Every so often, even if a salesperson’s product or service and company are the best, salespeople have to deal with upset customers. An upset customer may contact a salesperson for a number of reasons such as a late delivery, the wrong product shipped, a back order, a bad part or someone “dropped the ball” in your company. “Making things right” is traditionally attempted by trying to explain to the customer why “things went wrong”. Does it really help to tell the customer that the reason the delivery was late was that one of the suppliers delivered raw materials late? Although it is a very traditional approach, it is not usually the best way to diffuse the situation when trying to “make things right”.
Sandler Training practice’s a method called a “mental enema” with an upset customer. It has the effect of giving the prospect an opportunity to “get things off their chest”. Once that is done, it is usually easier to deal with the prospect and come up with a solution to “making things right”. For example, let’s say the customer is upset because of a late delivery. Instead of saying, “It is late because one of our suppliers for the raw materials had a quality problem and it took longer to get good parts than expected”. You should say, “I get the feeling you are upset and rightfully so”, at that point expect the prospect to “dump”! Remember the Sandler Rule that “Yesterday’s Dump is Tomorrow’s Ice Cream” as they are dumping! Meaning, although they may be complaining at that moment, we can usually “make something good” out of the situation. By facilitating the “dump” we validate their feelings. For example, while the customer is telling you how frustrated they are, you can reply with, “I do not blame you for being frustrated, if this happened to me, I would be frustrated as well”. After sharing how they feel, they will usually become more understanding, at which point you may ask them, “How can I make it right?” You may or may NOT be willing to do what they want. If you are not willing to accept their solution then remember they are now more understanding and may agree to an alternative solution. By giving the customer a “mental enema” you can usually make things right more effectively.
This approach is much more effective because it does things for both the prospect and yourself. The best thing a “mental enema” does is to validate the customer’s feelings through listening and agreeing with them. It also brings them to a less emotional and more reasonable and logical state of mind allowing you to now work on solving the problem collaboratively. One problematic outcome to the situation is that the customer may “dump” more than they should given the situation. Whenever you see behavior that does not fit with the circumstances, usually there are several other things that happened and the “late delivery” was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”. When people “dump” and go overboard, they usually realize it soon after. When they do, they will feel guilty about it and that can be a very powerful motivator for the prospect to “make things right with you”!
It may take some guts to use the “mental enema” approach if you have never used it before. Realize that when we try to explain what went wrong, we are going on the defensive. Going on the defensive lends itself to getting emotionally involved. Once someone gets emotionally involved, they have lost control! Again, explaining why it happened does not give you an opportunity to validate the customer’s feelings. It generally does not pay any dividend for that reason and when the customer hangs up the phone, they usually do not have good things to say about you to anyone in their company. Along with using the “mental enema” approach, you should accept responsibility for what went wrong. At least that way, you can tell them you will own the responsibility for making it right and people love it when you do that! It is a much more effective solution than “finger pointing”. Customers are a lot more likely to continue to do business and even do more business when they can count on YOU as opposed to hoping that everyone at your company will do everything right. In the example given, after the “mental enema” and after you have agreed on a solution to the current late delivery, you could say, “In the future, I personally will stay in contact with my suppliers to make sure that this does not happen again”.
People like to deal with salespeople that advocate for them at a business level. At a bonding level they love it when you validate their feelings. The “mental enema” approach is not a traditional approach to sales, so you will not sound like a salesperson using this approach to deal with upset customers. You will however make “Yesterday’s Dump Tomorrow’s Ice Cream”!