How to Deal with Difficult Customers

I love sales because it often produces (if you sell a product you believe in) win-win situations.  You make money selling a product that people or companies truly needs to do something better.

Sometimes, I find uncovering these “deals” easy.  The customer gives you all of the information you need to make appropriate recommendations.  However, I most enjoy the times when I face resistance.

In a call I took recently, a customer voiced (GREAT) dissatisfaction with what we would write into a contract.  I knew we would not change our mind on the contract request.  However, this lead to an interesting question: What made this customer “need” that provision?

In gathering more information on the customer’s goals and own contract language, we realized that could meet their needs without changing our policy and which resources we needed to leverage to do this.  The deal is now back on track.

How did we get the customer to ultimately share the information we needed?

  • Transparency: “The best way for me to get you a meeting with [insert senior leader the customer wanted to speak to here] is to understand how big of a client you might be with us.  Can you tell me how much you spend on [insert product] right now?” Customers know we reserve senior execs only for certain customers.  They understand this, so in showing those cards as to why I want to understand their size to help them, I got valuable information that helps me size the deal.
  • How / What Questions: Always use open-ended questions.  It helps secure the most information and comes off as less aggressive and more aimed towards understanding.
    • “What do your customers want?”
      • “What did you commit to legally?”
    • “What are your main goals in this new product?”
    • “What does your 2018 strategy include?
  • Share your BATNA: While I don’t recommend this in all situations, an openness to walk away from the deal can help.  “Writing X down will never work here. Does it make sense to continue conversation on how can find a way to help?”  This proved to the customer that we did not lie, but do want to help.

I recommend watching a few of the videos or reading Ury’s book below if you nerd out on negotiation like I do.

Good resources for further reading (a business school favorite): Getting Past No: Negotiating In Difficult Situations, Online Videos by William Ury

How to Deal with Difficult Customers

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