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How Not to Treat Your Clients

by Jay Reeves |

Here is a little story about how not to treat your clients.

This tale is true, though the names have been changed to protect the ridiculous. For anonymity’s sake, the two main characters will be referred to merely as “I” and “Some Sales Guy for a Telecommunications Company That Might or Might Not Begin with the Letter A.”

 The sad saga started when I got a cold call from some sales guy for a telecommunications company that might or might not begin with the letter A.

“How’s your day going?”

“Great,” I said. 

“Well, I’m going to make your day even better. Would you like that?”

“I sure would,” I said, thereby tumbling head-first into Dante’s first circle of Sinister Solicitations.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from six-plus decades of trudging this mortal coil, it’s this: nobody ever randomly calls me because (a) they love me, (b) they think I’m special, or (c) they want to make my life better. 

Sure enough, what came next was a punishingly persistent pitch to purchase high-speed internet service so fast and fabulous it would make my present plan look like tin cans and string.


Neither Kind nor Gentle

This guy was good. He spoke for what seemed like days without once coming up for air or pausing to acknowledge my presence. Of course, I could have pushed the End Call button at any time. But I was raised a good Methodist in kindly Kingstree, SC, where I was taught not to hang up on people.

So I stayed until the bitter end, at which point he asked if I was ready to sign up. 

“Well,” I said, plunging deeper into Dante’s second circle of Deathly Indecision. “I’ll have to think about it.” 

Think about it?” His tone registered not just disbelief, but dumbfoundedness, distrust, and even a hint of derision. “What’s there to think about?”

And that is where I came to my senses. 

Actually, there was plenty to think about. Starting with the fact that I’d been perfectly happy with my tin cans and string before his intrusion and ending with the fact that I did not like being treated as the simpleton prey of some fancy fiber-optic falconer. 

“Good day, sir,” I said, abruptly ending the call, and in the distance I could hear the rumbling of my sweet mama rolling over in her grave.


No Big Trick to Being Nice

In addition to telephone etiquette, my mama taught me to treat people nice. She believed it was the good Methodist thing to do. She also felt it made life easier.

“It takes more effort to be rude than polite,” she’d say. “And you’re more likely to get what you want.” 

Here I should say I don’t think the Sales Guy intended to be rude, and I doubt he saw himself that way. But he was condescending. And pushy. He barely gave me space to breathe, much less consider his proposal.

Think about this little story the next time you talk to a client. Maybe you have something important to tell them. You might even know how to make their life better.

Start by treating them with respect. Ease up if you sense resistance. Otherwise, something may break, like their patience or their desire to keep listening. 

Sometimes mama really does know best.


Come to Jay’s Shoeless Joe CLE Course!

Speaking of catching flies: do you like baseball? Then grab your glove (please leave your Spider Tack at home) and plan to attend the upcoming CLE seminar, “Shoeless Joe’s Last Ballgame: Law Lessons on the 100th Anniversary of the Black Sox Ban.” The live webinar will be presented by Jay Reeves on four different dates in October and November (just in time for the MLB playoffs and World Series). Course materials include: Black Sox grand jury transcript excerpts; videos from Joe Jackson’s birthplace and museum, a copy of Jackson’s Last Will and Testament, and relevant Rules of Professional Conduct. Click here for more information. Play ball!


Jay Reeves began practicing law in 1981 and has been around a few legal blocks in the 40 years since. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, which would make a very nice Christmas gift. He runs Your Law Life LLCand is available for talks, presentations and confidential consultations.




About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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