Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

How to Deal With Trying Customers

Every once in a while, you'll meet difficult customers. Question is, are you prepared to take them on?

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Have you ever run into a tough customer? Of course you have;they come with the territory. But what many salespeople don'trealize is that tough customers tend to fall into four maincategories-and the sooner you learn to recognize these types, themore likely you'll be able to deal with them successfully.

  • The Know-It-All: What do know-it-alls value most?Someone who makes them feel important by asking questions thatacknowledge their experience and qualifications. You might say"You've been in this business a long time. Tell me how thebusiness has changed over the years. What's the greatestchallenge you face now?" That way, you can get lots ofvaluable information while making them feel appreciated. You'llalso be able to offer an intelligent solution that makes sense tothem.
  • The Silent Type: These shy and reserved customers feeluncomfortable opening up to strangers. Use some common ground tobreak the ice and help them let their guard down. Get moreinformation out of them by using phrases such as "Can youexpand on that?" or "What do you mean?" Ask thesecustomers some open-ended questions, then be quiet and let them dothe talking. You could also say "If we had to present this toothers in your company, what would you suggest we do?" Whenthey're actively involved, they'll open up more.
  • The Indecisive Prospect: When customers are wishy-washy,take a more direct approach. Do some research so you can say"I've been thinking about your concerns and doing somehomework. What if we went this way as our next step?" Manytimes, these customers need someone to hold their hand during theprocess and make the decision for them. You can also share customertestimonials with them. When they see that other people have puttheir trust in you, they will, too.
  • The Greedy Customer: These are people-sometimes longtimecustomers-who try to take advantage of your business relationshipby demanding that you cut your prices or add more services withoutincreasing your rates. Try saying something like "We will, asalways, give you a fair price and the service we've promised.But we have a business just like you do, and, for us to remain inbusiness, we have to stay within this price range. I'm sure youcan understand." Don't be afraid to stand your ground.Remind them how your product or service adds value to theircompany. If they still don't see the value you offer, perhapsit's time to end the relationship.

What's the best advice for dealing with tough customers? Putyourself in their shoes. Be sure to listen to their concernswithout interruption. Don't argue with them or get angry orfrustrated. Get as much information as you can to understand eachcustomer as an individual, and then adjust your selling techniquesto each situation accordingly. It's the only way to turn toughcustomers into your best customers.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks