What do you do when your well-intended outreach call crashes into a brick wall of negativity?
Like many consulting firm leaders, you may have been burning up the phone lines the past week or two, reaching out to your clients and other contacts. Your motives are pure—admirable even. You’re checking in, showing support during a difficult time and offering help.
By and large, your efforts engender successful conversations. More executives are picking up the phone these days.
Plus, the people you reach appreciate your call and share their recent tribulations and coping strategies with good humor. They know we’re all in the same boat and communal support is a good thing.
When you reach out to Sawyer Hedoff, though, you’re treated to an altogether different response:
You: “How’s it going?”
Sawyer: “Freakin’ awful. That’s how it’s going. Really terrible. Now, why are you bothering me?”
Facing pessimism, misery and outright hostility is tough.
However, you’ll occasionally encounter a client who’s in crisis. If you’re prepared to handle the conversation gracefully, you’ll help a person in need and strengthen your relationship.
Sawyer, for instance, is burdened by a pandemic, a painful misunderstanding (“No, milk chocolate is not okay”) or some other stress-inducing situation.
He’s not alone. Many of your consulting firm’s contacts are scared right now. Afraid for their livelihoods, their families and even their lives.
Fear can chisel off a person’s soft, civil, friendly outer coating, and expose their sharp-edged, self-protective instincts.
Three, easy to remember steps will work wonders when you inadvertently wander into your contact’s angry line of fire.
Stay Right-Side Up
Remember, it’s not about you or your consulting firm, it’s about them. In other words, don’t take their tirade personally.
Respond with Empathy
Focus your reaction on the emotion, not the content.
“Gosh, Sawyer, I’m sorry to hear it’s not going well. You sound super frustrated.”
Resolutely Offer Help
Unapologetically, and unwaveringly extend support, no matter what the contact throws your way.
“I know I’m probably not the first person you’d call, or maybe even the tenth. But I want to let you know that I’m here if you need someone to talk to, vent at or work through a problem with.”
No matter what reaction Sawyer hurls at you in the moment, your warm, human, encouraging touch will be regarded well when his emotional flood recedes.
Are there other approaches you’ve found helpful when dealing with an overwrought, emotional contact? Please share below. Your thoughts will definitely help other readers!
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.