The customer’s always right... Right? That’s great in theory, but it’s not always feasible in practice. Promises made and unkept are worse than promises not made. But not making the unreasonable promises of an angry client or prospect can seem like the makings of a fight!
That’s where Sandler Rule 28 comes in: When under attack, fall back. Falling back can be very appropriate when you’re trying to cool a heated situation.
If a customer is upset with your projected timeline, for example, falling back would look like this:
“Help me understand. If we’re not able to make this shipment within 3 months, we’re probably going to lose you as a customer. Knowing that’s the case, what would you do if you were me?”
It’s hard to stay angry at that. It gets everyone to a more okay place, and it gives the other person an opportunity to give you a suggestion they would be comfortable with.
One of my clients had a meeting scheduled with two team members from another company, to see if it made sense for them to do business together. Their Up-Front Contract stated that only those two team members would be present, but the CEO had other plans.
While the CEO wasn’t initially invited, he had a pretty dominant personality and decided he should attend. So he did. The CEO was very uncomfortable with the industry that my client works in-distrustful, even-but he kept asking technical questions during the meeting.
The answers to those questions required my client to use some industry jargon, and it didn’t go over well. The CEO accused my client of using a lot of words but not saying anything. My client was angry, but didn’t want to lose the rapport he’d already built with the other two team members.
At this point, my client knew he needed to fall back. He told the CEO, “I don’t have a horse in this game. If we aren’t a good fit for you, that’s really okay. I’m happy to explain the technical side to you, but if you don’t want me to, that’s okay.”
The CEO left early. But the other two team members actually tried to sell my client on how he wouldn’t have to deal with the CEO! They still wanted to do business with my client.
When you’re trying to get your needs met, instead of falling back, it’s easy to get defensive and lose bonding and rapport.
But my client wasn’t trying to get his needs met at the expense of this other company. Because he didn’t fight back when the CEO wanted him to, he was able to maintain bonding and rapport with the other two people in the meeting.
Instead of fighting back when you feel under attack, try to make the other person feel okay. You’ll be surprised at what doors will remain open.
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