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Picture the scene…. You’re in a sales demo, the company CEO just arrived… late, apologises and immediately jumps into aggressive questioning. This is the biggest deal in your pipeline, you’ve been forecasting it for nine months, and, suddenly, it’s being threatened.

So, how do you respond when a customer makes a point, raises a concern, or critiques your product/service in a way that’s fundamentally inaccurate? I’ve got a few ideas. But first, where exactly did this annoyingly idealistic phrase come from?

The Customer is Always Right

The phrase, “The customer is always right,” was brought to the mainstream in the early 20th century by Harry Gordon Selfridge, founder of Selfridges Department Store.

Is the customer always right?

Well…. No! Not every customer will be right for your business and some may even be bad for your business. If you view the customer as “always right” you could overload your customer services team and ultimately waste time and money.

What to Do When the Customer Isn’t Right

1. Remember, miscommunication is part of a full schedule

First, smile, then take a deep breath. Then, remember miscommunication usually means you’re doing something right.

Always be tweaking – Never stop looking for ways to improve your presentation. Use call reviews, check-ins, and prospect meetings to hone your message, listen to feedback, and ask how you can get better.

Put your friends and family to work – Your presentations should be clear enough that someone with little-to-no familiarity with your company understands what you do when you’re done speaking. Ask for honest feedback, and be prepared to put it to use.

2. Understand your buyer better

Customers are more demanding and more educated than ever. The good part about this is that prospects do a lot of research on your company before you jump on your first call. This means, your prospect might come to your first meeting with incorrect assumptions about your product/service.
Study your buyer personas. Determine the standard questions your prospects ask, and anticipate the answers. The more familiar you are with the evolution of your buyer persona in real time, the better you can anticipate what they’ll ask next.

Determine your prospect’s sophistication level. How interested are they in digging into the details of your product/service? Would they rather you provide only a high-level overview? Specifically ask what they’d like to get from your time together, and alter your message accordingly.

3. Practice active listening

During every call or meeting you host, periodically stop and review what you’ve heard. Simply ask, “What I’m hearing is that you’re happy with service X and offer Y, but you’re worried the monthly cost will still be too high. Is that correct?”

This ensures you’re on the same page before steamrolling ahead. If your prospect answers, “Actually, our reservations stem from a different area …” you can clarify and correct any misconceptions before they become a misunderstanding.

4. Avoid negative power statements

Conflict with a prospect isn’t conducive to winning deals. When faced with aggressive questioning or accusatory statements, avoid negative power statements that only serve to drag you down.
Phrases like, “That’s wrong,” “No way,” “That’s not the way it works,” and “Who told you that?” won’t win you any friends or positively influence a deal.

Instead, if a prospect says something factually incorrect, slow down the conversation and repeat what you’ve heard, saying, “So, what I’m hearing is that you’ve heard our product doesn’t work for construction companies. Can you tell me more about that?”
Once they’re finished, move the conversation forward in one of the following diplomatic ways:

“I see how you could draw that conclusion. There’s a lot of truth in there, but there’s also a little more to the story.”
“I hear that sometimes. Let me speak to a few of those concerns.”

The key to disagreeing without killing a deal are threefold. First, be able to differentiate between facts and opinion. To do this well, you must know your product/service better than the back of your hand.
Don’t have the facts necessary to contradict a prospect in the meeting? Say, “That’s interesting. Let me talk to our team and get back to you with some answers.”

Second, respect everyone’s experience and perspective. It’s easy to feel indignant or write your prospect off as arrogant. Instead, respect the fact they’ve come to this conclusion in a thoughtful way, and understand it’s your job to address their concerns — which brings us to the final part.

Take responsibility for explaining the correct answer clearly. It’s likely not your fault your prospect is misinformed. But it is your responsibility to clear things up, and leave the prospect with a positive impression of you, your company, and your product/service. Use these tips to do that and do it well.

Do you need advice on how to handle difficult customers? Our training and coaching services could help you