Client Troubles

Are clients bringing you down? Dan and Alison answer your questions with the help of Diane Hessan, the founder and chair of the marketing technology agency C Space and the CEO of Salient Ventures. They talk through what to do when you have a difficult client, your coworkers are hampering your ability to serve clientele, or you want to win more business to advance your career.

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Listen to more episodes and find out how to subscribe on the Dear HBR: page. Email your questions about your workplace dilemmas to Dan and Alison at

From Alison and Dan’s reading list for this episode:

HBR: How to Manage Impossible Clients by John Butman — “Impossible clients can, in fact, be managed; but only if you resist the temptation to fight fire with fire. Instead, deliver — and let your talent speak for itself. If you fulfill your end of the bargain, it’s much easier to find positive outcomes when clients behave badly.”

HBR: Fallon’s Chairman on Getting Clients to Take Creative Risks by Pat Fallon — “An idea that may seem risky during a presentation will look less so when it’s clear that we’ve thought it through. The client realizes, ‘These guys understand my business. They understand the flow of money. They are putting my success at the forefront of decisions.’ That creates enough trust for the client to say, ‘OK, I’m going to hold my breath, hold my nose, and jump into the water with you.’”

HBR: Negotiating with Clients You Can’t Afford to Lose by Reed K. Holden — “Every supplier knows the drill: You identify your most valuable customers and classify them as ‘strategic accounts.’ You can’t afford to lose them. Whatever they ask for, you deliver with your best team and best turnaround — even if it’s unreasonable or unprofitable. The customers know they are a strategic account, so they’ll try everything to wring out cost savings.”

HBR: Research: Are Clients Loyal to Your Firm, or the People in It? by Joe Raffiee — “Employee turnover can be a big challenge for companies. But it creates a unique problem for professional services firms, which have to worry about employees taking clients with them if they leave.”


A complete written transcript of this episode will be available by July 29.

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