When the Customer Holds a Grudge

In late June of this year, my youngest daughter and I traveled to Italy for a nine day vacation. We saw enough churches, statues and paintings to last a lifetime. Ten years from now, when I think back on this trip, I’ll remember the crowds, the heat, the smell of Venice and the grudges.

Italians really know how to hold a grudge!

For example, in the 12th century, Pisa held a monopoly on salt and decided to tax it. The Florentines were so incensed that they cooked their Tuscan bread without salt. To this day, the recipe has not changed. That’s 900 years of holding a grudge!

I get the feeling that some customers have that kind of memory as well.

Have you ever walked into a company on a cold call and gotten an earful from someone who did business with your company long ago and had a bad experience? And by “long ago,” I mean years and years. It’s likely that he or she doesn’t even remember the details, and—since everyone is the hero in his or her own story—there’s a good chance that all that is remembered is the feeling of being wronged.

And they want revenge!

And they’re going to take it out on you!

I put this situation in the, “nothing to lose” category. There is virtually nothing that you could do to make the situation any worse than it is. You are not going to get any business from this customer so long as he or she continues to hold a grudge. That being the case, you really have a lot of options, including turning tail and leaving the building. But if you still have an interest in getting work from this client, here’s a process you can follow:

First, you need to apologize. Apologize for the inconvenience and for whatever wrongs occurred despite the fact that nothing happened on your watch. Be effusive with your apology and send not just one time and one way but several times in several ways.

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."
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  • Melissa Sienicki

    Great tips as always, Bill. If you have nothing to lose, why not go for it? Why not pull out all the stops and try to win them back? If it doesn’t work, you won’t be any worse off than before.