We all love positive feedback. No wonder we prefer to spend more time with clients who make us feel good about ourselves and our business relationship. Our happiest customers affirm the way we do business, the product or service we provide, our sales skills, and our value as human beings. We are drawn to them like moths to the flame.
In contrast, unhappy (read: demanding) customers make us uncomfortable. Every reward happy customers provide is withheld by clients whose expectations have somehow not been met. But if we can look beyond our own discomfort in dealing with dissatisfied customers, we can see their insights as valuable sales training resources. These customers tell it like it is. They keep us honest. They keep us on our toes. They point out where we are falling short in comparison to the competition, and what we and our company need to do to improve.
We all have at least one “squeaky wheel” customer – the individual who habitually complains, pointing out our flaws and our mistakes at every opportunity. These customers seem to command a disproportionate amount of our time and energy. This stress in the relationship even translates into organizational stress within our own company.
It is tempting to dismiss this feedback because we are afraid, or because we just dislike negativity. But this is a poor strategy, because by the time our fear subsides, we may have lost opportunities or accounts. In fact, it is when customers don’t care enough to complain that we are in real trouble.
Clients complain because they need a change. Isn’t that exactly the signal we should be looking for to improve sales performance? Those squeaks can become our compass and set us on the right path, providing early warning for issues that could become catastrophic down the road – not only for this account, but for the accounts of our comfortable customers who may not want to rock the relationship boat… yet.
In both our personal and professional lives, adversity can bring growth and positive change. It’s difficult to see, much less appreciate, while you are experiencing it. But in hindsight, the hurdle-turned-springboard is so obvious! Instead of avoiding unhappy clients or rationalizing why their insights are wrong, we should embrace their criticism and use it to its full potential.