Bad news isn’t wine. It does not improve with age.
Sometimes in sales, you have to give bad news to customers. While this is never easy, a little preparation goes a long way to helping you get the job done. Start by gathering all the facts and preparing yourself emotionally. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and figure out how you would feel when delivered this bad news?
Here is a basic process to follow when delivering bad news:
- Define the situation: What must you communicate? How does this situation impact the customer? Do you need to provide all the background information? Where a strong emotional reaction is expected from the customer, providing reasons may only serve to fuel that reaction.
- Emphasize the positive points: Once you have presented the situation, are there positive points that you can emphasize to the customer? What will not change? Be honest with the customer to remind him/her what will not change in this situation.
- Be prepared to accept the customer’s initial reaction: Try to predict the customer’s reaction. How would you feel in this situation?
- Responding to the reaction: Prepare a possible conversation on what the buyer will probably say. Prepare your response. Restate positive points, if there are any.
- Express your expectations: How do you expect this situation to be resolved? Are your requirements negotiable? If “yes” then what is negotiable? What action, including deadlines, must be performed by this person and what is the deadline?
- Restate the basic agreement with a timeline: Confirm in writing and be specific.
- Follow-up action: Negotiate the best time for a follow-up meeting or phone call.
Delivering bad news is never easy, but a little preparation might help ease the pain (yours and theirs).
John Bradley Jackson
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