During the final session of a multi-session sales training program one of the participants – let’s call her Carol – commented that “I feel much more confident now” (as a result of the training).
I then asked Carol how that feeling of confidence has impacted her in her role as a Sales Representative. She said, “For the first time ever I disagreed with a customer last week”.
She was too scared to disagree
Carol went on to explain that previously she had always been too scared to stand her ground and disagree with a customer (even after two years in the role). However now – as a result of the way we had explored topics during previous training sessions – she felt more empowered to explore new situations and stand firm on certain principles.
The situation in question was relating to the client being charged freight for deliveries to their remote location. And when confronted with the client claiming “We shouldn’t have to pay freight!”, Carol was able to calmly state her position that freight to that location should in fact be expected (as it always has been).
Carol was particularly thrilled to find the customer was happy with her reply and the conversation continued on in an amicable manner.
You see, Carol had always been concerned that if she disagreed with her client it would create ill-feelings, and that would damage the relationship, and possibly cost her sales.
Being in a company with a strong customer service ethic made it more difficult for Carol to ‘stand up for herself’.
But here’s the main point … to be successful you have to stand for something
If you don’t have a consistent point of view, or if you don’t stick to your initial values (or point of view), clients can easily lose faith in you. You may appear to be wishy-washy, and too eager to please the client. Clients may start to wonder if you can deliver what you say, because you seem to flip-flop on issues. You may appear to be unreliable or uncertain. You may be scared of giving an honest response.
You don’t need to be arrogant
I’m not advocating that you become arrogant or inflexible. You certainly don’t want to annoy clients or appear insensitive to their needs. But you do need to stand firm on some issues. You have to demonstrate confidence and solid values.
Now, this doesn’t mean that every client will love you for it. In some cases you might find the client either does not agree with you, or finds your position objectionable. That’s okay. You need to learn how to tactfully discuss these delicate issues.
As Carol found, disagreeing with a client doesn’t automatically mean they will be offended. In fact sometimes it can be the foundation for an enhanced level of mutual respect.
And many clients rely on their providers/suppliers to give them contrary viewpoints that enable them to keep a fresh eye over their own operations.
There can be great value in disagreeing with clients.