- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

Are You Taking Your Clients For Fools?

9th May, 2017

Are You Taking Your Clients For Fools?

This wasn’t an ‘upgrade’.


Standing in a wet and windy car park by the airport, it was clear that this bus-sized, neon blue van was far better suited to transporting angle grinders and bags of concrete than a family of four.


We knew it.


Our rictus-grinning car hire rep knew it.


But yet she persisted that it was indeed an ‘upgrade’ to the family hatchback we’d ordered. It was ‘far more spacious you see’.




We patiently explained that ‘bigger’ doesn’t always mean ‘better’ (whilst trying to ignore our children shouting ‘Pleeeeeeeeease can we keep it?’ in the background, like it was an adorable Labrador puppy instead of a gigantic shed on wheels).


And it got me wondering: Why do so many businesses take their clients for fools?


Insisting that black is white, that:


  • their service has certain features (when they know that they haven’t been built yet)


  • they can finish a project within a tight deadline (when there’s no hope of getting anywhere close


  • they’ve handled exactly this kind of project before (when they’ve done nothing of the sort)


They aren’t fooling anyone.


Eventually they will be found out.


Goodwill will be ruined. Repeat business a no-hoper. Referrals? Forget it.


So why do they do it and what’s the alternative?


Well normally it’s rooted in fear. Fear of losing the client, the job, the contract. That if they don’t say yes immediately then the only alternative is a big fat no.


But it never works. Because our clients aren’t stupid. They can smell when something’s up. And they’ll find out soon enough anyway.


But there is another way.


Clients really aren’t as unreasonable as we might think.


They can even be pretty amenable when things go wrong.


But you HAVE to know this little secret to turn a negative situation around:


You Need To Provide REASONS.


It’s All About The ‘WHY’.


This has been been proven to be extremely powerful in influencing (with this fascinating experiment for example). In his brilliant book ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, author Robert Cialdini, Ph.D writes ‘People simply like to have reasons for what they do.’


So next time you find yourself in a tight spot, explain the reasons


  • WHY you can’t meet that deadline (maybe you’d have to compromise on quality) and when you think you can realistically get the work done by


  • WHY the service features they are waiting for aren’t ready (maybe you’ve found a glitch you need to iron out and you don’t want to deliver something that isn’t up to scratch)


  • WHY although you haven’t done exactly that kind of project before, you’re still qualified to tackle it (offer a case study of similar work with data points and testimonials to blow their socks off)


So remember, context is king.


Always answer the why.


And don’t let your kids choose your holiday car.

University of Cambridge


- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

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