Just As With A Cornered Rioter, Give The Client An Escape Corridor To Exit With Dignity

When you have a customer “cornered”, instead of thumping your chest for outing him, give him an out instead; an escape corridor-a way to get out of an embarrassing situation with dignity… Even if he’s wrong he’s still right.

I learnt from a security expert, that riot police have several techniques at their disposal to disperse a riotous crowd. This was after one of the anti-IEBC demonstrations where the police had been condemned for using excessive force, even after cornering a rioter. The expert explained a method I found ingenious in its simplicity. He said, “Once the policemen have them cornered, they are trained to create a corridor for the rioters to pass (more like escape) through.” No, I’ve not turned into a political commentator-it’s just that there’s a lesson in successful selling right there. When you have a customer “cornered”, instead of thumping your chest for outing him, give him an out instead; an escape corridor-a way to get out of an embarrassing situation with dignity.

Say, the client is a show-off. For instance, he uses your industry jargon, wrongly.  “I’m familiar with all your premiums,” he says. “The one for school fees and the other one for household items. I also know the other premium for the car.” At this point you realise that he’s mistaking premium for product. In insurance parlance, premium means price. What the client intends to say is that he is familiar with all your products-not premiums. Here are some of the ways how to create an escape corridor for him?

Resist the urge to correct him

The desire to want to curtly correct him with, “they are not premiums, they are products” may be a logical argument but the emotional aggression could erect a wall and lose you a sale. It’s like telling a client who asks something you had already explained in your presentation that, “If you were listening to what I was saying …”, instead of simply explaining it again. Intentionally or not, you splash the client with egg in the face-he is embarrassed (or irritated) and becomes defensive. And you don’t want to have to climb walls when selling-especially not the kind you helped erect; you’d rather cross bridges.

So do you leave him in the dark?

Yes, if it helps the client to understand the presentation better.  After all, the purpose is to express not impress. The purpose is to communicate effectively, not correct a student in class. There are those who will argue that you are preying on his ignorance but, I’ll let you be the judge of that. I think that if your intentions are genuine, by all means carry on with the error. When he finds out much later that he was in the wrong, it will be a moment of private embarrassment he’ll go through and will not cancel the contract or never buy from you again. In fact, he’ll respect you for having covered his nakedness.  Just be careful not to trip yourself up and let the cat out of the bag by innocently saying, “…and the monthly premium is 4,000 shillings…” because splash!-egg on his face.

In subsequent communication (after the close), you can correctly use the technical term and explain what it means. Say, in an email to him letting him know the progress of his application you could use the word premium in a sentence and put price in brackets to explain what it means without being overt about why you are doing so.

Resist the urge to take it as a queue to use jargon.

Simply because Google told me myocardial infarction means heart attack, doesn’t make me a Nobel winning neurosurgeon. Instead, see the error as a welcome entry point to a sale. Start with genuine admiration. “I see you have learnt our ‘language’.”  (He’s ego swells at the praise. Note that you have not said he’s right-only acknowledged he is familiar with your industry jargon.) “Where did you learn this?” (Show an interest in others and they’ll show interest in you-it’s just human). Then progress with the sale, “Let me show you what else we have of interest to you…”

Give the customer an out. Even if he’s wrong he’s still right.

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