- Be receptive. Tell the customer you want to hear what they have to say, then give them a chance to say it.
- Put on their shoes and walk around in them for awhile. If you were faced with their frustration, how would you feel? And, just as importantly, what would you expect to be done to correct it?
- Use descriptive, non-judgmental words. Instead of saying “that’s wrong” try “that’s one way to look at it.”
- Set limits on the problem by excluding things that happened in the past or aren’t relevant to the current situation.
- Break the problem up into smaller pieces and try to reach an agreement on each one.
- Emphasize the things you have in common. “We both want the recipient of your gift to be happy,” for example.
Listening is the most important skill a sales person can possess in every situation, from trying to get an appointment with a new prospect to making a presentation to your biggest client. It’s essential when dealing with a difficult customer, so remember the first rule of listening: you can’t listen if you’re talking! Let the customer talk. Don’t pounce on the things they are saying by trying to give them an answer before they’re finished saying them. In fact, watch out that you don’t just pretend to listen when you’re actually phrasing your answer while they’re talking. A remarkable number of difficult customers just want someone to listen to their problems, so learn to offer that small service automatically.
Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides and Handbooks, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, and management strategy.