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Fighting with Clients

Shouldn’t the professionals you pay always do what you want without argument? Not necessarily.

It’s important to be loyal to clients. It’s important to do our best work to help them advance their interests. But sometimes, we think, it’s important to disagree with our clients and even put up a fight with them.

When clients hire professionals, they hire their professional judgment as well as other specific skills. Good professionals have a moral obligation to try to dissuade you when they believe you’re making a mistake. That means good lawyers won’t pursue lawsuits you can’t win. Good doctors won’t schedule operations that won’t help you.

My brother once said to me with quite a bit of anger, “Why don’t you just give them what they want?”  In his defense, he’s in the restaurant business, and maybe you should always prepare dishes the way they are requested.  But in most professions, some of the things clients want are not things they need.

It then becomes the professional’s obligation to point out to the client why a certain course is not productive, and that based on the professional’s experience and judgment, there are more successful paths to follow. Then if there is still a disagreement, the money spent and the risk taken belongs to the clients, the choice on which way to go belongs to them as well.

On the other hand, some clients like to get different views. The CEO of one of my biggest clients, an international brokerage firm, once asked me to “stick to your guns”, because he thought I was giving in to his will too easily.

But all this never means that I am unwilling to take criticism and change my approach to an assignment. It’s not just that the client is paying me, but he might also have more experience with what he’s talking about. And ultimately, he is taking the risk when he uses your work.

Besides, there have been many times when my very best work was done in active collaboration with the client. Things that neither of us could have done separately, we were able to achieve by working together. It’s a beautiful thing to see when it happens.

So if you want someone who will always say ‘yes’ and do whatever you ask without any disagreement,  you should probably not choose Manning Communication.