Welcome to our “Question of the Week” series of blog posts where we will address some of the most common issues sales teams deal with on a daily basis. We welcome your questions and comments, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you have anything to add.
It’s an unfortunate fact of sales that some prospects aren’t the most pleasant to deal with. Some of them, in fact, can be out and out hostile, rude, aggressive, demeaning, and the list goes on. The question is, how are you going to respond? Do you engage? Do you let it go? Or do you write them off completely?
Sadly, there is no one approach that either works or is appropriate in every situation. In fact, if you speak to ten sales development reps, you’ll likely get ten different answers, and they’re probably all valid enough, depending on the situation. Whichever direction you choose to go, consider what got you there in the first place. This will help you manage both your time and your expectations as the situation unfolds.
Situation #1: Loss of control
If your prospect has suddenly gone ballistic, you might be tempted to hang up and try your best to forget about the whole incident. However, this is not the most useful strategy. Here’s why:
If you end the call immediately, you may be exacerbating the situation. You’ll not only be losing that revenue, but the ire will likely continue – except it won’t be directed at the issue anymore, it will instead be directed at you.
Your irate prospect will then go on to share his or her experience with an average of 11 people, meaning that the fallout will become exponential, even though it may have had nothing to do with anything you did.
How not to handle it
As humans, we have an innate fight-or-flight instinct, which will no doubt kick in when you’re faced with outright rudeness. If you choose to give in to your animal instinct, here’s what could happen:
You respond with anger, making the situation much worse and potentially damaging the relationship beyond repair.
You still close the deal, but you’ve made concessions that are not ideal for either party.
Like any bully-in-the-playground scenario, sinking to their level means you’re playing by their rules, and that’s never going to end well.
Tactful ways to handle rude prospects
Everybody needs some breathing space to vent after a challenging encounter with a rude prospect. Ensuring that your sales reps have that space is essential, not just to their own wellbeing, but also with regard to team morale in general.
Cultivate a culture of sharing. Encourage your SDRs to blow off steam by talking to a colleague, taking a walk outside, or just stepping away from the phone for a little while. Forcing them to carry their frustration into the next call isn’t going to do anyone any good.
Here are three sure-fire ways to deal with a rude prospect:
Give them the silent treatment
It’s psychology 101. If you want to diffuse a bully, don’t buy into their behavior. In truth, most of them are behaving that way just to get a rise out of you anyway. If they don’t get it, chances are they will move on.
While some see silence as passive-aggressive behavior, what it really does is highlight your colleague’s rudeness. When they don’t get the response they were expecting, much like a barky dog, they will likely change their tack and simply move on.
Get real: know when to cut your losses
You might feel like since you’ve already done so much work around this particular prospect that giving up would feel like a massive failure. The truth is, if your prospect is going through each stage of the process kicking and screaming, this might be a harbinger of things to come.
At this point, you need to ask yourself whether you’re willing to revisit this unpleasantness every time you have to interact with this person. Maybe they won’t be a good customer after all. Maybe their attitude won’t change once they’ve bought the product. Perhaps they will be a huge drain on your time and energy, so much so that the balance between revenue and the cost to your sanity is forever skewed.
First, be honest with yourself. Then, be honest with them. Calmly explain that you don’t think your product or service will be a good fit, thank them for their time, and move on.
Acknowledge, but let the moment pass
If the silent treatment didn’t work and you can’t see how letting the prospect go will result in anything positive, you might need to sit back and let the moment pass. Be sincere in acknowledging their displeasure. Let them know that you hear what they are saying and that you understand how upset they are.
Once you’ve established that, ask them what they see as a solution. In many cases, they just want to be heard, and once that is accomplished, they will calm down on their own.
In conclusion, keep in mind that cool heads prevail. Developing a best-practice approach will help everyone on your sales team deal with rude prospects more effectively.