How to Deal with Difficult Customers in Sales

Have you ever come across a customer or prospect who’s just really, really difficult to deal with?

Most salespeople are terrified by difficult customers in sales—but actually, difficult customers often make the best clients.

Difficult customers in sales usually give it to you straight—there’s no B.S. or fakeness. And that can be a huge opportunity for you to sell more and sell deeper.

In this video, I’m going to show you how to deal with difficult customers in sales, so you can reap the rewards. Check it out:

Summary:

How to Deal with Difficult Customers in Sales Tip #1: Slow things down.

How to Deal with Difficult Customers in Sales Tip #1: Slow things down.

The data is unequivocal that most salespeople tend to speed things up when they come across difficult customers in sales. They start to talk fast because they’re nervous. They try to rush through the sales process because they feel uncomfortable.

But you should actually be slowing things down instead. Think of it as a hostage situation. You’re the hostage negotiator and you’re dealing with the hostage taker. Hostage negotiators are always trying to slow down the situation—not speed things up. You want to do the exact same thing when dealing with difficult customers in sales. 

Show that you’re completely unfazed by their cranky tone or aggressive nature. Instead, slow things down and let the pace of the interaction start to decrease. Most importantly, don’t speed things up out of fear or discomfort.

How to Deal with Difficult Customers in Sales Tip #2: Stay unemotional.

How to Deal with Difficult Customers in Sales Tip #2: Stay unemotional.

Difficult customers in sales can sense when a salesperson starts to get emotional. For many of us, it’s our natural reaction to get emotional when dealing with a difficult person in any situation. But difficult customers in sales only behave worse when salespeople get emotional—it eggs them on. So we need to stay unemotional.

This doesn’t mean you have to be completely deadpan without expression. Instead, it just means that you want to react to their aggression or crankiness with an even-keeled, unemotional response. Pretend they’re acting like a normal, nice person and reply without emotion.

This will break the pattern they’re used to seeing play out with salespeople. Difficult customers in sales are expecting you to get emotional, flustered, and upset when they push your buttons. But when you show that you’re completely unfazed by their behavior, they’re going to naturally start to match the way you act.

Imagine dealing with a difficult child. If the parent starts screaming and gets really emotional, the kid starts screaming and getting really emotional, too. Effective parents stay calm until the kid mellows out on their own. Don’t add fuel to the fire. Stay unemotional.

How to Deal with Difficult Customers in Sales Tip #3: Use a calm but firm voice.

How to Deal with Difficult Customers in Sales Tip #3: Use a calm but firm voice.

When talking to difficult customers in sales, use a calm, firm voice that demonstrates to the prospect that you’re not flustered by their prickly disposition. If a difficult customer starts off your phone conversation in a nasty way, just pause and calmly say something like, “I really appreciate what you’re saying. Would it be okay if I took 30 seconds to tell you why I called in the first place, and if after that it doesn’t make sense, we can hang up? Does that sound fair?” The prospect is going to immediately sense that you’re confident—and their temperature will come down and they’ll start to lose that edge. They’ll say something like, “Sure, fair enough.” That’s where you want to be. 

How to Deal with Difficult Customers in Sales Tip #4: Mirror their language.

How to Deal with Difficult Customers in Sales Tip #4: Mirror their language.

This strategy comes from actual hostage negotiators who mirror the last few words that the hostage taker says. If a difficult customer says, “Things have been pretty bad lately,” then you respond, “Pretty bad lately?” You’re encouraging the customer to continue on. 

Mirroring is just taking the last few words the customer said and turning them into a question. This shows that you’re listening while prompting them to share more information at the same time—an effective tactic that will disarm difficult customers in sales.

How to Deal with Difficult Customers in Sales Tip #5: Don’t argue—ever.

How to Deal with Difficult Customers in Sales Tip #5: Don’t argue—ever.It’s never a good idea to get into a disagreement with a difficult customer in sales. You’ll never win. They don’t need you and they don’t care about you. All they’ll do is fight to the death. Also, all you really want is just to engage them in an effective conversation—and arguing will get you nowhere with that.

Instead, take a deep breath and use more of a tai chi approach. Use their energy and take it in the direction you want. Don’t get into an argument. Instead, acknowledge what they’re saying and dig deeper. Get them talking, ask questions, mirror their language, get them going. Eventually they’ll run out of steam and start talking to you like a normal human being.

If you ever find yourself in an argument with a difficult customer in sales, you’re in a bad place. Slow it down, get them talking, and acknowledge that what they’re saying is valuable.

How to Deal with Difficult Customers in Sales Tip #6: Get them talking

How to Deal with Difficult Customers in Sales Tip #6: Get them talking

Difficult customers in sales often just want to express themselves. They just want to get it all out there. Think about the last time you called an airline or some kind of customer service number, and you were furious. If the person on the other end of the phone just listens to you and allows you to talk and vent, after about 30 seconds you usually feel better. 

Use active listening to get them talking. The more a difficult customer is talking, the better off you are. If you find that you’re doing a lot of the talking, you’re in trouble. They don’t care what you have to say. They don’t want to hear from you. They want to talk, and that’s fine. Slow it down, get them talking, mirror their language, ask them questions, understand what’s going on—and the more you can get them talking, the more likely they are to lower that angry tone and start talking to you like a normal person. And then you can start to engage them back and forth in a real conversation.

So, there you have it. Now you know how to deal with difficult customers in sales. Which of these ideas did you find most useful? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section to join the conversation.

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About the Author Marc Wayshak

Marc is is the best-selling author of three books on sales and leadership, including the highly acclaimed titles Game Plan Selling, The High-Velocity Sales Organization and his forthcoming book, Sales Conversations, Mastered.

Marc is a contributor to Inc, HubSpot, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Huffington Post Business. He also hosts a popular YouTube channel on sales strategy with over 103,000 subscribers.

Marc helps thousands of people his data-driven, science-based approach to selling that utilizes all the best tools available to sales organizations today.

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