Five Ways to be Better at Handling Difficult Questions

When was the last time you had to respond to a specific criticism about an issue associated with your company or a perceived product defect and you were at a loss for words, realizing that your response needed to be carefully phrased? Difficult questions like that—and many, many others—often catch people at a loss because they haven’t rehearsed a response.

The good news is, there are ways to prepare for such unexpected questions, even tough ones, so you don’t embarrass your company or yourself. Here are five ways recommendations for anyone who deals with the media or buyers and needs to prep for sensitive topics.

1. Prepare some twists you can use in response to a negative question.

In sports, the best defense is offense. The quickest way to get on offensive is to research your company and pick out the 10 worst questions you might be asked if someone decided to play the protagonist.

For example, let’s say your sales have been sliding for 18 months and market buyers are aware of this decline. You’re asked, “What’s going on with your declining sales?” Rather than trying to respond directly to the fact that was just laid out, you could answer with, “That’s right, our sales have been in decline in the specific market you cite along with our top three competitors, I might add. All of us have had our challenges in this down economy, however, we’re encouraged by our ‘Widget’ that has been selling briskly in specific markets and is well ahead of our forecasts of last year.”

2. Make equally aggressive responses to aggressive questions.

At a recent sales meeting, several key sales people were strongly questioning the wisdom of a specific set of directives they had received from their director. Rather than trying to softly respond to their objections, the director bluntly asked, “Do you want the benefit of my inside industry and customer knowledge or to go it alone and live and die by your solo efforts?”

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