The best salespeople and businesses in the world will still, at some point, have to deal with difficult, resistant or unhappy customers.
The great news is, it needn’t be fraught or complicated. The trick is preparing yourself with some simple techniques that should ensure your conversations with tricky customers remain calm and constructive.
Let go of fear
This is one of those things that seems easy to say and hard to put into practice. But if you’re expecting a negative outcome from a customer interaction, you’re probably more likely to get one. Instead, remember this is not a life or death situation, and you don’t have to fix everything in one interaction.
Your first goal is to listen, empathise, understand and come up with the next steps. Ask for time to properly consider those steps if need be.
Listen calmly, with an open mind
It seems an obvious thing but actually listening to an angry or dissatisfied customer without being tempted to jump in and defend yourself and your business can be hard.
Take a deep breath and remain calm. The customer will feel heard and typically will begin to imitate your calmer state of being.
Take notes on their grievances and, once they’re done, confirm with them that you have a clear understanding of their issue. Even if you don’t agree with the customer you can empathise with the position they are in and thank them for bringing it to your attention.
Even if the customer is at fault, be helpful and ensure they are supported so the issue does not rise again.
Where possible it is always better to follow up complaints or customer issues with a telephone call or even an in-person visit. Email may seem easier, but it is also less personal and offers much more scope for your tone or response to be misinterpreted.
It’s also best to deal with any complaints or resistant customers in a timely fashion. Better to hop right in and get to the bottom of the situation, rather than procrastinate. The longer it takes to resolve a problem, the more irritated a customer will be, and you may find the situation is much easier to resolve than you thought.
Be constructive, authentic and sincere
If you can’t give a customer exactly what they want, ask for time to come up with a creative solution that may work.
If that’s not going to be possible, clearly and calmly explain why. Offer them some time to think about it. Don’t promise things you aren’t certain you can deliver.
If you can’t resolve the issue in one call, suggest some next steps you both agree on and schedule a follow-up call. Don’t leave the issue open at the end of your call, without demonstrating that follow-up actions will be taken, and a second appointment in the diary.
David Forman’s most popular training programme, Sales Performer, can help you and your team understand the sales process from the customer’s perspective while also honing your sales skills, knowledge and behaviour.