When you think of absolutely crucial sales tools for your business, you probably think of technology. Apps, credit card swipes, merchant processing accounts, and maybe good ol’ Paypal. But in truth, your ultimate sales tool is an attitude. It’s the art of not-reacting to whatever is coming up with your clients, no matter how awkward, and is known as…wait for it…non-reactive presence.
Non-reactive presence is the most important skill you’ll need to master for long-term success in keeping your peeps happy. (Where non-reactive presence means not losing your shit when you’d like to completely and utterly go berserk.)
Cultivating your non-reactive presence means maximizing your ability to keep yourself calm and centered at all times. Even while receiving criticism or negative feedback. Even when people are being unreasonable or a little bit crazy. Further, it’s being able to find the useful nuggets hidden within the words a person is saying. You’re building your ability to actively postpone reacting or matching the person’s energy.
Growing your non-reactive presence skills means having happier, more fulfilled customers for the lifetime of your business.
How? Because you’re growing your ability to see the thing behind the thing. A person is screaming about the photos being delivered ten minutes after their due date, but really he’s screaming because his wife has just been diagnosed with cancer and his kids have been in trouble at school lately and he’s frustrated with everything and everyone, ever.
Non-reactive presence doesn’t take things personally.
You can handle what you’re responsible for, but you let the anger, rage, shame, embarrassment, disappointment, sadness, or melodrama that’s being aimed at you fly right by. You breathe deeply, you ask the right questions, you take notes, and you take action. You don’t let yourself get swept up in the drama.
Because humans are humans. Even after all this time.
Although you are a stunning human being who always does impeccable work, you are still dealing with other human beings. At some point, they will be less than thrilled with what they bought from you, even if you delivered exactly as promised.
Often, people are polite enough not to point out the one tiny little thing that bothered them because it was overshadowed by the other things they did enjoy. These people won’t give you constructive criticism unless you solicit it, and even then they might not say anything negative.
Some people, however, seem to enjoy critiquing things. They enjoy finding faults and pointing out a better way to do things because they feel they’re so much smarter and more experienced than you. Or they did have a dissatisfying experience, but their reaction seems disproportionate.
Regardless of why a customer is upset, it’s your job to stay calm.
Remember that the way a person reacts has nothing to do with you and everything to do with how he or she chooses to handle life. You’re dealing with a human being who has both free will and self control, and his or her reaction doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person.
Sometimes you can fix the problem, sometimes you can’t.
When you’re in a sticky or awkward situation, breathe. Deeply.
You’ll think, “Oh, you’re one of THOSE people. I know where this is going. A long rant with some purposefully mean things mixed in with the point you’re actually upset about.”
Keep breathing deeply. Yup, it feels hokey to write, but it really can be that simple.
When you’re ready, read that long email and skip past the parts that are vague or intentionally hurtful and demeaning. Are there any valid points? Is there any constructive criticism hidden in there? Could you have communicated better, done better? How could you improve?
This is often the only criticism you’ll receive. Constructive criticism, given gently and with love, is rare. If you try to ignore this other type of criticism completely, you’ll have lost an opportunity to hear feedback on how you can improve. You will always have something to learn, a method to streamline, a product to enhance, or communication skills to hone.
But that’s hard to see. If you’re dealing with internet communication, take a break. Step away from the issue for at least an hour, if not 24 hours, to give yourself space to respond as a non-reactive presence. We both know firing off that “Fuck you, too!” e-mail will do no one any good.
When you can stay calm, get to the root of the other person’s upset. You do that by asking specific questions to help understand the problem more clearly. Possible questions that might help: how long have you had this concern? Where did the company fail to meet your expectations? What helped you form those expectations? What might we have done differently to have prevented this from happening? How can we make it better? What can we do about this?
Take notes and listen carefully. If you only react to the anger coming at you, you’ll be really angry and unable to help. If you have a lady screaming at you because she expected pink cupcakes and is getting blue ones, well — you can whip up a new batch in no time and send her on her merry way without ever losing your cool. If you scream back, throw her cupcakes at the wall, and order her to leave the premises, you’ve ruined the day for both of you.
Ask the customer what he or she would happen in a perfect world to fix this issue. When the issue doesn’t have an obvious solution, and it often doesn’t, asking your client for suggestions about fixing the issue can help tremendously. A coupon, a discount, or a free bonus will often be the answer. And then the situation is resolved.
Take action. Do what you’ve agreed to do in a timely fashion. If you’re going to edit the project within 24 hours, do it. Fix it. Handle it. And keep your cool.
P.S. This and other sneaky crazy-awesome sales tips are a part of Introverts at Work, available here.