In a perfect world, all prospects would love you starting the moment they shook your hand -- and then they’d eagerly sign on the dotted line. Unfortunately, deals are almost never that easy to win. And it can seem nearly impossible to close when you’re dealing with tough customers who make everything harder than it needs to be.
While you can’t control prospects’ attitudes, you can control your responses. You can take productive steps to increase your chances of closing the sale -- even when you’re dealing with the worst customers imaginable.
With these six keys to closing tough customers in sales, you’ll be more prepared to deal with bullies, noncommittal prospects, and just plain difficult people. Implement them now, and start to crush your competition in sales.
How to Close Tough Customers
- Don't react or display anxiety
- Stay firm
- When necessary, mirror their response
- Probe into their challenges
- Understand their top priorities
- Secure true buy in
- Maintain conversational control
- Never try to prove your dominance
- Remember, it's not personal
1. Show that you’re unfazed
If difficult prospects sense you’re scared or nervous, they’ll be even more likely to push you around. Resist the urge to speed up the sales meeting or alter your approach in response to a tough customer’s bad attitude. Instead, show that you’re unfazed by sticking to your script -- even if they pressure you to hurry things along.
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2. Be unemotional and firm
It’s natural to feel frustrated when a prospect is giving you a hard time -- but frustration will only waste your opportunity. After all, the prospect may be a bully, but he could still need what you’re selling. Don’t take anything personally, and commit to standing your ground. Keep your emotions in check and stay on track with your regular approach to closing sales.
3. When in doubt, match the prospect
Sometimes, the best way to get a bully to behave is to match them. Rise to their tone, pace, and strength and you may be surprised to find them backing down in response. By matching their personality, you’re more likely to win their respect and hold their attention.
4. Get prospects talking about their challenges
Difficult prospects have a million different things on their minds. They simply don’t want to listen to you. Instead of forcing them to listen to what you want to say, try to get tough customers to talk about themselves and their business problems. With this approach, you’ll tap into their emotional side and break through the animosity. For prospects who are hesitant to commit, getting them to talk about their key challenges can help you gauge how much of a priority solving their problems truly is.
5. Understand prospects’ top objectives
Ask your prospects which goals they most want to accomplish in the short term. Try asking, “What are your top priorities in the next six, 12, or 18 months?” By aligning your solution with those objectives, you can create greater urgency for even the most noncommittal clients.
6. Get real commitment
Before you get to your proposal, find out how serious the prospect is about solving the challenges and objectives they’ve spoken to you about. Instead of asking if the customer is committed to buying your product or service, try asking, “George, are you committed to doing something about this right now?”
By holding your prospects’ feet to the fire, you’ll be able to gauge whether or not they’re ready to commit to what you have to offer.
7. Maintain conversational control
When dealing with difficult prospects (or their colleagues), it's not uncommon for that person to hijack the conversation. This looks like someone pursuing irrelevant tangents, steering the conversation in different directions, and speaking over you.
It's important for the salesperson to maintain control over the conversation at all times. If you notice things getting out of hand, don't hesitate to politely interrupt with, "Excuse me, I'd be happy to speak to this point more after the presentation, but I'd like to respect everyone's time by keeping to our agenda and staying on track."
This should allow you to wrangle the conversation back toward you and your prospect's collective goals.
8. Never try to prove your dominance
"Did you know ...," "Actually," and "No offense" are all statements used to prove dominance. They're missteps in a sales conversation and power moves that won't serve you well when dealing with difficult prospects.
It's natural to want to position yourself as an authority figure in dealings with tough customers -- but do this by sharing information objectively and asking for your prospect's perspective.
For example, instead of saying, "Did you know industry experts predict widget production will triple in the next four years?" try, "I've heard widget production is expected to triple in the next four years. Will this affect your business at all?"
In the first example, you're trying to one-up your customer with industry intel they don't know. In the second example, you've presented them with a fact, and asked for them to weigh in.
9. Remember, it's not personal
Tough customers are just part of the game of sales. They'll never go away, but it's important not to take their behavior too seriously.
Always be respectful in meetings, but if things get out of hand, leave it at the office. It's not a reflection on you and is likely the sign of personal struggles the prospect is facing. Go home, have dinner, chat with a friend, and unwind so you can come back tomorrow fully charged.
Tough customers are never fun -- but they can still be profitable. With a game plan in place, you’ll be far less likely to fold under pressure or take difficult selling situations personally.