How To Deal With Difficult Prospects

How do we sell to people who we would describe as ‘difficult’? Have you had those occasions when you just think, ‘What have I done to deserve this prospect?’

We all have difficult clients sometimes. We don’t understand them; we can’t connect with them; they make us uncomfortable. We know, though, that we have to deal with these types, because if we switch off, we probably won’t see the opportunities that could be in front of us, if only we had the patience to adjust our thinking.

Why do we find other people difficult? And what do they think of us?

It’s very easy to blame the other person for the problems you face with them. But also take on board the fact that they might be finding it difficult dealing with us. Had you thought of it that way?  And if they feel that way, they’ll take their business to someone else. They’ll buy from someone…the question is, who?

We may want the other person to change, and beg them inside to be more like us. But they may be thinking the same thing, wanting us to change to be like them.

Often it’s simply a matter of pacing. By that I mean identifying how the person is taking in information, and matching that speed.

For example, it’s possible that a prospect needs time to think things through when you’re talking to them. They need the opportunity to consider the implications of what you’ve just said. So they remain thoughtful, mulling it over, and being silent.

You see this as ‘being difficult’, as you rarely let any silence fill the air while you’re around! You like to keep the conversation flowing and anyone who stops is irritating, slow and cumbersome.

But they may see you as flashy, too fast and too pushy. They think you’re trying to force them to adopt a position they don’t want to take.

Selling to difficult people works best when we step back and let them set the stage for our sales call. Follow their pace. Give them information in the way they best understand Speak to their needs. When we start where they are it is more likely we will lead them to the sale.

Of course, we like people to be just like us. But that will never be. Try to see the situation and their problems from their perspective. If they need to analyse and navel-gaze, identify this as a particular trait of theirs and give them time. That ten-second silence will feel like an hour, but it will serve you well if you go at the pace they think.

If they happen to be a fast speaker, and you like to think things through, don’t let that intimidate you. Instead, let them have their say and recap on what they say as you think of how to solve their problems and deal with their current situation.

The easiest customers to be with are people like us. Selling to someone not like us is harder. We have to choose how to approach them.

Take time to analyse which customers you find the most difficult to deal with. Design a script in your mind that will help you fully prepare for the next meeting with them. Rehearse in your mind so it will give you confidence in dealing with them.

That way, any difficulties you face will be quietly put to bed, as you recognise that everyone has their own way of dealing with situations. Adapting to their style, without losing your credibility, helps you to face different and sometimes difficult situations with confidence and assertiveness.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat
Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image by Stuart Miles at

Is The Customer Always Right?

Many service organisations live by the creed that the customer is always right. It works well when you need to convince salespeople that their business’s purpose is to achieve high margins and loyal customers.

Much is stated about keeping the customer happy. But are there times where this ethos actually harms businesses? Are there situations where the customer actually isn’t right?

Well, yes, there are. It’s how you deal with them that will make the difference. Here are some examples where the customer may well be wrong:

When They Are Ill-Informed

The customer at times might be ignorant or lack knowledge of what your policies might be. This could be due to a misunderstanding or simply that think they know what is correct but they don’t.

In these situations, be as polite as possible without being patronising. The customer may be unaware of the policies you follow, so you need to educate them assertively without it being seen as embarrassing or compromising.

When They Are Greedy

There’s a difference between negotiating for a good deal and being greedy. Your customer doesn’t know what your margins are, nor what you need to achieve to cover your overheads. They may see the situation from the angle that you need the sale more than they need your product, so you can give that little extra, can’t you?

Well, it may be that you could, but the long-term relationship may suffer if you can’t afford to service the client’s needs after the sale.

When They Want Something That Wouldn’t Be Good For Their Future

Often, customers will think they know what will be good for their business. But your knowledge of how others have used your products and services, and improved their businesses when doing so, may well take the conversation onto a different plain.

Here, you can share ideas with the prospect on how their business could be even better if they followed your suggestions. Highlight how your history has benefitted other companies and got them great results. When you have created trust and rapport, you can then build on what you could do with them if they followed your advice.

These ideas have worked in the past, so allow them to drive your decision-making. The customer may well be right, but under some circumstances, those truths may be stretched.

Before I sign off, here are some more tips on becoming a great sales person:

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

(Image by Stuart Miles at