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Authors Joseph and Joann Callaway believe that “when the economy tanked in 2008, the way we saw the world shifted. Fear took over.”

The Callaways own a real estate company and had a front row seat to the housing bubble and the devastation it left in its wake. “Distressed clients and customers are everywhere,” says Joseph Callaway, who along with wife JoAnn has written the book, Clients First: The Two Word Miracle.

“Sometimes the reasons [for distress] are money-related, sometimes personal, sometimes a mixture of both. Regardless, when you open your eyes and really notice the pain these people are in, you will have taken the first step toward helping them.

He says most people don’t want to deal with distressed clients “because they can be time-consuming, indecisive, needy, maybe even angry and hostile.” The Callaways have sold more than a billion dollars worth of real estate and in that time have seen plenty of clients who need an agent or advisor who will develop a “clients first” way of doing business. The following are three ways you can help distressed clients.

1. Realize the benefits of sticking with customers in distress. When you truly succeed in helping a distressed client, you will have built an important relationship. Often, these are the people who go on to tell others how wonderful you are, and what lengths you went to on their behalf. “Sticking with your distressed clients isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes good business sense,” explains Callaway. “Yes, the economy may be slowly pulling itself out of the dark, deep, and depressing hole known as The Great Recession, but business is still far from booming. To put it bluntly, you probably need all the clients you can get. And how you conduct business now, when the going is tough, can set you apart from the competition and give you a solid foundation in the future.

2. Learn to like people. Even if you already consider yourself a people person, chances are you still need to learn to like people more. Think about it: Do you hold yourself emotionally aloof from your clients and complain about their foibles to your coworkers and family, even though you were all smiles during your meeting? Or do you always make a genuine effort to put yourself in their shoes and to learn more about them as people, not just as billable hours or potential sources of income?

3. Stay competent. Often, it’s the best way to help your customers. As foreclosures mounted during the financial crisis, the government began a series of steps to stem the tide. The thinking in Washington was to take action before the banks ended up taking properties back. “During this time, people panicked,” says Callaway. “We observed negligence all around us. Up until that point, JoAnn and I had dealt with regular clients. The short sale created a whole new kind of client, the distressed seller, with all that the situation entailed. We knew we had to do the leg work to make sure we were serving them properly. We invested anew our time and energy to be the best, to be on the cutting edge as things changed.”

“You may be dealing with a client, or maybe even more than one, who is struggling to see the bright side,” says Callaway. “Take care of your clients during these dark days, and they’ll take care of you down the line. Trust me everyone wins when you strive to serve.”

For more from Daniel Williams, see:

Wealth managers talk about the boomer demographic

The new economy

Falling off the fiscal cliff