The Right Way To Tell Your Client They Are Wrong

by Riaz Sidi | Follow Him on Twitter Here

It is easy to be honest about good news that will benefit your clients.

But in B2B sales, it will take you gumption and a vested interest in the success of your customer’s business to address issues that your client may not know are a problem.

Even worse they may think they are doing what is best for their business when you definitely know that is not the case.

But in their eyes you are WRONG.

Whether it is the high cost of their products from distributors, their poor marketing, their lack of customer engagement, or other gaps in operations that you can help – your industry knowledge is what your prospect should look forward to if you have been invited to pitch on your specific product or service.

Your recommendations and criticism may come across as negative – at first.

But the reality is your views are (hopefully) coming from a sincere and objective place formed by experience and expertise.

And your clients deserve the truth.

Always.

Even when that means you have tell them they are wrong.

Your recommendation against how their business currently operates may not be what they necessarily want to hear, but it will separate you from your competitors who may tell clients exactly what they want to hear just to float their client’s ego.

This is what I call prospect pleasing:

Telling clients what they think they want to hear instead of asking them about their needs.

In the new world of sales this doesn’t help your client or their business to evolve.

And although it may help you initially in sales, prospect pleasing will catchup to you quickly when you offer a product or service that will set up your client for failure.

Well don’t sell out on your client’s needs.

Literally.

Maybe they don’t need the expensive package, it could put them out of business and is not worth the risk.

Maybe they can afford and actually need the upgrade but just don’t know it; don’t assume you know what they are worth.

The moment you fully understand your client and their business needs you have full license to let them have it.

Don’t diss the competition but use fact-based advantages to show the benefits of going with you and your solution.

But not only because it allows you to promote your option but to create a dialogue whereby you and your prospect can design a solution together.

By constructively providing criticism and feedback on their status quo, especially when it affects their bottom line – you allow yourself the opportunity to explain the real benefits of your proposal.

Many times your competitors too see the same gaps in your shared clients business.

But being the one to bring it up is what will separate you from the prospect-pleasers your clients are definitely tired of hearing from.

If you are well-versed in the shortcomings of various products and services within your industry do your clients a favor and guide them in the same manner you would hope to be led by someone you trust.

Be their source for the good and the bad.

Business is personal so don’t let it compromise what you know is best for your client.

Real customer service is a consultative approach to business improvement directed by you, a good person just trying to do right by the world.

3 Important Points

  • If you haven’t built the appropriate rapport required, relative to your client’s trust barrier level, you will be shut out for pointing out a flaw in their operation.
  • Don’t take advantage of your client’s ignorance. Use it as an opportunity and educate. Cause a rat will be eventually sniffed out.
  • Give your client options to combat their newly understood problem and let them reasonably validate the credibility of your claims.

You owe your client your trusted opinion even if it leaves a bad taste if their mouth.

They will do their research and realize you were thinking about their best interest and not your commission check.

Yes, it will definitely make you feel uncomfortable at first and you may even question yourself.

But if you know what you are talking about and say it with confidence, that they may be misinformed about solution ‘x’, you will be rewarded for your loyalty in the form of a sale.

Say something inaccurate or without confidence and your credibility will be tarnished.

This “telling them they are wrong” tactic is an effective strategy and comes with a high risk – but an even higher reward – if executed properly.

So be vigil about your delivery, make sure to research your claims before presenting them as factual, and be cognizant of your client’s attitudes towards receiving criticism.

If they understand success they will see you as a great resource that can contribute with your knowledge to their business – and not a barrier to their bottom line.

And a business to business relationship like that is one for life.

Have you ever opened your clients eyes to a problem with their business?

How did you break the news?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Brahm Hurwitz February 18, 2013 at 3:58 pm

What a great article, Riaz! I am a Real Estate Professional, and although I don’t do much B2B selling right now, I wanted to share some advice I received on this very topic in Real Estate.

My mentor told me if a potential client is expecting an unreasonable amount for their home (say $40,000 above market value). It’s best to look at them in the eye, shake the8ir hand and say, “Mr./Mrs. Blank, thank you very much for your time today. (Show the CMA) the numbers show your home is worth X dollars, so I don’t believe I can find someone willing to pay Y dollars for your home at this time. (Good firm handshake). I want to be honest with you now, so I do not waste your time. Thank you again for having me over”

Now you may be thinking, “Brahm, are you out of your mind? How can you let a listing slip away like that?” On the surface, it sounded crazy to me at first as well. But then it was explained to me. If a home is on the market at $480,000 when numbers show it is worth $450,000, it will likely sit on the market and eventually expire. If you are the agent who took the overpriced listing, all you did was frustrate yourself, and more importantly your client.

When that listing expires (and there is a very high chance it will), The prospect will remember who was honest with them about the value of their home. The moral of the story is, the one who was honest will more often than not win out in the end, and close the sale because they care for their prospects and are honest.

B2B salespeople have a bit of an advantage here over Real Estate salespeople. I am not allowed to solicit an active listing. Even if a prospect chose to go with another tax software (for example), nothing to stop you from checking in…is there? :)

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Riaz Sidi April 7, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Great story which makes perfect sense to me.

People may in fact believe you let the sale slip away but the moral sums it up perfectly and in essence you are taking the short-term pain for long-term gain.

“…the one who was honest will more often than not win out in the end, and close the sale because they care for their prospects and are honest.”

The reputation you can gain from the strength of telling your client they are wrong builds rapport and character.

Honesty goes a long way but it must start from within.

Thanks for telling your story Brahm!

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