How To Handle Difficult or Demanding Customers

Let the Fall party season begin!  September is the Fall kickoff for many direct sales companies – new products, new styles, and a fresh look.  For many of us, this starts the busiest time of year in our business.  Did you know most direct sales consultants make 70% of their business from now till the end of December.  In just 4 months, we make 70% of our income, does the math work for you?

Whether you are in the party plan business or work for someone else, we have all met those customers who are just plain grumpy.   As we all look forward to helping our friends gather for a Girl’s Night Out, we begin to think about the guests who will be attending – moms, career woman, travelers, crafters, and the list goes on.  We want to be sure we are highlighting products which will be useful for them but what we don’t think about are the “hecklers” or the “difficult customer”.

Picture this:  you start your presentation when one of the guests begins making “side” comments just loud enough for you to hear.  Or, you talk about a product and they begin to tell you why XYZ company’s product is so much better.  Have you ever had a guest like this?  If not, consider your lucky and know at some point in your selling career, you may come across them.  If you have, did it throw you off your game?  I will be honest, I don’t do well with confrontation even after 7 plus years with Thirty One….I am grateful for these tips from Deb Bixler and Sherri Campbell:

  1. Spotlight the Difficult Customer at the Party.  A great way to stifle a difficult person is to answer all of their questions and offer not to go on until they are answered.   I have asked them to repeat their question or concern so I can answer it because there may be someone else in the group with the same concern.  As difficult as it may be I try to demonstrate empathy through eye contact, body language and smaller verbal cues showing concern.  This is REALLY tough since my face always gives me away.
  2. Rally the Interested Customers.  If someone is not cooperating at all with your presentation, participating or aren’t even being courteous enough to stop talking while you are; Debs suggests, simply say “The rest of the group is interested in this information”.  WOW!  I could not see myself saying it… it seems confrontational which totally scares me!  Remember the other guests are watching and will follow your lead (hopefully).  Stay calm and remain in charge of the interaction. You can also go with the difficult customer’s energy.  If nothing you are doing or saying is satisfying the customer/guest, disarm them by surrendering and granting agreement to the difficult customer.  Chances are the customer will probably start defending the you.  Believe it or not, it’s natural when someone is allowed to win they will be more open to what they were fighting against.
  3. The Wise Guy is Your Party Side Kick!  Difficult customers may think they know more than you do about your product or company.  Here is where knowing your products AND your company is a definite PLUS.  If you can show the “wise gal” the correct information, they tend to stop being a problem.  Don’t be forceful.  Come across soft and don’t talk over them even when it’s obvious they are off base. Let them talk themselves  out. Keep in mind the needier their behavior, the more power you have since neediness comes from weakness. By listening, you have a chance to build trust, empathy and rapport and ultimately, calms them down.  On the other hand, if they have good information, invite them to help out with the presentation.

Every party is not going to run smoothly.  I have to admit, I have been left speechless a few times due to a difficult customer.  I have even taken a 2 minute break in the middle of a party to “help” a difficult customer so she could be on her way.  By doing so, the customer actually booked a party and the group appreciated the fact the difficult customer had left.  Hopefully, you will never have a heckler or a difficult party guest BUT be ready just in case.

When a customer or party guest is never satisfied, it’s natural for us to lose motivation for working with this person. Sticking it out requires a strategy for dealing with difficult people, self-restraint and an ability to keep power in the relationship. we need to learn when to be hard and when to be soft in conflict. Something I am still working on….

The toughest thing for me is to remember to NOT take it personal….
When dealing with an unsatisfied customer, we need to remind ourselves this is a business issue and not a personal one.  Chances are,  this customer knows very little about you on a personal level, so keep this in mind guiding the conversation back to the pressing issue and how we plan to solve the problem for the customer.

Next time you encounter and angry person imagine they as a 2-year-old since it is the maturity level they are showing you.  Remember, you have the power as long as you remain calm, flexible, patient and mindful.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

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