A Group Sales Training Workshop on Vancouver Island is the source of this edition of THE PROSALESGUY BLOG. Have you ever had a client flip out over an issue that you had no control over? Here’s the best way to handle it.
Meeting client expectations can be demanding work – especially with a client that has a lot of passion, energy and emotion. That enthusiasm can sometimes backfire when things don’t go as planned. In a meeting of highly skilled, technical consultants, we discussed a case study of a client who had ordered time sensitive product that was potentially going to be held up at the border by U.S. Customs.
Feeling like your hands are tied?
In this case, and many that we deal with, there is little to nothing you can do to solve the problem. Yet, speaking those words to your client, don’t seem to help the situation. In fact, this can often throw your client into an emotional tailspin where frustration and anger turns to threats of cancelling all business with you. I have personally been on both sides of this exchange to later reflect and think “What just happened here?”
What Professional Salespeople tend to do
We justify, reason and talk logic. We offer detailed explanations with the facts, revealing there is little to nothing we can do to solve the problem. We think that being rational, clear headed and sincere is the best way to communicate. Actually, it’s the opposite. Here’s why.
What the client hears
Excuses, denials, lack of understanding, unwillingness to act and disrespect. They are saying to themselves – “You are not listening to me and intend to do nothing to solve what I feel is a huge problem.” Wait up for a second – there is nothing you can do about it, right? No, there’s a lot you can do.
1. Shut Up
Your client is emotionally over-charged. They are so busy talking and revealing their feelings that they aren’t capable of listening. The very best thing you can do is look them in the eye, shut up and saying nothing. Actively listen to them, nod your head and let them fully vent. At some point, they will take a breath and stop, almost looking to you for an answer. Do not offer an explanation. Not yet.
2. Paraphrase them
In your own words, sum up their words and feelings and repeat what you heard back to them. Include not just the script of what they said, make sure you include how they said it.
Example: “Pauline, I understand. You are more than just upset, you are furious. You expect that when you place an urgent order with us that it arrives on time, no matter who’s responsibility it is to get to you. After all, you are the client and if we wish to continue to do business with you, we better understand that very clearly…”
Now, should I explain the details?
Can you feel the “but” coming? It usually starts like this “…but please understand that (explanation).” Have you ever heard that everything before the But is Bull? But is a negative word. It is condescending and hypocritical. “But” has the abilities to erase everything you just paraphrased. Get rid of it. It’s still not time to offer an explanation our solution.
Just stop talking
Look in the client in the eye after your emotional paraphrase. Wait for Round Two. If it comes, let it happen, then repeat your paraphrase in different words. Again, stop talking. Every time I have done this, here’s what eventually happens.
The wind blows through town
Eventually, the client stops. They realize that you are not putting up a fight. You are not defending your position. You are staying non-emotional and rational. They look at you, look away and take a breath. The wind blows through town. Let it go. Make sure it doesn’t come back by fully allowing them to get it all out.
Now, logic returns
The client becomes calm and thoughts turn to “So, what happened? What’s the best way to deal with this?” Say this to the client. “Please understand, you are my client. I take that relationship very seriously. Here’s what happened and what we CAN do about it.”
Do not talk logic and reason to someone who is being emotional. Shut Up, Listen and Paraphrase. When they are calmer, they are ready to Listen and Fix. Now, leap into action and do the very best you can to help. Let that be thing the client remembers – your abilities to make the best of a bad situation.
By the way, in this case study, the product arrived on the delivery date and was not held up at the US border. How many times have you had a potential situation that looked grim, not occur or not be as bad as initially expected?
What do you think? I’m interested in your opinion in the comments section. I challenge you to try this technique a few times and work it at. You will eventually become an expert in what I call verbal bomb disposal.
PROSALESGUY TRAINING offers Group and Individual Sales Training, Sales Management Mentoring and Consultation, and Business Consulting Services in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. Training can be done on site or via web conferencing.