“If the profession you have chosen has some unexpected inconveniences, console yourself that no profession is without them, and all the perplexities of business are softness compared with the vacancy of idleness.”

~Samuel Johnson

Tell me what would you do if you were in a meeting with a client and the big CEO turned to you and said…

“I don’t think you are really interested in us succeeding. I would bet you are more interested in selling us for your sales commission, isn’t that right?”

It will happen to you later if not sooner, mostly if your in sales or sales negotiating. A client will become suspicious (at least initially) of your motives as to what you are trying to sell to their company.

So tell me…how would you handle that situation? What would you say to that person?

As a consultant, you are trying to win over a decision maker or a few decision makers as to why their company should hire you for the services that you feel they need.

Consultants are often judged of acting on their own behalf, of trying to sell the company services or products that they may not need. Sometimes you can’t blame the decision maker for their attack.

Whatever selling profession you are in, you need to be prepared for decision maker’s (inevitable) suspicion about your motives in selling your services.

When the ‘Doubting Thomas’ begins to doubt, what should you do?

“I don’t think you are really interested in us succeeding. I would bet you are more interested in selling us for your sales commission, isn’t that right?”

Smack…you just been accused of trying to rip off the client, to sell them something they may not really need, just so you can pocket a bigger commission. The lone assassin, his bullet can kill you. This guy can ruin the whole deal for you.

What is it that they’re trying to say?

It’s one thing to dislike your ideas, your company, your shirt, your tie, your shoes but to question your integrity? That’s another thing.

Why would someone do this?

So why would a decision maker challenge your motives?

We would have to expect from time to time someone in the position of making a decision to try to deflate our efforts. But let’s look at a few reasons why someone would try to do this to us.

1. Did this person have a bad experience? Did another company come in before us and try to rip them off? Is this executive reacting to anything you’ve done or said? Did you say anything that was inappropriate in the meeting?

2. The decision maker could be testing you to see how you react. Yes, clients may do that from time to time. They want to see you struggle, they want to see how you handle yourself in a certain pressure situation. (A little egotistical I agree)

3. The client might be asserting his or her power, sending a clear signal to you to who is really in charge. (Big ego again)

What else do you think might be among the possible explanations for the vicious comment and behavior of a client in a situation like this?

What to do…you can always just say nothing?

Just sit there and ignore it?

Although that might be what you feel like doing, addressing the issue head on is your best defense.

A vicious comment aimed toward you would bring up suspicions. I mean is this a real issue here?”

Does the decision maker really have an issue of you trying to sell them something they don’t need so you can line your own pockets?

You could try to defend yourself, to challenge him or her. Maybe try to have a closed-door one-on-one discussion with him or her but that would take a tremendous amount of courage, but at least there would be a chance of resolving the issue. You might find the boss respecting you for talking to him/her about the issue personally.

Or here are some more possible responses…

“I don’t believe you would allow me a meeting with your staff and waste your time talking to me if you truly believed that. You could have gotten rid of me over the phone.”

“I’m sorry, if you’re not comfortable with me, or what my company can do for you and that’s completely fine. Nice to meet you and all the best for the future.”

“If you believe that’s my criteria, then I’m not a good fit for your company.”

“I don’t fully know about your past experiences you had with other consultants, but I have your best interests at heart, if you would allow me to prove it.”

“Believe me, that is not my intention. It’s much more important to me that you be successful and that I can build a long term relationship with your company, and maybe someday use you as a reference to help me grow my business.”

“Listen, my plate is full. I’m sure your plate is full as well. My success is driven only by your success, I don’t care about my commission, I care more about my time and yours.”

“I understand what you’re saying…my work comes with a guarantee. I’m clearly happy for you to decide whether it has been worthwhile and whether or not you want to pay me.”

“I understand if you don’t want our services, and that’s fine – we’re all busy people, so just let me know either way and we can get on with our day.”

“I don’t know why you would say that, I only work with clients who provide me with real challenges, looking for real solutions. Providing myself with a quick buck wouldn’t actually benefit either of us, would it?”

“I know this is always a major concern, thank you for addressing this concern. Allow me the privilege of addressing that for you.”

“That’s not how I operate. I’m sorry if you got that impression of me. If you really believe that, then let me give you a last piece of advice – for free: find someone you trust.”

“It’s my role only to help provide options and create ideas. I’m not here to make decisions for you or to force you into anything you don’t feel comfortable with. If you would like me to leave. I’ll leave.”

So what do you think? Do you think any of those responses would have worked? Or would you have been better just to sit there feeling threatened and defeated.

The main strategy here is to turn the decision maker’s comment against him/her, let them try to defend their own words, put the spot light shining back on them. It’s more likely the decision maker will look more like a jerk for saying it. This takes a bit of self-confidence.

However, by challenging the decision maker and that’s what our natural instinct is to do, and by making it a contest, you almost certainly will lose.A word about self-confidence. In a situation like this, you need to be self confident. You need to know what you bring to the table. Put you shoulders back, sit up straight and talk with your best voice. If you come off the least bit nervous they will use that against you. Don’t let them smell your fear.

But Here’s Another Approach…

The key would be to find a way to demonstrate your integrity, rather than to argue or defend yourself.

Ask a question.

When it’s time to respond, start with a question. Don’t you dare go into attack mode. However, asking a question to help clarify confrontational language and assertions puts you on neutral ground, allowing you to defend yourself with integrity.

Don’t take the decision maker’s comment personally, this person doesn’t know you personally. It’s very unfair for him/her to judge you on a personal level.

Ask the decision maker…

“What makes you say that?

“Why do you feel that way?”

This acknowledges that you heard their objection, instead of putting you on the defense trying to defend yourself.

Another approach would be to ask the decision maker if he or she wants to pursue this topic right now before you continue? If the decision maker wants to talk about it right now, then you could ask for more information regarding the issue.

Remember attempting to justify yourself will never work. It’s better to ask for clarification.

But to pull this off, we may need help not only with finding the right words, but also with the process of becoming self-aware of our non-verbal body-language. For most people, it will be necessary to rehearse reacting to sudden challenging situations in order to ensure that they come across to others as we wish them to come across.

The most important thing to realize about situations like these is that when they occur, we rarely have the self-control to think and react rationally and thoughtfully. In a very real sense, we are put into a state of shock and panic.

Diffusing an emotional situation is never easy, few of us know exactly how to do it when it happens.

You may be saying to yourself, “I don’t know if I feel comfortable pulling a canned response from my pocket, like a magician performing a trick. It may not work or only make me look foolish.”

Personally, I disagree.

A lot of people are stuck trying to think on their feet, especially if you are not very good at it. Planned responses are a huge problem if your intent is to mislead. That’s why scripts don’t work. You need to ensure that you know how to exhibit (not just possess) trustworthiness.

Alright scripts don’t work, so what does?

Dialogue works!

What is dialogue?

It’s a conversation or discussion. The use of words and tones in a natural conversation between two or more people. Also, it means the conversation between characters in a novel, drama, etc. an exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue with a view to reaching an amicable agreement or settlement.

So it’s natural conversation.

But isn’t the above suggestions words to say, like a script?


A script is more or less words to say on paper in a logical order. The other person has their lines to say and you have yours. A script is very difficult to follow because if the other person doesn’t say the exact line they’re supposed to say, or react in a way that the script is laid out, you will have trouble following.

The words above are examples of different dialogue. You can change the words to fit your personality using them in a conversational matter. If the other person says something different, you can always return back to your dialogue.

The simple fact is that no-one ever taught us how to come across as trustworthy. No-one ever prepared us for events such as clients who challenge our integrity.

You may not have an experience exactly like this, but the odds are high that you will be faced with some kind of challenge from one of your clients – something that will catch you off guard.

These skills are learnable. Be prepared for attacks like this. It is possible, with guided practice and experience, to understand how you come across to others, and to learn how to handle yourself well in stressful client situations. Experience always helps – but so does thinking ahead and anticipating awkward situations that might – and probably will – happen to you.