Published 18. Nov. 2019

How To Close Tough C-Suites

Tough clients are an unavoidable part of sales, but with the right strategy, you can turn difficult prospects into profitable deals.
Face To Face

Regardless of your sales experience and skills, you will occasionally encounter a difficult client during your career. Maybe they’re being dismissive towards you, or are countering every single point of your sales pitch, or are just being outright rude or aggressive. Either way, these important C-suite face-to-face meetings may seem to be ‘no sales’ to you.

But that’s not necessarily so.

While you may not be able to control the decision makers’ responses and attitude, you can take steps to steer the meeting to a more productive direction and increase your chances of sealing the deal.


4 Effective Steps To Closing Difficult Prospects

1. Don’t Take It Personally

“It is important never to take offense or be off-put by an engagement with a client. It’s not personal and, in reality, it’s likely that this behavior has nothing to do with your exchange.” –  Aven Hauser, Director of Business Development at Hanszen Laporte.


Advisory articles on managing tough clients usually note this step further down the list, but we at Management Events believe that you should always start a meeting with the right mentality.

Before meeting with your client, get yourself into the sales mindset. Now, a sales mindset is not just about getting that deal – it’s much more than that!

It’s about keeping a positive, calm and confident attitude throughout the session, and having a clear intent on why you are there, which is to help with the client’s pain points. Starting your C-suite meeting with this mentality can greatly help you to stay neutral and composed if the client becomes difficult.

So when encountering a tough decision maker, just remember that difficult clients are a part of sales, or you can use Marc Wayshak’s strategy and think of sales as a sport and the client as an opponent who’s also trying to win the game.


Put it in practice: Stay unfazed if a prospect starts to become domineering, and resist the urge to fast-forward through your meeting or being submissive to the client’s demands. Instead, stand your ground and stick to your sales approach.


2. Understand Their Problems

“Everyone has their own lens they look through to assess why they are being apprehensive. Try prying at that and asking why, rather than defending the product.” – Joel Goldstein, President of Mr. Checkout Distributors.


Similar to setting your mindset, you should also ready yourself with the facts and details of your clients’ needs and requirements. The fastest way to turn a potential prospect into a difficult one is to come to the meeting unprepared, thus wasting both their time and yours.

In the case where the client is disinterested or distracted at the start of the conversation, it’s futile to continue pitching your solution. Instead, don’t be afraid to ask the root of their frustration. Maybe they’re short on time, or maybe they don’t believe your solution can really help with their pain points and that you’re just in it for the sale.

In any case, once you understand the cause of the problem, you are then able to discard the mental picture of them as a challenging client, and handle the difficult prospect with patience and empathy.


Put it in practice: We know that you’d want to talk extensively about your solutions. However, getting the client to talk about their business problems and engaging in active listening can help you to break through the hostility, and also gain valuable insights into their key challenges.


3. Maintain Control

“When you learn how to embrace the most difficult customers, you immediately open up a pool of potential purchasers that your competition won’t/can’t handle.” – Jeff Shore, author of Dealing with Challenging Customers in Sales


Allowing a tough client to sense that you’re nervous can lead to them pushing you around and even hijacking the meeting. The session will then become either fruitless and unproductive to both parties or highly advantageous to them alone.

If the conversation is steering away from the main focus, assume control over the meeting and actively guide the stakeholder back through the sales process. Get them to talk about their business challenges and objectives, then lead them to their solution requirements and how your products or services can help with their key problems.

Price discussion is another area where you need to take control during your face-to-face meetings. Some salespeople tend to avoid creating any sort of tension, allowing the more demanding clients to take over the price negotiations. When this occurs, re-align the focus on the long-term value that your solutions are bringing to their business, instead of the price.


Put it in practice: Always stay one step ahead of your prospects and maximize your minutes by maintaining a constructive flow of the conversation. If they appear uninterested, switch your role from a seller to an educator.


4. Balance Professionalism And Firmness

“Dealing with difficult prospects is a fact of sales life. If you’re average, you’ll fall prey to emotion. If you’re great, you’ll realize the opportunity and raise your game.” – Dan Tyre, Director of Sales at Hubspot.


It’s normal to want to position yourself as an expert or be seen as more knowledgeable than the client. However, fighting for dominance in a sales meeting can either lose you a potential prospect or result in a stalemate where no decisions are made.

When you are faced with a difficult client, never get caught up in their aggressiveness or seek to retaliate in the same manner. Instead, match their tone in terms of strength to hold their attention, but keep it calm, firm and confident. Stay professional and focus on the end objective of your meeting.

Avoid statements that start with “No offense”, “Do you know..” or “Actually” as these statements can be perceived as power moves and undermining your prospects. Alternatively, share information in an objective manner and connect it to your client’s business, such as “I heard that edge computing will overtake cloud in the next 5 years. Will this impact your organization’s processes?”


Put it in practice: Refrain from power struggles and establishing dominance. Hold the meeting in an impartial manner as though you are sharing facts or exchanging thoughts, rather than having an argument.


No matter how challenging or intimidating a decision maker is, you are still dealing with a person. There are reasonable explanations behind their brusque actions, which are rarely connected to you personally. You just have to keep in mind that it is the situation that is difficult, not the client, and take strategic steps to shift the conversation to your favor.

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