The Customer Isn't Always Right

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The customer is always right. If you are an entrepreneur, took a marketing class, or work in sales of any kind, there’s a 100% chance you’ve been told this too-often-shared tidbit. In fact, you’ve probably heard it said to the point that you treat it as fact. Yet here’s the actual truth: The customer is not always right. At some point or another during the sales process, buyers will exhibit bad customer behavior, and sellers must be prepared to manage it. Countering is a highly effective tool that allows sellers to replace that bad behavior with a more constructive one—not to mention, it helps them expand their business and generate more sales.

Requests for proposals: A well-intentioned bad behavior

One of the most common bad customer behaviors business owners and sales teams encounter is the RFP, or request for proposal. To be fair, RFPs originate from a positive place that seeks to be helpful and beneficial—companies bring them to the table when they want to find quality products or services at the best price. But here’s the inherent problem with an RFP: Many times the organization requesting the proposals gets too fixated on the RFP with the cheapest price. The end result is that quality is sacrificed for what appears to be a lower cost. 

Here’s the dichotomy of an RFP: The lowest bidder will generally not spend the time or resources to create a quality, thoughtful proposal, while a genuine professional, whose bid is higher, won’t undercut or undervalue their work in order to win the RFP. Furthermore, someone desperate for work will be far more likely to undercut their competition in order to win. With any of these scenarios, the company issuing the RFP will only receive a subpar product or service when price becomes the driving factor. This only wastes the time—and money—of both parties involved.

Understanding client wants and building trust

Let’s say your business gets an RFP and ultimately wins the project. Congratulations! What do you do now? Communicate with the buyer and build trust. You have to understand exactly what your client is looking for, and once you do, then you can begin to develop the product or service that they’re looking for. Not only will this ensure you deliver a quality product but you will also be providing something optimized for your client. 

Countering the RFP

Another tool sellers should have in their toolbox is the ability to counter a customer’s RFP. Remember, countering simply refers to taking a negative customer behavior and offering a  more positive alternative. It doesn’t necessarily refer to ending a bad habit but merely replacing it with something with a greater benefit. To do so, sellers have to understand a few key things about their buyer. First, sellers must understand the buyer’s problem. All buyers have some sort of problem that they are trying to fix—it’s why they are talking to you in the first place—and you as a seller are positioned to solve their problem through your product or service. But before that can happen, sellers must build trust. A common mistake among salespeople is being too aggressive with their tactics. Sellers are inherently so focused on the end goal of finalizing the sale that they tend to rush into offering solutions too quickly. When sellers offer solutions to the buyer’s problem too soon—before the sellers have demonstrated that they have heard the problem and understand it—the solution will never be accepted by the buyer. Why? Because there’s no trust.

In addition to building trust, another tool that sellers can use is restating the buyer’s problem. Remind the buyer why they approached you in the first place. (If you were listening, you’ll be able to list off all of the issues they experienced not so long ago.) Sellers can then remind them of the benefits their product or service will provide. Not only does this help to build trust since you’re offering a solution to their problem instead of shilling out a product but this helps put the customer back on track in the sales journey, countering any negative behaviors that might have arisen.


Our podcast, Aligned, is dedicated to helping small and mid-market businesses thrive and develop the sales and marketing acumen to move the needle. Tune into our episode featuring sales expert and founder of the Sales Evangelist, Donald Kelly, to learn more about countering and how to effectively use its strategies to grow your business and increase your sales.



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