I don’t like jerks any more than you do, and still, they exist. Do they even know that they are jerks? Do they even care? Why are there so many of them? Why are some of them trying to be my customer? How do I go about handling difficult customers? To be clear, I am not talking about customers that are angry or mildly difficult to manage, I mean customers that want to walk all over you, show you little respect, and constantly try to take advantage of you. A bully. These customers take an enormous amount of time and emotional energy and too often there isn’t a win/win outcome. They want what they want and they will stop at nothing to get it.
The first problem is that we believe these bully customers are in control and we let them have control because we fear losing the sale. We get caught in their trap of aggressive behavior and must constantly play defense. You’re a people pleaser and you want to make everyone happy. I don’t blame you. But there is a way to change the odds in your favor without stooping to their level. Assuming that you believe this aggressive customer is worth closing the deal with, there are 5 simple things you can do to keep these kinds of customers in check and start doing business on your terms.
- Listen Listen Listen – Sometimes the more we talk the more trouble we cause for ourselves and the same is true for an aggressive customer. Let them wear themselves down and spill their guts. This may take some time and test your patience but these type of people always need to hear themselves talk. Avoid the impulse to react and speak until the moment is right.
- Ask questions – As much as it might pain you, keep the aggressive customer talking by asking questions. This will change them from playing offense to defense. Even questions that allow them to clarify their position keep them responding to your cadence and takes them off their course.
- Normalize their irrationality – You can’t tell a crazy person that they are crazy, but you can win them over by normalizing what they feel is rational. I am not suggesting that you agree with them, but let them know you understand where they are coming from. In other words, tell them that if you were in their shoes, you might see how they arrived at their idea.
- Challenge what they say – You always have a right, if not the duty, to challenge any aggression from a bully customer and you don’t have to be aggressive to do it. Instead of telling them your position, ask them if they have considered the opposing viewpoint. Let them talk through that viewpoint and many times that will start to see things differently and, hopefully, your way.
- Maintain your position – You cannot let aggressive customers bully you into getting their way. They won’t respect and they will have their way with you again. You don’t have to bully them back but tell them confidently and calmly your position and why you have no choice to maintain it. You do risk losing them as a customer, but that might not be such a bad thing. There is a better chance that you will get them to change their behaviors and start doing business on normal terms like the rest of your customers.