Say the Tough Things and Ask the Hard Questions
Nothing sets bad precedents more than not setting the record straight when it needs to be. A lot of people feel it’s imperative to never inject a negative in any way and that is one train of thought. But nothing will send a locomotive out of control like not setting the record straight with one of your customers when it needs to be. Believe me as tough as it is, this is an art form and there are ways to do it. Nobody is perfect and everybody makes mistakes on both sides. When you make one, own it, admit to it and make no excuse for it.
When one of your customers or accounts takes a direction or implements something detrimental to your company’s performance or growth potential. You have to set the record straight. 1st rule to remember is never do it in email. Email gives buyers a tremendous amount of keyboard courage and you will not get the result you are looking for. Rule number two, simply do it in person or on the phone. They need to see & hear your sincerity.
You don’t need to rub salt in the wound if something has gone south. But you also can’t empower your customer by never telling them when they have made a mistake. If you become a perennial yes person (you know the type that tells the customer anything they want to hear just to make them happy) you will never have any ground to stand on when you need them to see things your way. If you have always given them the answer they want to hear and not the truth no matter how hard it is to say, when you inevitably have to deliver bad news, your small obstacle is now the size of Empire State Building. They can’t always be right about everything and they can’t always get everything they want. But you can be 100% sure if you let them believe that, they will be the most difficult to satisfy account that you service.
I have accounts that are an absolute pleasure to work with. I also have accounts that challenge me every day, have a persecution complex, and I can do no right with. Believe it or not both of these are equally as important when it comes to saying the tough things and asking the hard questions. It applies across all types of accounts and needs to be something as ingrained in your personality as it is speak confidently.
There are ways to deliver tough news, bad news and even terrible news & come out of the conversation not only feeling better about it, but actually feeling pretty darn good. In fact I can tell you from personal experience I’ve felt a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, as profound as any big deal I’ve ever closed, after I’ve dealt a piece of difficult news and things got worked out. Now that doesn’t make me look forward to these situations (kind of like looking forward to a visit with your dentist) but it does empower you, gives you a sense of confidence that there is no obstacle too big or too tough to tackle. In the end your customers will appreciate that you are a straight shooter and you don’t just tell them what they want to hear. It’s genuine and there’s nothing worse than working with fake people. Customers can sense it, and they can spot it a mile away.
This also relates to questions. Yes this means ask the questions you might be afraid to hear the answers to. The only way you can fix things or correct a course that’s quickly derailing is by knowing what’s wrong. I know I know, you’re probably thinking of that age old sales law of never ask a question that can be answered with a no. The truth of the matter is that is not the world we live in today and it no longer applies. If a buyer is going to say no trust me, they will say it one way or the other regardless. So in the end, you need to set good precedents by speaking the truth, asking the hard questions and acting on the things you can, to show your customers you are a person of action and not just “Yes person”