How do you Handle a Customer Dying?


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This was a question that I was faced with today.
An old customer of mine, a man I had done business with for 2 years, a man I could call just because I like talking to him, died last Friday.
I called him on his office number, no answer.
I called a little later, still no answer.
At the end of the day, I called again, a colleague answered the phone, she asked for what reason I was calling.

I told her who I was and why I wanted to talk to Finn Otto (the name of my customer).
She told me he had a heart attack last Friday and was buried today.

I was stunned; I had no idea what to say in response.

How do you respond?
Since the conversation I have been thinking about how you should react? What should you say in that situation?
I don’t think there is an answer.

Be honest
When I heard Finn Otto had died I was shocked and sad. I didn’t try to hide it, I asked what had happened and I am sure my sadness could be heard in my voice.

She told me that from nowhere he had gotten a massive heart attack.

I tried to rap my head around it and come up with something to say. I think I sputtered out a “my condolences…”.

She then asked me why I was calling and I explained my business and what I and Finn Otto had discussed over the past 2 years (in very brief terms). It was hard to explain since my mind was in a completely different place.

Your natural reaction is the right one
I spoke to one of my colleagues after the phone call and asked her what she thought I should have said. She told me that her earlier employer had taught her to give her condolences and then ask for the person that is taking over the deceased responsibilities.

I think this is a very shallow response and will only serve to show how little you really care about your customers.

I think you should let your sadness show through. Let them hear that you cared for more than there money (if you did).

It turned out that the person I was talking to is probably the person that will be my new contact, we scheduled an appointment in about a month when things have calmed down a little.

Remember, we are people even though we are salesmen.
Let your customers see that. It is my philosophy. My customers aren’t only customers, they are friends. Of course I am sad when they die and their colleagues should know that I care.

How would You have handled it and what do You say in that kind of situation?

Photo Credit: aLindquist

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Daniel Wood
Looking To Business
I have worked in the sales industry for the past 6 years. I always strive to improve and have worked my way up from junior account manager to key account manager and on to office manager for our companies first office abroad.


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