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Quiz: How To Handle a Hostile Customer

SCENARIO: You're selling a B2B product to a company that has multiple decision-makers, stakeholders and influencers, without it being completely clear (even to them!) which is which.

During your meetings with various personnel, you run across a guy who is clearly hostile. You're not sure why and he's not being forthcoming.

What's your best approach?

  • TACTIC #1: Bypass Him. Since the decision-making process is chaotic, the decision can probably be made without Mr. Hostile on board. Sell around him.
  • TACTIC #2: Confront Him. Ask, point blank, why he seems so hostile to your proposal and then answer his objections, one by one, as they come up.
  • TACTIC #3: Schmooze Him. Be friendly to him, so that he sees that you're a nice guy and therefore he'll feel bad for making your life more difficult.
  • TACTIC #4: Spy On Him. Have your other contacts at the prospect firm find out why he's being so hostile. Then craft your selling approach to address his concerns.

Click here for the correct answer. »

The best answer, IMHO, is TACTIC #4: Spy On Him.
However, I make this choice mostly because the other three choices almost undoubtedly aren't going to work. Here's why.
  • TACTIC #1: Bypass Him. This sounds workable, but if you do, you will create an enemy. And that enemy will dislike you forever, and probably try to scuttle anything that you try to do in the future.
  • TACTIC #2: Confront Him. The direct approach has some appeal, but the individual in question has already decided not to share the reason for his hostility. Forcing the issue will likely make the hostility worse.
  • TACTIC #3: Schmooze Him. Good luck with that. Why not just take a sharpie and write "I'm desperate for this sale" across your forehead?" Because that's how it's going to look.
So that leaves us with doing a little behind the scenes reconnaissance to find out the real issue. Probably Mr. Hostile's co-workers can figure it out, and then (ideally) they'll help you work on him to bring him around.

BTW, this post was inspired by a conversation with Susan Scott, author of the best-selling book, Fierce Conversations.
READERS: Any other tactics that might be worth trying?


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