By Ryan Taft
Angry Customer
There’s an old saying about sales. “Sales is the perfect business…if people weren’t involved.” Boy, isn’t that the truth?

As I work with sales professionals across the country I hear horror stories of nasty and contentious customers that even the best of the best would want to avoid.

But you know what?

Nasty people are a huge opportunity for you to close more sales.

Think about it. Most people have zero desire to work with someone who is “difficult.” This is especially true in a good market. But I coach my clients to strive to work with these customers. They are virtually an untapped market.

While everyone else is blowing these overbearing customers off, you are there standing in the gap with open arms.

My former sales partner named Sharma was a master at this. I recall a dirty old man coming into our sales office (and by “dirty old man” I mean he was literally covered in dirt).

I didn’t want to deal with him. When we welcomed him into our sales office he snarled at us and said, “I just want to see your models. Can I just do that?”

I turned to Sharma and said, “Why don’t you take this one.” Of course I was secretly laughing on the inside. Well…he turned out to be a cash buyer that day. #jokesonme

If you are looking to close more deals, then anticipate opportunities to work with mean and nasty people. Here are five keys for successfully dealing with them.

#1. Expect the nastiness 

This is the first step toward winning these folks over. When you anticipate the possibility that your customers may be challenging, it won’t phase you when they are! In martial arts, they teach the best way to win a fight is to not get in one in the first place. By having a neutral response versus a defensive reaction, you are more likely to disarm the nasty person.

#2. Improve your curiosity skills

I know this goes against your instinct to run from mean people, but here’s the truth. These people are still people! They’re looking for a solution, they have a problem that needs to be solved. And the more curious you are about them, the more likely they are to engage in a positive way. One caveat here: Be curious about the person, not about what they are looking for.

#3. Find commonality

My former sales partner, Sharma, had a great way about her. She was able to find commonality with just about anyone. I remember her asking, “Where are you from originally?” and “What is the best thing about being from there?” This opened the door to find commonality. Make a commitment to be interested enough in the customer to find that common link. It will pay dividends.

#4. Think empathy instead of judgment

If you are judging someone, there is no way you can have empathy. As Brené Brown says, “Empathy drives connection.” That being the case, judgment would drive disconnection. So, what is empathy? In a nutshell, it is feeling with people. Try to identify what your customer is feeling and think of a time when you felt the same way. This will help you understand your customer on a deeper level.

#5. Go above and beyond

Since every other salesperson is running for the hills and avoiding difficult people, you will do well to not just help them, but to go above and beyond expectation. In fact, the nastier they are, the more you should extend your efforts to serve.

There you have it. Five keys to winning over contentious people. I’m sure you have additional thoughts or experiences with these folks. Feel free to share how you won mean and nasty people over by hitting me on Twitter at @RyanGTaft.