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Sales Quiz: How to Handle Difficult Customers

Do you know how to handle difficult customers? Here's a quick little quiz to test your diplomatic sales ability. I've listed 10 real life sales situations submitted by Sales Machine readers. Each scenario has three possible strategies. Pick the one that will work the best and add up your score at the end of the test. It's easy!

So, then, let's get started!

SCENARIO #1: The Waiting Game. You turn up for a scheduled meeting, but the prospect makes you wait at least 45 minutes. Then the prospect acts as if they didn't realize that you were really there. Pick your best strategy:

  1. Wait patiently until the prospect is ready to see you. After all, the customer is always right and you're there to make sale not to make a point.
  2. Pull out your laptop get some work done. When the prospect "notices" you're there, ask him to wait for 15 seconds while you finish an email. Then go into the meeting with a positive attitude.
  3. When the prospect comes to get you say: "I needed to use the restroom, but didn't want to be gone when you finally remembered we had a meeting. Sorry about your potted plant."
SCENARIO #2: Pretended Interest. After spending an hour or more putting together a quote and contacting him back, the customer blows you off. He says: 'We already have agreements in place,' or 'We only buy from preferred vendors.'" Pick your best strategy:
  1. Politely say: "Well, I can see that you're not going to buy from us right now. Is there anything that we can do now so that we can work together in the future?"
  2. Politely ask: "Why did you ask me to put together a quote if you had no intention of considering us as a vendor?"
  3. Politely yell: "Here's a bill for an hour of my freakin' time, you schmuck! See you in small claims court!"
SCENARIO #3: Inappropriate Flirting. Whenever you call on a certain prospect, he makes suggestive remarks and implies that he'll buy from you if you play along with him. Pick your best strategy:
  1. Calmly and firmly state: "I'm complimented by your interest, but I'd prefer to keep our relationship on a strictly business basis."
  2. Calmly and firmly state: "I wonder what your wife will think when I tell her that you're hitting on random sales reps?"
  3. Calmly and firmly state: "Great idea! Strip off your clothes and lie face down on your desk. I'll go to my car and fetch my bullwhip."
SCENARIO #4: Aggressive Anger. A prospect yells at you for stuff that happened before you were his rep, then follows you down the hall and interrupts a separate meeting with another client to yell at you some more. Pick your best strategy:
  1. Leave the premises until the prospect has recovered his temper.
  2. Say: "Stop this at once. I am a professional and I expect to be treated like a professional."
  3. Lie down on the floor and paint "WELCOME" on your chest.
SCENARIO #5: Going Over Your Head. A prospect is irritated that you couldn't give him a big discount, so he called your sales manager and tried to negotiate with him instead. Pick your best strategy:
  1. Do nothing. If your manager is supportive, she'll just throw the situation back to you (where it belongs.) Problem solved.
  2. Work with your manager to ensure that, if something like this happens next time, the manager doesn't get involved.
  3. Tell the prospect "Hey, my manager told me that you called. Thanks! She gave me a big pat on the back for not giving you that discount."
SCENARIO #6: Mind Games. The prospect intentionally answers questions in a misleading way in order to make things more difficult for you. Pick your best strategy:
  1. Say: "I sense that we're not really making a connection. Can you help me out by telling me the best way to sell to you?"
  2. Say: "Clearly, this is not working out. Perhaps it would be better if I spent my time working with somebody who values my time."
  3. Say: "I know a doctor who's really good at removing giant insects from small dark places."
SCENARIO #7: Bigoted Statements. You attend a meeting where you're the only male at the table. The client manager walks into the room and says: 'This could have been so much nicer if it was all women." Pick your best strategy:
  1. Do nothing. The mere fact that the remark was said, and remained unquestioned in the room, shows that in that group the remark was socially acceptable.
  2. Take it as a lighthearted jest. Chuckle and agree that it's odd for you to be the only male at the table.
  3. Quote James Thurber: "Deep in the pit of feeling, the female lies bedecked, until man arrives revealing the light of intellect."
SCENARIO #8: Insensitive Remarks. A prospect notices that a nasty scar on your neck from recent surgery for a thyroid problem and says: 'What happened to you, did you try and hang yourself?'" Pick your best strategy:
  1. Explain that you just had neck surgery and let the matter drop.
  2. Stare at the customer quietly for five seconds without expression, then pointedly change the subject.
  3. Say: "Actually, yes, I did try to hang myself... right after I found out I was going to have to meet with you."
SCENARIO #9: Physical Violence. A client becomes angry at waiting and physically throws a small object that bounces off your head and lands on the floor. Pick your best strategy:
  1. Take the high road and ignore the behavior, since it is so completely childish.
  2. Say: "Excuse me while I call the police, since you have just assaulted me."
  3. Yell: "Say hello to my little friend!" Then bean him with a stapler.
SCENARIO #10: Unnecessary Crudeness. Your prospect keeps passing gas, quite audibly. He doesn't even bother to say 'excuse me'." Pick your best strategy:
  1. Do nothing. Focus on what's important, which is making the sale.
  2. Say: "My legs feel a little cramped. Do you mind if we continued this discussion while we're walking somewhere?"
  3. Say: "Hand me that cigarette lighter, 'cause I know a little trick that's lots of fun!"
100 points for every time you picked "3". If you scored 1000 or more, you're probably not going to be too successful in a sales career.


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