Selling To The 5 Types of Challenging Customers


Did you ever have that one customer? You know the one that I mean. When their name appears you know that it’s going to take a little extra time, you force a smile on your face and brace yourself for something that would otherwise be a simple issue for any other customer. Let’s face it, at the end of the day we are happy to have the sale, but why does this one make you work harder than all of the other ones? 


One of the main issues with challenging customers is that they are not all the same and cannot be treated the same. Many salespeople are like hammers always looking for a nail. We don’t know what to do when we encounter a screw, bolt, or staple. Sure, they sort of look like a nail in some ways, but when you hit them with your sales hammer they just bend and break instead of going into the wood. The agile salesperson always keeps a screwdriver, staple gun, and wrench nearby just in case. Here are the 5 different types of challenging customers and how best to work with them.

  1. Needy – Some customers just need a little extra time and care. They take comfort in the relationship that they have (or are developing) with their salesperson. Give them the assurance they need in your relationship, but help them to develop trust with you over time to shorten their buying cycle. Do this by asking them enough questions to demonstrate that you understand their need.
  2. Indecisive – Some people just can’t seem to make up their minds and, if you give them too many options, they might just bust a mental spring. These types of customers often operate unknowingly out of fear. The best way to help these types of customers is to give them limited options and create reasonable deadlines for making decisions.
  3. Curious – These customers are your tire kickers. They can spend more time thinking than buying. They are always on the hunt for more information, sometimes without any intention of buying. They can have you spending a lot of time preparing quotes but never really having a true intention of making a sale. Set the expectation up front with them by asking them how important this issue is, what their buying decision criteria are, and when they plan to make their final decision.
  4. Confused – These customers are struggling to connect the dots. Perhaps they don’t speak your lingo or maybe what you are offering them is overly complicated. Sometimes this confusion can appear as anger when it is expressed in an email. Respectfully, some customers have to be talked to like a 5-year-old not that they are unintelligent, but they are just operating on a different wavelength. Make sure you slow things down and try not to spend much time proving how smart you are by using too much industry speak. 
  5. Angry – A customer has either verbally expressed that they are upset or you can clearly detect it in their tone. Be careful jumping to this conclusion based on email threads as they do not accurately depict emotions. If you do encounter an angry customer, use the intensity reduction method. Acknowledge the issue, demonstrate that you understand the problem, embrace the challenge, and take ownership of the solution.

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