Eight Ways to Deal With Difficult People

Friday, July 10 2020

“How do you deal with difficult prospects – especially the obnoxious ones?”

This was a question I was often asked when training a group of salespeople. And I had to be honest and tell them I had an academic way of answering the question but I couldn’t remember the last time I actually had to deal with an obnoxious person.

I have been reflecting about why, when it was such a common concern of salespeople, my own experience of obnoxious prospects was so limited. It is not simple: many factors combine to make people around us more agreeable, but I believe our attitudes are a key factor.

In my early twenties I set a goal to do all my sales by referrals or repeat business and began to structure my work in such a way that I would have a minimum of cold-calling. Here’s how I started:

  1. I kept the prospect’s interests in mind at all times and wouldn’t compromise my values just to make a sale.
  2. I adopted the attitude that the more people I helped, the better I got paid. So I made it a point to help as many people as I could without worrying about making a sale.
  3. I worked hard at ensuring I understood their needs and ultimate goals so I could recommend the correct solution.
  4. I followed up after the sale to answer any questions and make sure they were happy with their purchase.
  5. I asked for and received referrals. Satisfied clients are happy to help someone who adds value by consulting and advising them rather than those who just complete a transaction.
  6. I read voraciously and knew my stuff. The more I knew, the more value I could add.
  7. As an added service, I would provide helpful information through newsletters, emails, or articles (like this) that cost them nothing but might spark an idea that could help their business or be shared with a friend.
  8. To this day, I always treat everyone I meet with dignity and respect and expect them to do the same. Most people will rise to your expectations if you are sincere. If they don’t, I don’t want them as a client.

I do have to correct myself… I have met obnoxious people; unfortunately they tended to be salespeople trying to sell me something. If you follow this advice, I’m hopeful you won’t be one of them.