Tough Cookies

Tough Cookies

We’ve all experienced tough customers- they come with the territory. But do you ever go through periods where you feel like you have nothing but tough customers?  This can be exhausting and can throw you off your game. All you want to do it avoid them, but you need to work with them to get the sale!  What you need to remember is that tough customers can be categorized, and you can learn strategies for dealing with each category in order to overcome the negative aspects of each.  Here are a couple very common types of tough customers and how to quickly sidestep their negative behaviors.

 

  • The Hand-holder- This customer is indecisive, lacks initiative and expects you to lead them through the entire sales process.  Taking the lead and being direct and assertive is the key to moving this type forward; Use phrases such as, “I believe this should be our next step…” or  “I’ve been thinking about your concerns and I think we can address them in this way…”  Sometimes you may go so far as to make the decisions for them, as long as you maintain collaborative language and get their approval for what are basically your directions.  Having them speak to other satisfied clients can also be helpful so they can see that you’ve earned the trust and support of others in their field; if they’re not comfortable being a leader, they can simply be a follower by seeing that other companies have gone before them in trying your product.
  • The Big Fish in the Small Pond- This customer refers to themselves with pride as an ‘old timer’ and probably calls you ‘kiddo’ or something equally unflattering.  They’ve been around a long time, have risen to the top of their field (whether in reality or in their own mind…) and you can’t tell them anything they don’t already know (as they like to constantly remind you).  The way to handle this customer is to play to their ego by affirming their image of themselves.   Ask them questions such as, ‘Since you’re an expert in this field, I wonder if you could tell me what are the greatest challenges facing this industry today?’  By leading with ego-stroking phrases, you can get them to do what they do best (talk, talk, talk) and you’ll be able to gather lots of valuable information from what they tell you.
  • The More is Never Enough- This is the customer, sometimes a long-standing customer, who is always trying to nickel & dime you into giving them more and more for less and less.  They don’t appreciate the things that you are able to do for  them, and are constantly asking for more.  I think this is the most infuriating type of tough customer, and it’s often difficult to hold you temper with them.  Deal with this type by always countering their requests by reminding them that you will, as always, give them the best deal you possibly can, but that your company is a ‘for profit’ business, just like theirs.  Remind them of how your product has helped them shorten production time, increase sales, or broaden their product offerings…gently reminding them that you’re helping them make money.