One of the most common - but not at all simple - problems that consultants face is client resistance to ideas. This resistance comes in many forms, such as hostility, disinterest, lack of receptivity, even a transfer request from some employees involved.
However, it is a fact that changes need to occur continuously in the corporate area, from changes in work processes and methods and personal assignments or positions until you change the location of a table or machine.
Typically, resistance to ideas is viewed as internal to the customer. However, if the consultant insists on this viewpoint, it becomes more difficult to take action about it, as it is "out of reach."
On the contrary, one way to find a solution to this impasse is to remove the blame from the customer's shoulders and look for a new form of interaction. By bringing responsibility to you, the consultant is empowering himself to do something about it.
This is because when a client is resistant to ideas, it usually means that either the consultant has not yet understood enough about the client's world or has not reached the ideal form of interaction, communication.
In short, labeling a customer as tough will not help at all. On the other hand, trying to understand why the customer is responding through this behavior is part of consulting work.
But then how do you deal with a customer resistant to ideas?
1. Prevent conflict
It is a fact that resistance to ideas very often arises from different expectations. Therefore, it is essential that before you start putting the project into action, all goals are well aligned with the customer.
To do so, you need to be clear where the customer wants to go and if, how and when you believe they can get there. However, you also need to make it clear that there is no promise of result. Because the end result will depend on a number of circumstances over which you - and no one - have complete control.
Anyway, therein lies the importance of a contract that specifies all the points involved in a consulting project and that show what your responsibilities are towards the customer.
2. Calm down
When you are faced with a customer or a challenging situation, perhaps the worst option is to respond in the same way. Instead of fighting back, try to control your emotional state so that you are not contaminated by the circumstance. Only in this way can you come up with something constructive with the customer.
3. Express empathy
Arguing or making excuses will not solve the problem. Instead, validate the customer's sentiment. Show that you are willing to listen to what he has to say and, in fact, to understand his side.
And even if it doesn't seem fair, apologize. Explain that you regret if you did or said something that made you feel angry or made you think that you are not competent enough to provide the services for which you have been hired.
This is perhaps the easiest way to gain the attention and sympathy of your client, who will realize that you care about their opinion and interests, and that you are just doing your job, unwilling to invade anyone's space. .
4. Encourage him to talk
Perhaps the biggest cause for customer resistance is lack of communication. It is a fact that most people, instead of trying to resolve their differences by talking, just keep their displeasure to themselves and become hostile to the person who causes them irritation.
So let your initiative to talk and put all the cards on the table. Talk to the resilient customer and have them express exactly how they are feeling.
If this causes the customer to start cursing you, remember the above items and instead of reacting negatively, encourage them to "blow out" everything they are thinking. This will make you aware of everything, allowing you to explore alternatives.
5. Get out of the expert position
Taking an arrogant, knowledgeable stance can increase the chances of resistance on the other side.
It is quite common for people working in the company where you are providing your service to be in a defensive position towards you. Usually they do not understand why "outsiders" could solve their problems better than they are "inside."
So when you start brainstorming and hearing “Yes, but…”, it's time to vacate the expert seat and take on receptive, intrigued, and curious behavior. It's time for the customer to explain to you.
Listen. Remember that you want him to talk. The only way to break resistance is to work together. The more motivated he is, the less resistance and the greater the chance of success of the venture.
6. Seek Support
It is quite common for you to find yourself in a situation where you face resistance on one side while receiving support from the other.
This is often the case when, for example, you have been hired by a manager who believes in your work but is unwelcome by the team where the new methods and processes will be applied.
In that case, do not hesitate to talk to the side that supports and / or hired you. You need not be “ashamed” of showing the situation to your contractor.
He knows the team better than you and is responsible for the project. Therefore, it is the person who needs to know what is going on and who, more than that, will have information and skills capable of helping to resolve the deadlock through constructive suggestions.
7. Consider closing the project.
Yes, if none of this works, you have every right to consider terminating the consulting project. If the resistance is so strong that it impedes the smooth running of the process and the implementation of the necessary changes, there is no way to reach the expected result of your work.
In this case, you should call the person who hired you and make it clear that you and the team are not agreeing on each other's expectations, values and responsibilities. Therefore, there is no way forward.
In short, listening to the other side is the best way to avoid conflict and break down resistance. Prove that the customer is wrong will not make him like you, quite the contrary. Be open for the customer to feel part of the change.
Remember that if your customer is resisting you, you may be resisting the customer as well. The challenge is find different and creative ways to foster interaction and enable communication.