13 Difficult Customers (and How to Cope With Them)
Whether you're an entrepreneur or a salesperson, you'll eventually run into customers who drive you crazy. Here's an look at the 13 most irritating types of prospects--along with quick advice to get the deal back on track.
The Great Opportunist
She holds out the possibility of a big purchase in order to get you to write a detailed proposal, which she then uses as a blueprint for an internal project.
How to Cope: Never agree to do a significant amount of work for a prospect without getting something comparable in return, like a meeting with the CEO.
The Time Bomb
Normally, he's rational but he's got a short fuse and a belly full of suppressed frustration. If something goes wrong--BOOM!--he's in your face.
How to Cope: Defuse the situation by asking for help solving problems long before they fester. Try to be somewhere else when he finally does explode. (And he will.)
The Tire Kicker
She admits her company has a need for what you're selling, but can't quite bring herself to write the check, so she keeps investigating options and alternatives.
How to Cope: Make the case for buying in terms of how much money she'll lose by delaying the decision.
He's got so many activities and projects going on at once that he can't focus on any single thing, least of all your proposal.
How to Cope: Simplify, simplify, simplify. Write an executive summary of your proposal, then a summary of the summary. Finally, explain in one sentence how buying will reduce his frazzle.
Hurry Up and Wait
She wants everything yesterday (or sooner) but when you need something from her, there's always a reason why it's not happening today (or tomorrow).
How to Cope: Work up front with her to define (and document in detail) her company's buying process. Get prior agreement on a schedule of milestones.
The Disappearing Act
She confirms appointments to meet with you but isn't in her office when you arrive. The "emergency" that intervened sounds a lot like she's avoiding you.
How to Cope: Subtly suggest that now she owes you, because your time is valuable. Make a better case that what you're selling is worthy of attention. Reschedule quickly so you don't lose momentum.
He claims to be (and may even believe he is) the big decision-maker, but there's a man behind the curtain who's actually making the buying decisions.
How to Cope: He'll be offended if you ask "Are you really the decision-maker?" Instead ask: "How does your company typically make purchasing decisions of this sort?"
She doesn't have the authority to buy but sees sponsoring your proposal as a way to get visibility and funding for herself and her department.
How to Cope: Give her the sales tools she needs to make the case to the rest of the company. Then let her take the lead, while you cheer her on.
He thinks of attractive young female sales reps as fair game for "harmless" flirting that's leading towards the suggestion of a little "quid pro quo" between the sheets.
How to Cope: Respond to any questionable suggestion with crossed arms and a long cool stare. Then change the subject back to business matters. ("Moving right along...."
Her primary job is to make certain that the big boss isn't bothered by the little people, a category that includes you.
How to Cope: Explain why it's hugely in the boss's interest to talk with you directly. Or call early in the morning, before the gatekeeper comes in. (The big boss may pick up.)
He invents reasons to say NO! because he might get blamed if the deal goes through but then goes south. Typically found in corporate legal groups.
How to Cope: Get him involved at the beginning of the sales cycle so that he can raise his objections (and you can answer them) long before they gum up the deal.
Cost benefit? Business value? Are you kidding? To the propellerhead, what really matters is whether the technology you're selling is complicated and obscure.
How to Cope: Explain every product feature in terms of how well it would work on either the USS Enterprise or a Tie-Fighter.
The Final Demander
Just when you think you've got the sale closed, she pulls out a final demand, usually for a huge discount "or the deal won't go through."
How to Cope: She's testing to see if she got the best deal. Say: "The deal we discussed is the best price I can offer." She'll back down (and be secretly relieved that you didn't.)
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