Being prepared to deliver the news in a professional manner is the mark of a good salesperson. In a business-to-business selling environment, delivering bad news should be done with an eye on protecting the relationship you have carefully built with the customer. The two key elements in building trust with a buyer are to be adaptive and responsive and this is truly put to the test in handling problems.
Business decision-makers are most concerned with a salesperson’s post-sales behavior, and problem responsiveness is the most important behavior they look for in awarding trust.
1. Expeditious information
If you really want to infuriate your buyer, let them find out the bad news from someone besides you (especially if they find out from someone in their own organization). When you contact the buyer to share the news, demonstrate your courage and integrity by cutting straight to the chase. Make sure to have a prepared list of information in front of you detailing the problem, because your buyer will have lots of questions…and expects answers quickly.
If there was ever “one truth” about buyers, it is that they love options; give them as many options as possible. Before you make that dreaded call, come up with a prepared list of options that your boss has approved. Despite the fact that something terrible has happened, it shows that you are working hard on their business and trying to fix the situation, instead of leaving them to dangle in the wind.
3. Know why the problem occurred and the steps taken to assure that it won’t happen again
Show the buyer that your company has taken steps to ensure the mistake won’t be repeated in the future. Also, make it clear that you’ve thought through the situation. Explain your solution. Show that your firm is doing its best to minimize the impact to the buyer. Waive or delay buyer costs when possible; obtain cost breaks, if applicable. Provide suggestions about how to “position” this news to others in the organization.
4. Sincere apology and a request for clemency
Say you’re sorry, and then hush. Don’t elaborate further; give the buyer time to absorb the sincerity of your statement. Lastly, close the conversation by asking the buyer for his ongoing support.
“Jim, I’d like to know if I can count on you to accept my apology and continue to work with me to keep our business relationship moving forward”
Then, zip your lip. As difficult as it is, do not speak until the buyer digests what you’ve said and voices a response.
Why does it matter how you deliver bad news? When you do it the right way, the buyer eventually reaches a point where it’s difficult to continue seething.
What Buyers Want in a tough situation are honesty and a sales person with the integrity to deal with problems head on. With the additional focus on being adaptive and responsive, these tips always work well for the trusted business-to-business seller.
By John Benson