Sales Skills

by Jeremy Cassell and Tom Bird

Managing difficulties

In most long-term relationships, sales included, problems or difficulties occur. It’s just a fact of life. Difficulties in sales relationships include

Even the best of friends face conflicts, but that needn’t mean the end of the relationship.

  • Late delivery to a customer
  • Having a particularly aggressive negotiation over terms
  • Giving the customer incorrect information by mistake
  • Not following through on a commitment.

While we all do what we can to avoid difficulties occurring, what separates brilliant salespeople from the rest is how they respond to and manage difficulties when these, inevitably, arise. A difficulty can be defined as anything that can disrupt the relationship. In itself, it could be a small thing – something that is not, on its own, enough to create a big problem. The trouble is that if you ignore enough of the small things by brushing them under the carpet or giving a response to the customer which does not truly satisfy them, then the next ‘small’ thing could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

These small, individual difficulties are called pinches. The danger is that any one of these small difficulties might not seem too important and indeed, in isolation, it may not be. But if you ignore the pinches, then, over time, each pinch builds up on top of the others, which can seriously damage the relationship. This could end in ‘crunch’ time. So it’s important to manage relationships proactively and in a timely way.

Be honest

One thing that can hold us back from ‘having the difficult conversation’ is that we do not know how to approach the conversation and we are fearful of the possible reaction. It is best, however, to address difficulties honestly when they occur. You can always say something like

‘I have just realised that I gave you some information that was incorrect and, because our relationship with you is important, I wanted to put it right.’

‘As I think back to our negotiation last week I am concerned that I might have been too aggressive and I want to talk about it so that it does not negatively impact our relationship.’

There is no substitute for being honest!