A healthy sales rep. ought
not take unhealthy verbal
abuse from any prospect
or be expected to do so!
—————–It is impossible to be vital, growing and truly productive if you are in a situation where you have to subject yourself to client’s verbal abuse. Being cussed at, yelled at or berated should not be expected of any sales rep. It is the view of this sales pro that being the punching bag for an irate customer should not be the job description of any sales rep.
When I started my sales career; my position was in an office. My duties were both internal sales to new cutomers and sales service to existing customers. I held this position for a large international hardware company. With my distinct, celebrated southern drawl; it was an interesting thing to see me struggle to manage the New England States. Square peg in a round hole? You bet! I most certainly was.
But I worked really hard. I came in early and stayed late. I was determined to succeed at my first executive position and I did. I did but there were certainly some bumps in the road. One of them was dealing with unruly people. Still, even though I had to deal with some people who were different for me. I am a people person and I found some common bond with most. But a few, just were plain unpleasant every day and in every way.
For instance, there was this individual at Centercore Corp. in NJ. I remember the buyer’s name will but will not repeat it out of courtesy. His arrogance, unmannerly harshness and foul mouth was a thorn in the flesh to everyone. Especially me.
This was in the day of telexes. Remember those. If not, you are a rookie. [Just kidding]. Anyway, with telexes, you did not get immediate answers like we do in today’s world-wide web community. You had to wait for the answer the next morning. And if it did not come or someone was out of the office or etc.; you could have to wait another day on answers from oversea’s suppliers.
Centercore was a huge client of this company that I represented. So, it was important to keep them happy. But you could not keep them happy, even when there were no problems. And on this occasion, an unexpected backorder from an over-seas supplier caused a HUGE problem. Understandably so, the production capacity of a factory was dependent on the supply of parts we provided.
Still my mother was not a female dog. My IQ or the lack thereof did not cause the part delay. God’s last name is not damn and my name does not end with …hole. When this tyrannical tirade of verbal abuse was levied my way by this buyer. I found it necessary to tell this buyer that I did not appreciate it and requested that he quit talking that way to me. He informed me that He was a huge customer and he would talk any _______ way he wanted to, to me. I politely informed him that I wanted to help him, IF he could talk to me in a civilized manner. He did not. I hung up. He called back; louder and more obscene than before; threatening my job if I hung up on him again. I did. He kept his threat & called my superiors.
I wish I could say that they were happy with me and supported my action. They did not. But at the same time, they didn’t support his either. So it was just an uncomfortable subject for a while. Eventually, the National Sales Manager got tired of having to handle every order and handed the account back over to me. The buyer was never my bosom pal but he never cursed me, nor yelled at me again. I handled his account well and he gained respect for me. —– So what are the morals of this story?
You should not have to accept unacceptable behavior in sales. That does not mean that you should be sensitive. Do not pull the stunt I did; unless the customer is clearly over the line!
The customer will never respect you, unless you respect yourself. So there really are lines in the sand that you should not tolerate prospects trampling over.
I was interested to see what a great young sales consulting pro thought on the subject. So @Scott_Juba and I talked and wrote back and forth about how to best handle, such challenging prospects. Scott wrote a great post on “dealing with the difficult customer.” Here was some of his awesome selling ammunition.
*** Scott reminded us of the invaluable power of a TO (TakeOver). Yes, the TO is an undervalued sales strategy that can save face and save business. It is a tried and true strategy to use in closing more business. Furthermore, it can solve friction that is produced by natural differences in personality types. Problem clients will come and a good game plan for how to deal with them sets you up to win, even in tough situations. And the TO is a great game saving and game winning strategy. Here is the link to Scott’s article on the subject. READ: http://bit.ly/I2eF5A
Here are some other points that I recommend you use in dealing with the “difficult” prospect.
#1- Don’t major on the minors. If it can be ignored. Do so. Don’t let small stuff sack a good relationship. As the old saying goes. “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.”
#2 – When a dialogue goes to the point of hostility; it is unlikely that you will win a customer. So, by all means try to keep the communication from going there, in the first place. If there is something you can do to be conciliatory with out sacrificing principle, eating crow or crap; then do it!
#3- Call a witness for lots of reasons. a) It will protect your companies interests; if someone else witnesses that you are not the one doing the escalating. b) If real violence erupts, you need a witness to prove that you did not initiate it. c) If the situation is salvageable; someone else not embroiled in the heat of the conflict may see and have the presence of mind to seize the opportunity.
#4- Practice and utilize “diffusion” techniques. a) Talk softer and softer, not louder and louder.. b) repeat sincerely the prospects point, so that he can see that you do understand.. c) request distance. Ask if you can call the client back or meet with them again later, after you have had a chance to check some things out and think about it.
#5- Still keep your word. Do not be a jerk; because the prospect is being one. Do not sacrifice your character, conscience or reputation for the fleeting anger of a moment of loss of control.
#6- Remove the prospect from the presence of other customers; to even be willing to talk to them. One lost customer is bad enough. Do not let an inflamed situation lose you other business. Take them to a conference room. Take them outside. For heaven’s sake; “DO NOT PARTICIPATE IN A HEATED DISCUSSION IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR SHOWROOM OR TRADESHOW BOOTH.” Take them to a snack bar. Do not let a difficult situation with ONE prospect, lose you TWO.
#7- Some of these challenging prospects can still be made allies; if you stay on the high, admirable ground. A lot of dogs really do have barks louder than their bites. A lot of bears growl and are really Teddy Bear’s at heart. Do not be quick to judge people, even if you have a disagreement with them.
#8- Have a pre-existing deal in place with another colleague to save the day. If the prospect is really, really a jerk The best way to save the day is to get their money. // I had a colleague set up in one office who would encourage them to tell them how much they didn’t like me; all the while closing the deal. Of course, we split the deal and laughed all the way to the bank… [Yes, I did the same for him; with his challenging prospects that didn’t like him}.
#9- Take a break after dealing with a butt-hole. You do not want the next prospect to get a bad odor, from a previous stinker.
#10- Try to learn a lesson from it. All experiences should be teachers. What could you have done to avoid it? Was there some way to handle it better. Go through a review of even a lost sale. They can even be better teachers, than the one’s you land.
#11- Jr / Senior syndrome – Your client is older than you. Use the back up, of an older colleague. Your client is younger than you. Use the back up of a younger colleague.
#12- Decide a fair course and stick to your guns. Nothing makes a bad situation worse, than being wishy-washy.
#13- Leave yourself room to come back to it, after sleeping on it.. Your second thought may be your best thought. Ask the client to let you think about it. You may come up with a better solution. Waiting until things cool down a little rarely makes them worse.
#14- Last but not least; DO THE RIGHT THING! I literally pray about my difficulties. I find that God can give me guidance how to do things better; even in business. But even if you are not a person of faith. YOU DO want to be known as a person of respect. The only way you will build this kind of reputation is by being a good person. — You do not have to accept unacceptable behavior and you certainly should not practice it yourself!