Customer Experience News & Trends

Winning strategies for dealing with impossible customers

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

They can make an appointment so upsetting or intimidating that some salespeople would rather make no deal and avoid all contact with these types. Here are strategies to share with your salespeople.

Control the encounter

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

1. The Situationally difficult: Those people 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: Those who have an ingrained personality characteristic – bullies, tyrants & impossible people (B.T.I.P.). Their behavior is reactive, manipulative, uncooperative or a combination of these characteristics.

Three choices

Salespeople have three choices when dealing with a B.T.I.P.

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. If you’re blindsided the moment you let your guard down, turn the other cheek and get clobbered.

2. Get nasty back. Fight fire with fire, stubborn with stubborn, anger with anger, temper with temper, ego with ego.

3. Find another alternative to deal with B.T.I.P.

The first choice doesn’t work because it only allows the B.T.I.P. to continue what he or she does 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.

Gaining control

Difficult people are usually trying to gain or maintain control of a situation. The more they fear losing control, the more entrenched they may become in their positions. It’s critical to make a solid connection with B.T.I.P. 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.

Adapted from ‘Bullies, Tyrants, and Impossible People,’ by Ronald M. Shapiro, Mark A. Jankowski and James Dale. (Crown Business, a division of Random House, Inc.). The authors are sales consultants and training specialists.

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