6 tips for delivering bad news to customers


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Delivering bad news to customers – not something that makes a salesperson’s day.  But it would be unrealistic to think that it is not part of the job.

Whether it’s the inability to provide the added value promised to a physician, like participating in a clinical trial, or not being able to offer the price discount you mentioned, or the failure to meet that delivery date promised to the VP of Logistics, all salespeople face the delivering bad news challenge.

Regardless of how bad the bad news – part of becoming a top sales performer is learning how to deliver bad news skillfully.

Geoffrey Tumlin addressed this challenge from the perspective of delivering bad news to employees.  We thought Tumlin’s points were applicable to Sales, so we did a little translation and added a couple of additional ideas to compile six tips for sales reps who are faced with the bad news delivery challenge.

  • Be clear and concise. Whatever the bad message, sugarcoating won’t make it easier for the customer to swallow and it might even confuse them.
  • Explain yourself, but not too much. The simpler the better – if you can say it in one sentence that would be great.  Don’t add secondary information or a laundry list of reasons why something bad occurred. It just extends the conversation and more often than not, muddles it.
  • Illustrate that you are on top of the problem.  Explain what you have and will do to minimize the bad news reoccurring.
  • Take responsibility.  Assume personal responsibility for what happened – don’t pass the buck to someone else on the sales or project team. 
  • Remember timeliness matters.  Get to the customer with the bad news as soon as you can – postponing bad news delivery is a bad idea.
  • Document good news.  Don’t forget bad news documents itself – good news doesn’t – so make sure you document good news.

Most customers realize when it comes to purchasing and implementing complex B2B solutions, hiccups happen.  The key for sales reps is to skillfully handle the bad news so that it doesn’t impact long-term customer relationships.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Janet Spirer
For more than 30 years Janet Spirer has worked with the Fortune 1000 to craft sales training programs that make a difference. Working with market leaders Janet has learned that today's great sales force significantly differs from yesterday. So, Sales Momentum offers firms effective sales training programs affordably priced. Janet is the co-author of Parlez-Vous Business, to help sales people have smart business conversations with customers and the Sales Training Connection.


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