Tools for Difficult Client Conversations

Apr 14, 2023 | How we help clients grow, Leadership, Meetings, Podcast

Difficult Client Conversations


This episode looks at the inevitability of difficult conversations happening with clients and how we manage them so as not to damage (and even improve) relationships. In this episode, Gary has an EASY chat with his Questas colleague Paul Brady about what to do when the temperature rises in conversations and how we dissipate the heat. As ever there’s plenty of practical tools and ideas for you to use in your next difficult conversation!



Difficult conversations with clients can come about for two reasons. It could be the rational, such as scope creep, delivering bad news, a negotiation around finance, team issues. Those sorts of things are fairly typical and make sense for it being a difficult conversation with a client. Then it could be a more personal or irrational reason less based around work.
There are three triggers that can be the cause of the irrational difficult conversations. These three triggers are, truth, relationship, and identity.
When you notice that someone has been triggered, your aim is to dissipate the heat. Allow people to vent and don’t interrupt, let them get it off their chest. Then you have to reflect back to them what their concerns are, without putting your own inflection on it. It’s not agreeing, just acknowledging that you have understood and heard them.
If you can deal with the three E’s, explanation, expectation, and engagement, then you will be able to manage a difficult client conversation much better.
Having the right conversations pre project can help reduce the number of difficult conversations in the future. That in itself can be a difficult conversation but one to reduce any future ones.
Depersonalise things, it’s not about the people, it’s the situation.


  • “It’s inevitable that there will be difficult client conversations, but you need to manage them and mitigate the impact”
  • “Things always go wrong and we always remain surprised”
  • “Great meetings are build upon rapport rather than negotiation”
  • “Once we’ve got the heat out, we’re back in rational conversation land”
  • “You can be a sponge but you can’t be a punchbag”


Gary Williams

Gary Williams

Gary Williams has been in sales and marketing his entire career. The past 10 years have been dedicated to helping technically minded non-salespeople become skilled and confident in selling themselves and their services.

An experienced business development consultant, sales trainer and executive coach, Gary is the founder and CEO of Questas.

A former sales director in the fast moving telecoms and IT industry, he has spent the last 15 years working in the professional and engineering services sector, helping companies to transform their account management, client relationship and business development skills. Find out more about Gary here.


Paul Brady

Paul has been an interactive theatre specialist for over 20 years, using drama and performers in the context of business training.

He has worked across a variety of sectors, enabling participants to get to grips with the behaviours that support business innovation and change.


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