Dealing with Difficult Customers

Copyright 2002, by Dave Kahle.

It is easy to work with people you like, and it is even easier to work with people who like you. But that’s not always the case. Sooner or later, you’ll have to deal with a difficult customer.

Difficult customers come in a wide variety. There are those whose personality rubs you the wrong way. They may not be difficult for someone else, but they are for you. And then there are those who are difficult for everyone: Picky people, know-it-alls, egocentrics, fault-finders, constant complainers, etc. Every salesperson can list a number of the types.

But perhaps the most difficult for everyone is the angry customer. This is someone who feels that he or she has been wronged, and is upset and emotional about it. These customers complain, and they are angry about something you or your company did.

So, how do you handle an angry, complaining customer? Let’s begin with a couple tools you can use in these situations…

Shut-up and Sell!

According to Mark Hunter, contrary to popular belief, to be a successful salesperson, it doesn’t matter how much you know about your product or service. It also doesn’t matter how much of an industry expert you are. It doesn’t even matter how great your mother thinks you are. The only thing that really matters to be successful in selling is your ability to shut-up and listen. On numerous occasions, everyone in sales has heard how important it is to get the customer talking, so it’s imperative that they have an arsenal of great questions to ask. Despite trying to follow this guideline, every salesperson seems to overstate the amount of time they believe they allow the customer to talk. The many interviews I’ve conducted over the years with customers and salespeople alike confirm this reality. Therefore, salespeople need to take a step back and consider their sales presentation.

The 2 Most Common Sales Incentive Plan Mistakes

This week’s guest author Carl Moe is the author of Sales Revenue System 2.0 / Your Chief Revenue Officer B2B Success Model and Managing Director of CRO Success, a Minneapolis based ‘revenue as a system’ engineering organization. CRO Success specializes in helping Chief Revenue Officers (CRO’s) restructure their revenue system for sustainable growth and optimized performance.

Moe began his career in Detroit selling computer-based production automation systems to the auto industry. Next were decades of officer and executive roles in global technology-based evenue Systems.  He has conducted business in 14 foreign countries outside North America holds BSE & MBA degrees from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in Organizations prior to becoming an executive coach and corporate resource.
He can be reached at or 952-232-6720.
Incentive plans are the most underutilized tool available to Chief Revenue Officers (CRO’s) in terms of achieving their performance objectives.  The two most common incentive plan mistakes we see today are:

1. All business (new account and continuing sales to existing accounts) earns the same incentive.
2. Companies try to ‘cap’ sales incentive earnings.
First, new account business is ALWAYS worth more than ongoing business from existing accounts because prospecting, qualifying and closing a new account is more difficult plus it’s the best way for a business to generate sustainable growth.  Businesses typically default to a “one size fits all” plan for administrative simplicity and miss one of the best opportunities to train salespeople to GROW the company instead of just booking the easy business (low-hanging fruit) that was likely coming in anyway.  One size fits all plans are simply toxic to building sustainable long term revenue performance.

Second, we still see executive teams almost paranoid regarding the possibility of a sales person closing a big deal and earning more income than some C-suite members.  Capping a performance based incentive plan makes about as much sense as a CEO announcing a management ‘cap’ being placed on the current year’s projected revenue and earnings.  The real issue here is top level sales talent is not a commodity resource and when companies don’t recognize and pay them what they are worth, they will find someone who will do that.


Leadership Communication: 6 Steps to Handling Tough Conversations

It’s a given: Having tough conversations and communicating difficult topics is part of a leader’s job. But just like you plan for contingencies in your business, planning how you will communicate difficult messages can improve the ultimate outcome. It is seldom easy to share difficult news, but thinking through your approach in advance definitely can improve the process.

It’s human nature to avoid conflict; we’re wired in that way. I was talking with a leader recently about conflict and how he avoided conflict, which cost him time, energy, and negatively impacted relationships with others. The principle I shared was this: go toward the conflict. Our natural tendency is to move away from it and avoid it. It’s only through what might feel like “rupture” that “repair” can happen. That’s the upside of conflict handled well – improved relationships and trust.

Handling tough conversations involves two aspects: crafting a clear message and having the conversation. Here are six steps to prepare from…

As War For Talent Heats Up, So Does Employee Poaching

Original Post: Business Insider War Room Contributor: Heather R. Huhman

In case you haven’t heard, we’re at war — and the frontline is closer to home than you think.

While we’re far from complete economic recovery, the job market has begun to bounce back — resulting in a long-predicted war for talent.

The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey for Quarter 2 2011 reports eight percent of employers in the U.S. anticipate an increase in staff levels, up from six percent during the same period last year and consistent with the Outlook during Quarter 1 2011. In other words, confidence among U.S. employers is spreading.

However, with increased employer confidence comes a shift in the job market dynamic. Suddenly, we’re in a job seekers’ market. Bring on the poaching.

  • Employee Poaching: The Statistics

A recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Plateau Systems, an Arlington, Va.-based provider of enterprise-class SaaS talent management suites, reveals that, despite high job satisfaction, a wide majority (74%) of employed full-time and part-time workers would consider a new job opportunity.

Nearly 50 percent of employees surveyed by MarketTools, Inc., an enterprise feedback management and market research company in San Francisco, have considered leaving their current jobs, and 21 percent have applied for another job in the past six months.

CareerBuilder and Harris Interactive surveyed more than 2,400 employers and 3,900 workers nationwide from November 15 to December 2, 2010 across industries and company sizes. The survey found 15 percent of full-time, employed workers are actively seeking a new job. Seventy-six percent reported that, although they are not actively looking, they would change jobs in 2011 for the right opportunity.

Although the statistics report varying levels of “passive” job seekers, there’s no doubt they exist in large numbers. And where there are passive job seekers, there are companies ready to make them offers they can’t refuse.

“The severe slowdown in the economy has had a two-fold impact,” says Jeffrey Diana, chief people officer at SuccessFactors, a provider of cloud-based Business Execution (BizX) software in San Mateo, Calif. “Companies moved quickly to control costs and reduce headcount levels to weather the financial storm. Secondly, the uncertain economic environment kept people in place unwilling to take the risk on switching employers.”

The result, explains Diana, is companies in the same industry or geographic markets fighting over the same talent.

“They need to hold on to the people in their own organization who might be considering greener pastures for the first time in a few years. Whether it’s retaining and monitoring top talent already in their workforce, recruiting new faces to contribute to your success, or determining succession plans in the case employees leave your company, 2011 is fast becoming a make-it or break-it year in terms of talent,” he says.

How to Spot “Poachable” Employees

“They are not always the most qualified, but they are always the most liked from among whomever the employer says is most qualified. Likeability relates to fit, chemistry, expertise, and the ability to deliver quick ROI to employers,” says Jeff Garton, the former head of global staffing for Kraft Foods and Miller Brewing and author of Career Contentment.

Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, Ltd. located in New York City, adds: “They stay for at least five years with their employers. They are always advancing in their careers. They will be hard for their present employers to replace. They are not looking for a new job but will consider a position that sounds intriguing.”

Employees are poached because their skills and job performance are publicly available, says Tim Gardner, associate professor of management at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. One of three situations likely takes place:

  1. The hirer heard from someone in their network about an individual’s skills or performance
    The hirer observed the employee’s performance in some way

  2. The hirer read about the employee’s performance

  3. “Once they learned about the person they did additional research and decided to hire them.

Bottom line poachable employees have valuable skills or job performance that can be observed by rivals,” explains Gardner.

What Can You Do to Keep Your Top Talent?

Gardner has three suggestions:

  • Keep rivals away. Discourage rival firms from targeting your talent. If a poaching event happens, your CEO should call their CEO and discourage the practice. Colluding and making agreements not to hire are illegal. But, it is fair game to respond aggressively to a poaching event to deter future ones.

  • Keep the skills and performance of your employees secret. Don’t advertise each new promotion. Don’t publicize your employees and how to reach them.

  • Make your top employees want to stay with you. Good workers will always have options. Make staying with your firm better than leaving. This can be done by making your company an enjoyable place to work or a costly to leave. If, for example, employees have a short commute, friends at work, and benefits not available at other places, it will be costly for them to leave.

David Schroeder, president of Charlotte, N.C.-based LoyalNation, which manages incentive and loyalty programming, agrees in particular with Gardner’s third point. “The best thing employers can do to keep their top talent is to recognize the fact they are valuable and reward them as such with recognition, compensation, and ongoing opportunity. Effective leaders understand this naturally and, in turn, attract and retain top talent,” he says.

As with many aspects of the job hunting and hiring processes, Diana suggests being proactive — even taking steps before you acquire “poachable” talent.

“Create better job descriptions based on experience and skills of current star employees. Recruit talent from all areas, including those who are not actively seeking jobs. Delve into social networks like LinkedIn to find the right people before you need them — whether or not they are actively looking for a job. Collaborate with employees on referrals and hiring decisions,” he says.

Unfortunately for employers, the war for talent has only just begun.

“Loyalty today means something very different than even just ten years ago,” says Michael T. Denisoff, founder and CEO of the Denisoff Consulting Group, a management and HR consulting firm headquartered in Los Angeles. “The most radical advice I can give an employer is to talk openly about the reality of poaching. Most companies don’t want to acknowledge it even when they know it to be a reality in the workplace. Put it out there in the open and address it. Denying or hiding it only gives the poacher the power.”

7 Tips for Negotiating a Raise in Sales

By Chris Lytle, Monster Contributing Writer

A CEO told me a story about a salesperson who asked for a raise. She asked the salesperson, “Why do you deserve a raise?”

“Because I made less this year than I did last year,” explained the salesperson.

“That’s because you sold less this year than you did last year,” said the CEO.

“I know. And I want you to make it up to me,” said the salesperson.

This salesperson is no longer working for this organization.

So how and when should a salesperson ask for a raise? Understanding your boss’s point of view will help you position your raise as a good thing for the company, instead of a good thing for you. Here are seven points to consider before negotiating a better deal.