How to Handle The Most Difficult Customers

I was coaching a sales team of 38 last week. This is a long-term client; often new sales professionals are added to the mix. Some are seasoned veterans; others are as fresh as the first blade of grass poking through the snow in Spring. I always ask what they would like to learn for the next time I coach.

One new salesperson said, “ handling difficult customers!” I asked for some details, and he shared what sounded like a grumpy guy who enjoyed watching this guy squirm while he lashed out the insults. The other more seasoned veterans were full of advice on how to handle it. After doing some research, I want to share my findings


The Grouch

If you have been in sales long enough, you have met the grouch. This is the person who is intent on pulling you into their negative view of the world. If you are exposed to the grouch, they will be quick to point out the flaws of your product, company and maybe even you. What do you do when encountering the grouch? Keep your cool. Be deliberate about asking why they feel this way. Acknowledge, empathize, and if possible find a shared solution to their issues. Some people only want to be heard, and understood. If you encounter the grouch, never engage in their behavior. Rise above it and let your strength show in your ability to resolve, be calm, and negotiate to understand.Whatever you do, don’t let them rattle your cage!


Have you ever had a client that can’t be reasoned with? They have such strong feelings towards something they will not listen to reason. This is when your listening skills can be employed to create an environment of mutual gain. Don’t expect to solve the problem right away. Listen until there is nothing left to say. Only then will the irrational listen to you. Ask questions to clarify understanding. This behavior is usually the result of a grievous misunderstanding in communication that occurred at some point early in the sale.


Have you ever had someone who is terrified of pulling the trigger? Some customers are risk-averse. They have to feel the decisions they make are low risk and high return. If you have an indecisive remember the customers you have helped in the past. What proof do you have that they are happy with the decision they made? Customer reviews, white papers, studies, pilot programs and free demos are all ways to lower the risk of any buying decision, create an arsenal of proof and have it ready when you encounter the Indecisive.


What time is it? How fast can you get it to me? I don’t need the details, send it now! Get started on it without the contract; I need it now! Have you ever heard these phrases? Chances are you encountered an impatient. This person has no patience. They may expect things like delivery, options, and support beyond what you or your company can provide. These can sometimes be great customers, large accounts, and high-level executives. If you encounter an impatient, don’t make promises you can’t deliver on! The expectations for the details of the sale should be understood early in the sales process. If you do not set expectations in advance, you may find you are dealing with unattainable customer goals that derail the sale.

While you will always have some problematic customers, for the most part, people are good. Usually, they can be reasoned with if you exercise your listening skills, show empathy, set the expectation in advance and reassure them. Use these tools the next time you are engaged with these four types of tough customers. At the end of this article are resources for you to learn more on how to deal with the 4 most common difficult customer types.

Luck can be found at the intersection of hard work and perseverance.

Be Great and Prosper- Nan

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