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Dealing with Control Freaks

CreativeCOW presents Dealing with Control Freaks -- Business & Marketing Editorial


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In this article, Creative Cow's Ron Lindeboom looks at dealing successfully with clients who will not let you get a word in edgewise, don't listen to you when you do speak and interrupt you in mid-sentence and refuse to compromise on any point. They also do not remember a word you said and would sometimes even rather spend a bunch of money in court than pay you what is honestly due you. If you recognize any of these traits, chances are you have a ''control freak'' on the line. Here are some tips on dealing with them...



First thing, right out of the gate, let's get one thing clear: Not all control freaks are bad for business. Sure, they can be irritating and even down-right obnoxious at times but they are also often true perfectionists with vision who know exactly what they want and if you are successful in helping them get there, they often make great clients. Clients who can write some hefty checks to you as they sweat through the minuitae and detail of finding exactly what they want.

You would be smart when working with control freaks to always make sure that they are billed on the clock and not at a flat rate. Flat rates and control freaks do not a happy marriage make -- well, at least not when you are the one who will end up paying for the wedding.


What Are the Tell-Tale Signs of a Control Freak?
It is fairly easy to spot a control freak in your business. They give off a long list of predictable signs that leave as indelible an impression as an alley cat scent marking its territory. Though there are many more signs that we won't cover here for the sake of brevity, some of these signs include:

  • They never seem to want to listen to you.
  • They regularly and with no regard interrupt you in mid-sentence.
  • Your ideas are not welcome, except when they agree 100% with those of the control freak.
  • They call you at inopportune times and will not get off the phone, even when you tell them you have another client present.
  • They will drop you like a rock if you correct them and are proven to be correct.
  • They will drop you like a rock if you are better than them in their field of endeavor.
  • They regularly complain that you are over charging them. (Never relent on this point and keep them on the clock or my only words to you are "Heaven help you.")
  • They will spend hours (if you let them) drowning you in trivia and detail on ideas and systems that will have you wanting to pull out your hair and send you running screaming from the room.
  • They will cheat you if they can get away with it and will always have brilliant reasonings and justifications as to why you deserve this.
  • They will spend way more than they owe you to beat you in court. Remember: They are control freaks.
  • Lastly, they know everything. Just ask them.

This list is in no way comprehensive but you get the point.

Then Why Deal With Control Freaks?
If there are so many negatives associated with control freaks, then why deal with them? It's simple: Some control freaks have many of the negative character traits but are also very visionary and their sense of perfectionism makes them a great client if you can find ways to work with them and keep them from falling behind in their payments that you should be collecting at key points during the project. As milestones are reached during the project, bill them for that part of the job. This is an effective way to train them and once they are "committed by wallet" to you, they can make good clients.


Ways & Methods of Dealing With Control Freaks:
The challenge to you as a businessperson is to direct them without making them feel that you are correcting them constantly. This will just anger a control freak. Better to let them think that every decision and conclusion that you may be helping them arrive at, is being made 300% by them -- 100% doesn't communicate the importance of this point. You must find ways to play to and validate their ego without appearing condescending or that you are leading.

Control freaks have to lead and you will be well-served to understand that point coming out of the gate. A control freak will often surround themselves with people who don't even know what they are doing just so that they can appear even more knowledgeable and expert in their own eyes. If you are an expert, it is far smarter to remember that God gave you one mouth and two ears and use that lesson in priorities to your advantage with the control freak.

Keep in mind that control freaks are ego maniacs and anything that is viewed as corrective or as not coming from them will quickly place you in the "them" category in the "us and them" thinking of the control freak. Learning this lesson well could place you as one of the only people they trust in a world full of "thems."

Understand that you are not really ever going to "win" with this kind of client -- well, unless you remember that in business the sweetest victory is cashing the check. Check your ego at the door and let your words be few. After all, the control freak will talk enough for the both of you anyway! And it's likely that they will even ask you the question and tell you what you answer is going to be anyway. Remember the check. That will help.

As mentioned earlier, never work with a control freak on a "pay at job completion" basis. If you do, you will live to regret that decision. Always work on "milestones" and bill for work up to that milestone. Consider this as a means of getting this kind of client to give you "the little 'yes's'" that salespeople look for when they ask closing questions that make a prospect answer yes. Getting them to agree that you are doing your part is paramount to having them accept you into their circle of "us" and kept you from falling into the "them" category. If you allow the billing to mount until the jobs completion, you will invariably fail them for some reason or other and end up in the "them" pile along with a bill that they will usually fight you about paying.

Let circumstances and the mounting time they are running up on the clock erode their boundless self-confidence. Time wears away stones and great mountains, so it will also win in the battle with the control freak. That is, if you have been billing the milestones and haven't let it all slip into one big billable mess at job's end.

-- Ron Lindeboom


To discuss this or other business-related questions,
please visit Creative Cow's Business Practices & Marketing forum.

For more tips about marketing yourself, please see Ron Lindeboom's
Clients or Grinders: The Choice Is Yours
No-Cost Ways of Building Your Business

###


(c)2005 by Ron Lindeboom and CreativeCow.net. All rights are reserved.


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