everything to near perfection, including working many more hours of your own time to make things as wonderful as possible. The client, however, may find fault with anything or everything from your pricing, to your set up, to how you actually run the sale. Look for these potential red flags.
3. It is not uncommon that a demanding or difficult client might attempt to push you into compliance with a certain situation they want to occur their way.
Anger and accusations can be directed toward you because you are there and you are dealing with very personal possessions. Many find this threatening. They can also attempt to manipulate to get what they want. The goal of this attempted manipulation is to control the situation, you and your actions, and/or attempt to control the decisions that go into conducting a sale. We need to recognize that these actions do not necessarily come from bad people; they come from people in bad situations and cause fear and insecurity, especially if they are moving, facing upheaval, illness, or death. Be as understanding and as compassionate as you can be. If you have already done this and you know it is a relationship that will not work, respectfully decline the sale and offer a referral.
4. Understand that if you give into demands that you normally wouldn't, you may be enabling the continuation of such behavior.
Saying "No" is a big part of how you interact with this type of client. Polite ways to say this would be, "It would not be in your best interest, or mine, to do what you are asking because....", or "I have been hired for my expertise and experience and some of these decisions we can make together, but not all of them." If it comes down to it, "Mrs. Jones, I just don't think we're a good fit. I'd like to refer_______________company to assist you with this estate sale and wish you the very best."
5. Ask friends and colleagues for advice.
If or when you should become the target, or you are dealing with a high level of dysfunction and honestly do not know what to do, pay close attention to what other trusted resources recommend, then formulate your own opinion. Sometimes the advice of an objective third party is exactly what you may need to solve the problem.
6. Ask your client if you can sit down and have a talk.
Talk with them about how things are going or not going, and explain politely how those actions impact you or your business. It is better to take this approach than allow it to go too long and an argument erupts. Be pleasant and professional - no matter what. They may not even realize that their actions have this impact. Try your best to reach an amiable agreement on how to proceed and try to keep everything moving forward with a positive attitude.
7. Stay on top of a difficult situation and constantly assess/reassess the situation.
If the behavior does not change, you may have to make the decision to not work with this particular client and refer them to someone else. There are times when walking away is the best possible thing to do for yourself, your well-being, and your reputation.
8. Speaking of reputations, guard yours well.
You've worked too hard to endure a formal complaint or numerous negative online reviews. Make sure you are always professional, calm, poised, and pleasant. You can scream when you get in your car, but always maintain your cool demeanor in front of clients. Check your online reviews monthly and always respond positively.
9. It's okay to admit “this just isn't going to work."
It's a dreadful feeling to make the decision to walk away. Make sure your contract addresses this additional contingency so you can get out of your obligation, if you need to. If you don't have one, enlist the assistance of a legal colleague who can help you be prepared.
If you enjoyed this article, there are many more found on the ASEL site below, for both the public as well as for members only. ASEL believes strongly that an educated client is a happier client and our goal is to educate them through estate sale professionals like you. ASEL is currently offering a membership discount exclusively for EstateSales.NET members! Join ASEL for only $99 using the affiliate code ASEL#1 by following our membership link!
©2016 The American Society of Estate Liquidators® No part of The American Society of Estate Liquidators® articles, whole or partial, may be used without Julie’s written consent. Email her at Service@ASELonline.com.