Difficult Sales Conversations

Tuesday, May 10 2022

By Wayne Vanwyck – When I look back, I realize I have rarely had to have difficult sales conversations in my 40-year business career. Maybe it is because I try to meet prospective customers on their level. I don’t look up to them or down at them. We are equals, both there to identify problems and solve them on behalf of the customer.

So, start with attitude. When you treat people with respect, dignity and humility they will tend to reciprocate.
But even with the best intentions, sometimes you still need to have difficult conversations:

  • You’ll have to charge more for a mistake in your quote or eat the loss yourself.
  • Your customer is mistaken in their understanding of your product and needs to be corrected.
  • Their application has been declined.
  • The supplier has doubled their prices.

Then what?

  1. Stay on equal ground. You’re still a professional, there to help solve their problem. Your attitude shouldn’t change.
  2. Take responsibility. If you’ve made a mistake blaming someone else makes you look like an amateur or a con. Even if the error was outside your control, accept that you are still responsible for providing an inaccurate quote.
  3. Be honest. Remember, you are there to help. You might say, “I have some ideas about what I’ve observed. Do you want the truth or would you rather I sugar-coat it?” Of course, their logical response is “The truth.” But if you hadn’t asked the question, they might get their defenses up.
  4. Assuming you are dealing with the correct issue, it then becomes a question of value.
    1. Is the value provided still sufficient to offset the new issue?
    2. Is it worth fixing the problem in spite of the increase in cost?
    3. Can you still trust us to get the job done in a timely and fair way in spite of my error in calculations?
    4. Is there enough value in this proposal to justify the investment?
    5. Is it possible to get a better deal from someone else?

Diffusing Difficult Sales Conversations

If you can confirm the issue (sometimes called an objection) and turn it into a question in the customer’s mind, then be honest with yourself. Do YOU think it’s worth it? Would you buy it in same situation? If not, don’t try to sell it.
If you’re honest and still lose the sale, maybe you’re better off without this customer.

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