Customer Experience News & Trends

Ways to deal with impossible customers

Some prospects and customers are angry, irrational, emotional, demanding, close-minded, illogical or rude. Every conversation is a conflict. Every sale a test. Every contract a headache. Every meeting a battle. Every deal a war.

They can make an encounter so upsetting or intimidating that some reps would rather make no deal and avoid all contact with these types of customers.

Control the encounter

While salespeople can’t control the emotions or actions of truly difficult people, they can control the encounter by first recognizing the three categories most difficult people fall into:

  1. The Situational Difficult. Those whose situation or circumstances make them difficult. Something may have happened to disrupt their day.
  2. The Strategically Difficult. Those who think being difficult helps them get what they want.
  3. The Simply Difficult. People who have an ingrained personality characteristic — bullies, tyrants & impossible people (BTIPs). Their behavior is reactive, manipulative, uncooperative or a combination of these characteristics.

Act rationally

Salespeople can usually deal with the first two types by acting rationally and sensibly. They listen and learn, give and take, and find enough common ground to close a sale. The truly difficult people (BTIPs) are another story.

An arsenal of tactics

BTIPs usually have an arsenal of tactics to get to a salesperson. Some may try to intimidate with silence. Others might use sudden outbursts to throw a salesperson off guard. Some may try to pit salespeople against each other to get the best possible result.

Salespeople have three choices when dealing with BTIPs:

  1. Give up. Run for cover, close your eyes and wait until it’s over. If the customer attacks you from the get-go, wave the white flag and surrender.
  2. Get nasty back. Fight fire with fire, stubborn with stubborn, anger with anger, temper with temper, ego with ego.
  3. Be N.I.C.E. Find a N.I.C.E. way to deal with BTIPs.

The first choice doesn’t work because it only allows the BTIPs to continue what they do best — bullying a salesperson into a bad choice. The second choice usually just brings an unpleasant situation to an unsatisfying end — especially for the salesperson.

Gain control

Difficult people are usually trying to gain or maintain control of a situation. The more they fear losing control, the more entrenched they become in their positions.

It’s critical to make a solid connection with BTIPs. This means listening carefully and opening your mind to opposing views and then coming up with new options that make a situation or deal a win for the other person.

The N.I.C.E. System

You can’t control the emotions or actions of the bully or tyrant, but you can control the encounter with the N.I.C.E. approach.

N.I.C.E. is a systematic approach for successfully dealing with all of life’s most difficult people without becoming one of them.

Here’s how it works:

  • N. Neutralize your emotions. Dealing with difficult people can be an emotional challenge. The more emotional you are, the less rational you behave. The more your emotions are in check, the more you can be in control of a positive outcome.
  • I. Identify the type of difficult person you’re dealing with. Is it a Situational Difficult person? Is it a person who thinks that being difficult is the best way to get a good deal? Is the person you’re dealing with a bully, tyrant or impossible person?
  • C. Control the encounter. Once you know which type of difficult prospect you face, you can employ the appropriate techniques to help shape and determine the outcome of the encounter.
  • E. Explore options. Even if you control the encounter, you may still be at an impasse. The process of getting “unstuck” often requires the development of options — alternate solutions so both sides can give and get.

Adapted from the book Bullies, Tyrants, and Impossible People, by Ronald M. Shapiro, Mark A. Jankowski and James Dale, sales consultants and training specialists.


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