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Closing the Deal on the Go: What to Do When Dealing With Difficult Clients

January 18, 2010

As a sales person you have to work with all your clients. Some you will enjoy doing business with. Others will prove to be a challenge. Of these more difficult clients, there will be several types, each bringing with them their own challenges that will require their own solutions. However, when dealing with any of these more challenging clients, it will always help if you have researched them thoroughly and are prepared to listen.

(To protect the innocent I will use the name Bob to refer to all my hypothetical, difficult clients).

Agreeable, But Not Willing to Buy

Here Bob either cannot or will not say no. Instead, he will always tell you yes, but, in the end, never sign anything. Ultimately, you need to call Bob’s bluff. Acknowledge that he likes you, your product, and company, but that you have not been getting his business. (Do not say that he is not giving it to you!) Suggest there is a mix up (not a mistake) due to someone (who is not him). Then let him know you are there to help. At this point he may say why he will not or has not been buying from you, or he may duck the issue. If the latter is the case, confront him without being confrontational.


When Bob is angry, he may be difficult to deal with on a personal level because he may make you feel as if you are under attack, causing you to instinctively want to fight back, shift the blame, or leave. Instead you should let Bob vent, be sympathetic without being insincere or accepting or placing blame, and, when the time is appropriate, try to rectify the problem. If necessary, work to negotiate a solution with Bob. Bring up areas of agreement, suggest a step by step plan, and follow through on what is settled upon.


Now Bob is being difficult to deal with professionally, just as when Bob is angry he may be difficult to deal with personally. Nothing you say seems to interest him. If he is a qualified prospect, he may be using his apathy as a strategy. If he is not qualified, he may also be implementing a strategy, or not have the budget. He may want you to court him. He may not, but let you anyway. Another possibility is that his apathy is real. Regardless, it is best to open him up with lead-in and open-ended questions. If this does not work, it may be best to just be direct and ask if you are boring him, and how you can excite him about what you have to offer. You will know you have broken through when he can offer a specific objection.


If Bob is insecure and afraid of rocking the boat, he will likely be concerned about reliability and that he is in fact making the right decision buying what you have to offer. Here you must build his confidence. Provide him with facts. Play down novelty. Stress benefits. Present him with testimonials. Show that what you are offering is becoming an industry standard and that there may be negative consequences for not buying. But be sure not to come off as a bully. Go slow with him. Let him ask questions, then probe for information, then present your product or service’s benefits in conservative terms, closing for agreement after presenting each one, then using an assumptive close at the end.

Chronic Complaining

Like a whining child, a chronic complainer such as Bob wants attention and his own way, but unfortunately, unlike a whining child, he cannot be sent to his room. Now, sometimes Bob may have a legitimate complaint, and therefore you must look into each one he makes. But if his complaint turns out to be unreasonable, you should listen carefully, being sure not to let him repeatedly go over the same ground, respond with neutral comments, and draw a line, reminding him of what you can and cannot do. But, again, be sure to investigate each complaint.


Bob may lack confidence in his ability to make good decisions. If so, he needs your reassurance and support. To better prepare him to make a decision, ask him questions throughout, requiring him to answer positively, and helping him build a logical case for his final decision (buying your product or service). Be sure to give him reassurance, facts, testimonials, details etc., and inform him of the consequences of inaction.


Today you’re Bob’s first choice! Tomorrow, you’re not even in his top ten. If you press for a reason, he becomes hostile. To cope with Bob, focus on what seems to interest him. Show how what you have to offer can be beneficial to him and solve his problems. If he goes off on a tangent, act friendly and interested, then gently lead him back on track, offering encouragement, reassurance, and positive feedback, as well as samples and demos if possible.


Bob’s not angry, just insecure, secretive and rude. When you’re probing, he may think you’re snooping. He may not think you are genuine or worthy of his trust. To prove yourself to him, do your homework. Find out as much about Bob and his company as you can. When he vents, wait for him to settle down. If he becomes abusive, calmly tell him he crossed a line, or walk out.

Self Important/Egotistical

Here Bob expresses his insecurity with self-centeredness, making him unusually assertive, critical, and hard to reach with a sales message. Bob feels superior to you, but needs your constant attention, praise, and awe. To break through his defenses, ask for his opinions and angle your presentation as information for his evaluation. Also, be sure to compliment him and let him impress you.


In this situation Bob will talk about anything and everything, except what he needs from you. Therefore you must get him involved in your presentation with visuals, samples, and demos. (I felt it was best not to come off as too talkative in this one).


Sometimes Bob can and will try to prove who is boss by demanding you to do something or suffer negative consequences if you refuse. However, even if you give in to his orders, there will still be negative consequences: you will lose his respect and encounter even more unreasonable demands in the future. To respond to Bob, you should show respect and understanding, but be honest, making sure he understands what you can and cannot do, and why. Do not make exceptions or lead him to think that you can. If necessary, suggest a coffee break, restate what you can do, and resell Bob on yourself, your offering, and your company.

This post is based on material originally published in Closing the Deal.

For more information on Closing the Deal, check it out on Amazon.

(Burghgraef, Richard. Closing the Deal: Hot Sales Strategies that Make Money. Encouragement Press. Illinois: Chicago. 2007)

Closing the Deal on the Go: Clarifying Your Cold Calling Objectives

November 23, 2009

When you begin cold calling, do you know your objective? Is it to prequalify a prospect? Make an appointment? Close a sale? The more complex your product or service, and the larger the account, the more likely your goal is to prequalify than sell.  Here are some questions to ask yourself before you make your cold call:

  1. How Cold Is Cold? Totally cold means you know nothing about the person you are calling or the account you are trying to get. Warm means you did a little pre-call research, perhaps by talking to contacts, looking at brochures, checking out the company website, reading the company blog, becoming a fan on Facebook, following the company or its decision makers on Twitter, or gathering information through any number of other sources. Even warmer would be if you were following up on a company lead.
  2. What Are You After? You should view cold calls as a means to gather information, not make a sale.
  3. Who Is Your Target? Corporate giants are usually a waste of time to call completely cold unless you are following up on a corporate lead or a tip from a trusted source. Smaller companies are typically better targets for such calls, at least partly because their decision makers tend to be more identifiable and accessible.
  4. What Should I Bring? Only a briefcase. You will look professional and non-threatening. Brining more than that may make you appear as if you plan to muscle your way in and hold someone hostage in a long meeting.
  5. What Is You Story? You don’t have one. Be honest. You don’t have an appointment, but you feel you may have something of value.
  6. How Long Should I Stay? If you get in, your prospect will likely say how much time they have. Respect those parameters. Stay within them. Preferably, keep it shorter.

This post is based on material originally published in Closing the Deal.

For more information on Closing the Deal, check it out on Amazon.

(Burghgraef, Richard. Closing the Deal: Hot Sales Strategies that Make Money. Encouragement Press. Illinois: Chicago. 2007)

As the time limit nears, qualify your prospect, and if appropriate, close for a future appointment. If you feel the prospect is hot, and only if you feel the prospect is hot, you may want to acknowledge the time limit is up, then see if they are willing to continue with the discussion. If not, then try to close for a future appointment.