How To Deal With Difficult Prospects

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

man fold his armsHow 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

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 22 January, 2014

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