Working in sales and marketing, we have the opportunity to interact with a lot of different people every day. In most instances, the interactions are friendly and courteous. The overall goal of sales and marketing is to essentially win people over to your way of thinking, so keeping things lighthearted and fun should be your goal. However, it would be a lie if I told you that ALL interactions would be friendly. Once in a while, you will encounter a customer or a prospect who is either upset with you, your product, or your brand. Unfortunately, just because someone is upset doesn’t mean that you get a ‘free pass’ when it comes to your closing %. Ultimately, you have to work to sell to everyone, including those who are upset.
So, what do we do when the customer or prospect is upset? How do we turn it around, fix the situation, and set ourselves up for more business?
Let the Customer Vent Uninterrupted
The first thing that you will want to remember is to simply let the customer vent. No matter how ludicrous or incorrect it might seem, interrupting them in the middle of their complaint will only further infuriate them. Rather than interrupt them, simply let them finish their whole complaint. It might take a while, but at the end, the customer will have had the opportunity to voice all of his/her issues with you.
Be a good listener. Don’t break eye contact, cross your arms, and look around the room while the customer is upset. At this point, you want the customer to feel as if they are being heard, not ignored.
Here are 8 rules for being a good listener.
8 Rules for Becoming a Good Listener
When people think of a salesperson, they have certain preconceived notions that are hard to get away from. One of those notions is that salespeople are fast talkers who don’t listen to potential customers. A lot of people like to think that salespeople are only out for the kill and don’t really care about the client’s wants or needs.
This may be true for some salespeople, but almost paradoxically, the great salespeople have mastered the art of listening and let the customer do most of the talking. It sounds a little odd – sales is about convincing someone to buy something, how does being a great listener contribute to a successful sale?
As we know, it’s interpretive to ask a lot of questions during the sales process. Most salespeople do this. However, there is a large difference between ignoring and listening after a question is asked. All questions should be asked for a certain purpose, like obtaining a key piece of information, not just to follow a script. Next time you are asking these questions, try to do the following to maximize your listening skills.
After a Question is Asked, Be Quiet
We all know the old sales tactic – whoever speaks first, loses. This is not that. This is asking a question and letting the customer think of a real response without rushing them. If you are uncomfortable in silence, get comfortable. If the customer is comfortable with you, they are trying to give you a real and genuine response. Let them.
If the customer is in the middle of a sentence, don’t jump in and say “I agree” or “Yes that makes sense”. It almost makes you come off as a “yes man” and will stop the customer in their tracks. On the flip side, avoid “but, but, but” too. Let them finish their thoughts, then address it once they have finished.
Remove Preconceived Notions
If you prejudge someone, you will automatically prejudge their answers too, and it will heavily distort what you hear. Stay away from this.
Repeat what the Customer is Saying
This also helps empathize with the customer. If they are having problems or have suggestions for your product or service, repeating their answers back to them will show them that you are indeed listening. It will also force you to absorb the information as well, which will be useful when custom-tailoring the pitch.
Take Notes/Remember what is Being Said
If you are on the phone, there is no reason to avoid taking notes. It’s a very powerful tool because you can look back and use the “because you told me this…” line. If you are face-to-face, taking notes can be a coin toss in terms of the customer’s comfort level, but either way, actually remembering what is being said will help you connect the dots with later answers to identify an actual want or need.
Read Between the Lines
Dr. House likes to say “Everybody lies”. No matter what, unless your customer is totally comfortable with you, they will attempt to fabricate the truth to cover up a hidden want or need. That is why it is important to not only focus on what is said but also, focus on what is not being said. Take note of voice pitch and other non-verbal clues too.
Ask Follow up Questions Based on Answers
When you first ask a question and hear an answer, even if it’s not the answer you were looking for, don’t jump to another question that is totally irrelevant. The customer will immediately sense it and your conversation will turn to an interrogation. Rather, repeat the key parts of their previous answer, then ask a follow-up question based on that, even if it seems irrelevant to you. Keep the conversation going and you might discover a key piece of information.
Don’t Jump to Conclusions
If a customer starts to answer you and they are beginning to answer like you predicted, it’s easy to mentally tune out and jump to a favorable conclusion. Just like our article before where we said that a sales month is never over until it’s over – same goes for an answer. If you jump to a conclusion before it’s presented, you might be incorrect and jump off a cliff.
While there are certainly more elements to becoming an active listener, use these rules during your next sales call and see if it improves the way you listen and the way your customers respond to you.
Rather than just saying “You are wrong!” to the customer, empathize with them. Nobody wants to be told that they are incorrect about something. If you go down that path, an argument will be the end result. We want to avoid arguments as much as possible, so when you are starting to respond to a complaint, empathizing is the best strategy that you can use. When you empathize, say something like “I can understand how you feel, that would frustrate me as well.” To the customer, their feelings are very real – empathizing will show the prospect that you recognize those feelings and agree with them. This will help ‘disarm’ the customer and will open them up to listen to your point of view.
Work on a Solution with a Plan of Action
When a customer is upset and complains about something, they are really looking for a solution to their problem. You can empathize all you want, but unless you take steps to fix their issue, they will remain upset. If the issue can be resolved easily, tell the customer what you will do to resolve the problem. Tell them your plan of action to fix the issue and keep them informed. A customer who is ‘in the loop’ is a happy customer.
Frustrated and upset customers are not as rare as you’d like to imagine. One day, you will have to handle a situation where someone is upset with either you, your product or your brand. Take advantage of the above strategies to help overcome the problem and to help lead the customer back to satisfaction.
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