Meeting with the occasional unendurable client is just part of the sales professional’s job. Regardless if we are a big or small firm, knowing how to appropriately deal with this type of challenging client can convert nightmare clients into dream customers.
Our mission in this post is to shed some light on a few of the ways we can turn a horrendous situation around so that our precious clientele don’t jump ship, and instead return to us regualrly as happy, appreciated parts of our professional organization.
Start by taking a quick look in the mirror.
Let’s say our business is dependent on business to business transactions, or B2B sales, to function. When a business customer in this type of setting gets upset, the best thing we can do is put ourselves in their shoes.
After all, they too have day-to-day stresses very similar to ours, and just like us they have clients who depend on them to deliver on their promises, within agreed upon timelines. While we might be upset at first by the way they are handling themselves, in the end we need to think, “How would I want my supplier or B2B partner to handle this type of complaint?”
Compassion goes a long way in justifying the efforts we put forth to go above and beyond the norm to help a fellow entrepreneur succeed.
Get to the Root of the Problem
It’s also important to remember that our key contacts aren’t always the only ones involved in getting deals done from the client perspective. Their uncertainty may come from a chaotic boss that can never make up his or her mind. Before you get angry at a customer, consider what else is going on within their organization. Take into account the following possibilities when a frustrating customers has you pulling your hair out:
- Hesitation & stalling could mean your contact doesn’t have the power to make a decision. If they attempt unlimited delays, find the decision maker from whom the hesitation stems.
- Constant pressure to drop price is usually just that: pressure. Some people will do whatever it takes to get a sales rep to lower the price. When customers try to play the discount game, you need to come back with a little math. Most products help their customers save something: time, energy, stress, etc. All of those benefits have quantifiable value to your customers. When a customer won’t give in until you lower the price 30%, do a little math. Show them that with the time you’re saving them, they’ll save X amount of money, and that they’re actually getting a pretty good deal from you in the long run.
- Unfounded promises come from customers all the time: “we’re totally ready to buy,” usually turns into, “well, we need to show this feature to the enterprise team first,” and “we have to get sign off from the CEO.” As a sales rep, you should always be weary of customers that love your products just a little too much. If you believe everything they say, you’ll be disappointed when you don’t make your quota because your forecast depended on their revenue. No matter how enthusiastic a prospect may seem, make sure you do your sales diligence before dedicating too much time or pipeline to them.
We’re always going to encounter customers that frustrate us, and simply dismissing them as annoying will lead to further frustration. If the problem is stemming from somewhere in their organization, you need to find the source. And if they’re just inexplicably rude, you can take a few actions to try and turn around their attitude before writing them off as horrible people.
When in doubt, give a shout out.
If a client is upset and you have no idea how to best help them, ask someone you trust and respect for their opinion. Explain the situation in as unbiased a manner as possible and factor the feedback into your response.
We want to be sure that we maintain our professional demeanor and inform the upset client that we’d like to take a moment to work on finding the best possible solution to their concern. It would also be a great time to express to the client that it is because of our respect for them that we would like to thoroughly explore the options, so that we only present the best possible solution.
A side effect of taking this time is that it shows the client that we care about them and that they have value. It also now has open up a clear back-and-forth line of communication that can be opened up at any time in the future, should an additional concern arise.
Don’t feed their need to be obnoxious.
As we spend so much time and effort perfecting our sales strategies, one thing we often overlook is the “trolls” of the world. The term “troll” has been adopted to identify an individual online whose sole purpose is to be negative and bring chaos whenever and wherever they can. It brings them a sense of joy.
That is why we need to first qualify our disgruntled customer as either a real life unhappy customer or simply a “troll” in disguise. Often, a true customer will engage us in a direct one-on-one manner, while “trolls” just leave nasty comments across our social media and web platforms.
If the upset individual is truly a customer, they will interact when we propose a solution, while “trolls” will simply react.
In the chance that a true customer is inconsolable, we need to remember to not encourage their irrational behavior and limit the platform in which they can rant. Instead we want to control the conversation and remove any personal elements from the conversation.
Know the nature of the beast.
By understanding that our clients are people just like us and sometimes those people give in to their stresses and look for the nearest outlet through which to relieve them doesn’t mean we have to be that dumping ground.
Instead, by getting into their heads and putting ourselves into their shoes we can get to the root of the problem. Web design company Ciplex recently released this interesting client infographic that might help to shed some light on the various types of perplexing individuals we face.
In the end…
- How would we want to be treated?
- How would our customers benefit if our suppliers went the extra mile?
- Don’t be afraid to ask those you value for their opinion.
- Create a line of communication.
- Weed out the “trolls.”
- Don’t encourage the negative behavior; limit it by controlling the conversation.
- Know your customers inside and out.
We want to have a clear conscious and know that we have done all we can to bring about an amicable solution that is filled with tons of dialog, and ends with a conclusion in which we all win.