How to deal with difficult customers

In perfect world, all customers would love you from the first moment of contact . Unfortunately, sales people often find themselves involved in the challenging situation that arises when dealing with difficult and demanding customers. This type of scenario can easily place a sales person on the defensive, making him or her much less effective in negotiations.  It’s natural to lose motivation when working with demanding customers. Sticking it out requires a strategy for dealing with difficult people, self-restraint and an ability to keep power in the relationship.

Listen patiently

Exhibit a sense of control and don’t be to forceful. Come across as soft and don’t talk over demanding customers, even if it is abundantly clear that they are in the wrong. By listening, you have the opportunity to build trust, empathy and rapport whilst the customer calms down through voicing their problems.

Slow down

In uncomfortable situations it is natural to want to speed up and exit the situation as soon as possible. It is important that you fight this urge and do the exact opposite. If a customer is unhappy, be quiet. As the customer grows louder, be alert. Lower your voice and talk slowly but firmly. Demonstrating a sense of control shows that there is no emergency. The customer can relax and whatever they are demanding can be handled efficiently...

Stay unemotional

Emotions are contagious. This makes it difficult to remain unemotional when faced with certain situations. Remind yourself that anger comes from fear and by reading between the lines to discern the customer’s fears, you can attend to core issues and not be misdirected by chaos of the surface emotion.

Imagine an audience

Imagining an audience completely changes the emotional dynamic for you – allowing you to remain calm and in charge of the situation. This shift in perspective grants a buffer to keep you thinking clearly. After all, you wouldn’t want the other customers to see you as anything less than stellar.

Mirror their language

Mirroring is just taking the last few words the customer said and turning them into a question. This shows that you’re listening while prompting them to share more information. If a difficult customer says, “Things have been pretty bad lately,” then you respond, “Pretty bad lately?”. You’re encouraging the customer to continue on.  

Be wrong to be right

If nothing you are doing or saying satisfies the customer, use the strategy of surrendering and granting agreement. Because this is unexpected, the customer is likely to start defending you. It’s a natural behavioral mechanism that when a person is allowed to win they will start to be more open to what they were fighting against. This strategy helps makes difficult customers more open to negotiating because now they feel like the negotiation will be on their terms and not yours.  ….

Remember it’s not personal

Remember, this is a business issue not a personal one. If you are being attacked on a personal level, it can trigger you to defend yourself and move away from the issue at hand. A professional sales person should stick to the facts and stay firm with them. In reality, this customer knows nothing about you on a personal level. so keep this in mind and guide the conversation back to the pressing issue and how you intend to solve the problem. Ignore personal attacks. 

Further Reading:

How To Motivate Your Sales Team

Sales Leaders – More Effective Hiring

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