So, you screwed up and your client is a jerk

What is the main ingredient in Zappos, Barbara Corcoran and Victoria Secret’s explosive success? A focus on delivering unprecedented customer service … even when they screw up, even when the client’s a jerk and even when the client has unrealistic expectations.

Given the ability for anonymous bad reviews to spread like wildfire on social media etc., you need to know how to effectively address your client’s interests, needs and complaints. So, what to do when you have a bully client? Unlike dealing with bully negotiators and bully bosses, you have to follow a much more accommodating approach.

Step 1: Determine the Client’s Motivations

These tips will determine how to approach your client and informs how you’ll negotiate and your likely outcome. For example, if your client feels like he should get something for his dedication to you or your company, you may have to give him a concession. If the client, on the other hand, is looking for a win and has showed no loyalty you can give in on inconsequential parts of your contract to make him feel like a superstar.

The top motivators(provided by Tom Searcy on Inc.) behind your angry or difficult client is:

  • Compliance – The buyer is going through the motions, including shadow-boxing on pricing in order to make the right appearances without any real desire to change things.

  • Consideration–The buyer needs a win, but is willing to give you something for your flexibility. This is a negotiation where both sides are willing to provide concessions in the discussion.

  • Accommodation–The buyer feels the need for a discount or a win in the discussion with no willingness to provide a concession.

  • Domination–The buyer wants to penalize or injure a supplier for either the purpose of making a point, establishing a position, or “righting a wrong” based upon some sense of having been taken advantage of in the past.

  • Termination–Buyers sometimes use unreasonable demands as a way to drive a vendor out of their company.

Step 2: Calmly Confront and Manage the Client’s Complaint

Before you interact with the bully/angry client, prepare yourself emotionally. They will yell, scream and say nasty things. Get into a state of “Zen” because the LAST thing you are permitted to do is show that you’re ruffled by their rage or uncertain that you did nothing but your best to deliver. Show either of these emotions and you’re open to attack. This is the time to let them vent and for you to take notes. And vent they will.

Step 3: Focus on the Customer

Next, shift your focus on what your customer wants (provided by Evan Horowitz, Advising):

Before you get into the bad news, show your customer that you know what they want and are working to get it for them.  This powerfully frames the conversation with you on THEIR side, understanding their needs and going to bat for them.  Otherwise, it will quickly become adversarial, with you as an obstacle to what they want.  If you’ve gone above and beyond in any way, this is a good time to mention that.

For example, if you’re a realtor and the property isn’t selling, start with: “Selling your property for a price acceptable to you is my priority.”

Step 4: Take Responsibility

Take full responsibility for the issue your client believes exists. Make this part of the conversation short, avoid going on and on about the issue as this will destroy your credibility and then move on to the solution. As Evan Horowitz puts it:

It’s our natural impulse to show the customer that it’s not our fault!  Don’t do it.

Blaming suppliers/partners/employees not only shows an inability to manage your business, but an unwillingness to take responsibility for satisfying your customer. People don’t buy from companies that don’t take responsibility for satisfying them.

Also resist the temptation to get into the story of how the issue happened, and how complicated it is.  This invites your customer to second-guess you at every step along the way.

Step 5: Identify the Solution and Clarify Expectations

Let the client know exactly what you’re going to do to solve the problem and what type of outcome they can expect. Vague responses will only insight nervousness in the client and doubt about what you’ll do to solve the complaint. Provide dates and estimates that you are CERTAIN you can meet and under-promise so you can shine when giving them great news later.

It’s imperative to outline how hard you’re going to work to improve the situation. Here are a few pointers provided d by Evan Horowitz:

  • Tell them how you and your team are busting your butts to fix the problem quickly.

  • OPTIONALLY, you can offer an apology gift (such as a discount for next time, free overnight shipping on the replacement, etc.).

  • If the client is the type who needs to “win”, then give him a few small concessions that don’t affect your position, but boost his ego.

  • Explain what you’re doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  (But, avoid the gory details as this will damage your credibility.)

  • Offer penalties you’re willing to take if you don’t meet the solution.

Step 6: Tell them why you’re committed to your client

It may feel dramatic, but a genuine statement clearly telling them they’re important to you goes a long way.  Do not use the tired cliches like “Your business is important to us.”  Rather, “tell them WHY you value them and how you look forward to a long relationship together“.

Step 7: Going forward, over-deliver

The client may still not trust you and doubts your ability to get the job done. To avoid any future confusion and to assuage these concerns, be sure to do the following:

  • Provide weekly reports that details what you’ve completed to move the client closer to the desired outcome.

  • Immediately inform the client of any issues. You’ll save a lot of time and demonstrate transparency and honesty.

  • Carefully listen to feedback and re-state their concerns to show understanding and be willing to collaborate with the client on finding a better solution.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I learned – the hard way – that one should always begin the client relationship by outlining expectations and detailing what you’re going to do whenever an expectation isn’t met. For example, if your client expects his house to sell for $500,000, ask him “in the event that we don’t get offers at that price, when and what is the best way to tell you?”

If the client is stumped, tell them:

“My clients have told me not to deliver bad news on a Friday, to call them immediately, to provide market information and notes on responses from the purchaser’s agents, outline options and the implications of these solutions.”

Once the process and expectations are established, reaffirm how you’re going to handle any setback by saying:

“This is much too important for me to not get exactly right, because in the event we need to have such a conversation, I want to do it exactly as you have suggested.”

Repeat back exactly what they told you and ask them if you got it right and wait for them to respond with, “Yes, you got it.” If they alter the smallest detail in what you just said, start from the beginning and repeat those modifications back to them.

Finally, when that prickly problem rears its ugly head, remind them of this conversation and say:

“I’m not sure if you remember a conversation we had about how to best communicate with you about bumps in the road and if memory serves, you gave me these guidelines (then repeat what they told you above) and we’ve hit one of those bumps (and then follow exactly what they explained as the best way to communicate with them in such a situation).

Stuck for phrases that acknowledge their emotions? Here are a few from Customer Experience Insight:

I’m sorry for this trouble.

Please tell me more about …

I can understand why you’d be upset.

This is important — to both you and me.

Let me see if I have this right.

Let’s work together to find a solution.

Here’s what I’m going to do for you.

What can we do to resolve this now?

I want to take care of this for you immediately.

Do you think this solution would work for you?

What I’ll do right now is … Then I can …

As an immediate solution, I’d like to suggest …

You’ve come to the right place to get this resolved.

What would you consider a fair and reasonable solution?

OK, let’s get you in better shape.

I’m more than happy to help you with this.

If I can’t take care of this, I know who can.

I hear what you’re saying, and I know how to help.

You have a right to be upset.

Sometimes we fail, and this time I’m here and ready to help.

If I were in your shoes, I’d feel the same way.

You’re right, and we need to do something about this immediately.

Thank you … (for bringing this to my attention, being straight with me, for your patience with us, your loyalty to us even when things go wrong or your continued business).

It surprising how these words can sooth rage and force collaboration between you and the angry or bully client.  Use them in your next conflict and please let me know about the outcome.


You’re Sued! The Most Common Mistakes You Make

Before you hit “DELETE” because you’re not in sales or a real estate agent, think again. The mistakes made below are universal and applicable to almost every profession. I find numerous parallels between the top reasons agents get sued and the top reasons doctors, lawyers, dentists, physiotherapists, insurance agents/brokers and chiropractors get sued. Ignore this at your own peril.

The Reasons Why Agents Get Sued

Q: What’s the biggest fear most professionals have?

A: Getting sued by a client.

We all fear lawsuits because a lawsuit implies:

  • Poor customer service;
  • Lack of knowledge; and
  • Overall failure to do what’s right and ethical.

Q: What’s a growing trend?

A: Clients suing.

Agents are faced with managing numerous details, multiple parties and valuable assets. These hurdles become gruelling mountains to climb when you throw in: rushed time lines, emotions and fear of losing the deal. It’s no wonder mistakes happen and clients sue. Having said that, lawsuits are not inevitable if you know the most likely reasons you’ll get sued and how to protect yourself from making fatal mistakes.

The Top Three Reasons You’ll Get Sued

1. Failure to Disclose Property Defects

Yes, we all want to get a deal done quickly, as well as make sure our clients are happy with the price and expediency. But, a great price and a quick close won’t necessarily bar you from facing angry clients. Especially if you forget to fully disclosure all latent defects.

The numbers don’t lie: you’ll be the first to get served with legal papers after a deal closes if your client or the other party discovers defects. Defects range from improvements without permits to noises, stigmatized properties or nuisances.

“But, I didn’t know, so I’m not responsible!”, you’ll claim. Sorry, that’s not a defence. The threshold to prove that you were negligent isn’t that you did know, but that you should have known. After all, aren’t you supposed to be a real estate professional!

2. Breach of Duty and Negligence

If you’re an agent who “dabbles” in different asset classes or locations, be warned. You might be breaching your duty to your client and exposing yourself to claims of negligence.

Here’s why: your client places a high level of trust in you. They believe that you have the expertise you claim and “suggest” by taking on the deal. And if you don’t and if you make a negligent mistake – even if your intentions were good – then be prepared for a fight in the courtroom. The problem with negligence claims is that it’s difficult to determine if you’ve acted reasonably. This means that, even if you weren’t negligent, you’ll still face a lawsuit and be left with a soiled reputation.

3. Giving quasi-legal advice

Every deal requires legal advice, especially since we’re moving away from non-binding offers to binding leases masquerading as offers. Not to mention, our increasingly litigious society calling for an extra “layer” of protection by way of a legal review.

Despite the real risk facing agents – and the fact that agents are signing up their clients to binding agreements without proper advice – agents don’t want to get lawyers involved. They fear that lawyers will kill the deal and slow the process. So, the agents offer some general advice and don’t encourage their clients to get a quick legal review. After all, you’ve been doing this for years and you know more than lawyers.

Such an approach is not only problematic for the agent’s reputation, but also his commission. I’ve witnessed many deals dying because buyers, sellers, landlords and prospective tenants use the “we didn’t get legal advice” excuse to get out of deals. And some unscrupulous clients then point the finger at the agent, claiming that they never advised them to get the advice they need.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

The most common cause of lawsuits is assuming you know everything and subtly putting your interests ahead of others.

There are three simple panaceas to this litigation cause:

  • You can’t learn what you already know: Remain humble. Neither you nor I know it all. The most dangerous people are those who think what they learned in the past holds true today. It simply doesn’t: laws change, clients change, communication standards change and the product changes.
  • Don’t stop learning: agents must constantly educate themselves if they want to call themselves experts. Their knowledge should not only be about local rates and sale prices, but also the potential issues that may arise, such as structural and potential legal threats. Various bodies such as your real estate board, the Real Estate Institute of Canada and Institute of Real Estate Management, Urban Land Institute (ULI) and
    Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR)
    , offer excellent programs and designations to stay on top of all of the changes in your industry.
  • Get a professional involved early: always recommend that professionals get involved early, before anything is “firm” and make this recommendation in writing. Getting the professionals involved early will ensure that you avoid wasting your time negotiating certain points that simple won’t work from a legal, financial or logistical perspective. My experience shows that advice on sticky issues early in the process always helps to close the deal faster because everyone is working in tandem and major headaches are anticipated and prevented.

These solutions are so simple, yet rarely followed. If you believe you’re too busy to take a moment and protect everyone’s interests – including yours – then believe me: you’ll likely face a disgruntled client and a damaging lawsuit. When feeling rushed, remember this: it’s always better to have no deal, then a lawsuit and no deal.

Kill the Lead to Increase Sales

Why do some people seem to get all the best deals? The conventional answers:

  • They call more people (it’s a numbers game!);
  • They’re taller (yes, we generally do like and pay taller people more than shorter people);
  • They’re charmers and really handsome (also a factor in sales success…but certainly not critical);
  • They come from money (rarely – the hungrier the better);
  • They don’t sleep and work all the time (if that’s the case then I just feel sorry for them because they’re likely wasting life doing useless things. Read this blog to reassure you that being a slave to the office doesn’t mean you’ll get ahead.); and
  • They were born into a connected family (connecting is very important, but they’re easily burned if you’re a jerk).

You all know how much I don’t care for conventional thinking, especially when there’s nothing to back it up. And the above list is just that: easy explanations based on faulty logic and predictable platitudes.

The secret sauce to creaming the competitors

Just like the bottom 20 percent of sales people, the top 20 percent understand that we don’t have more than 24 hours in a day. They also understand something that is so trite, but often overlooked: you cannot close uninterested and unqualified prospects who do not need or want your service, product etc. This is true even if you’re charming, good looking, well connected etc etc. So, what do the top 20 do differently? They spend more time dis-qualifying leads than frantically calling anyone and everyone hoping that someone says okay to a meeting (

The Misused Pipeline versus the Inverted Funnel

Top performers are protective about who goes into their pipeline. Not everyone makes the cut. This discriminating approach makes a top performer’s pipeline look more like an inverted funnel with fewer qualified and vetted leads going in one end and a higher number of those leads closing on the other. Compare this with the pipeline of the bottom 80 (i.e. the typical way we think of sales and leads): a cylinder that crams everyone and anyone in, but only leads to pipe dreams.

Warning: It’s Tough to Disqualify!

Being critical of who to work with and the willingness to nix a lead is tough because you have to ask a lot of questions. To avoid coming off as abrasive and nosey, you must have genuine interest in helping the person on the phone. And to help them, you have to understand what they need, the resources they have to solve the need, how long it’ll take to make a decision and if they’re facing any sort of time pressure.

The following six questions are helpful in starting your investigation process, but are not exhaustive. Use these questions to start the conversation, but never read this verbatim or you’ll sound like you’re part of an illicit boiler room:

  1. Who is being affected by X PROBLEM? If you don’t solve this problem, what will happen?
  2. Who’s involved in making the final decision? What’s the company’s process to making the decision?
  3. Has the lead sought out any solutions to the X PROBLEM? Have they contacted other companies as part of the solution process? What other solutions would they be considering considering?
  4. What’s the budget – both with respect to “hard dollars” and human resources?
  5. Who will benefit from solving the X PROBLEM (e.g. job promotion??)?
  6. What are some reasons they wouldn’t buy?

If you’re anxious to ask these questions, start be being honest. Tell the prospect that you’re going to ask a few questions to determine  whether or not you’re the right solution for them or if there’s someone or something that could better serve their needs. Your invasiveness is simply the best way to avoid wasting their time and determining if you can help them.

I’ve asked the questions, now what?

The way the prospect responds is critical as to whether or not they fall on your “disqualified list”. Look for these clues which signal that you’re likely wasting your and the lead’s time:

  • If they are vague, they’re not interested and the problem isn’t a priority.
  • If you can’t get hold of the decision maker or they’re taking forever to respond, disqualify them. The prospect isn’t serious and may just be shopping.
  • If the prospect subsequently follows up with several dinner, lunch and cocktail requests to “discuss” your offering, disqualify them. They’re leading you on and taking you for an expensive ride. Ladies, you’re especially vulnerable to this as some men are interested in offerings wholly unrelated to the product or service you’re selling. If you feel bad turning down the prospect, don’t. Because the prospect is not interested in “hiring” – he’s only interested what he can get for free.
  • If the prospect’s decision criteria automatically bars you, first determine if the criteria is a preference or a requirement. Then present the benefits to making an exception. Finally, if they still say “NO” get over it and move on. For example, if a company’s mandate is that all products purchased by the company must be Canadian made and all of your products are made in China, you might want to move on. Of course, give up only if you’ve first asked about the flexibility of the requirement and explained the benefits of buying from China (e.g. cheaper, faster etc).

The takeaway is simple: work to disqualify people, not qualify. If you’re not careful you’ll be too distracted by false leads to help those who actually need and want your services.

To put it another way: would you intentionally waste precious time and resources on an outcome that will make you lose more time and resources? Probably not. So learn the art of disqualification. 

And, when in doubt, your business philosophy should be similar to your (okay, my) dating philosophy: it’s better to be patient and find the appropriate partner, rather than squander your best years and dollars on loads of garbage.

Are You a Victim of Sales Seepage?

Picking up the phone to make a cold call is terrifying. You put yourself through that torture and, finally, after hearing “no!” numerous times, you get interest. This potential client is excited and, a week later, you follow up with a quick email and a call. A month or two goes by without a word from the potential client. You decide to call him back only to learn that you’ve become the victim of the relentless opportunity-killer: Mr. Sales Seepage.

Don’t be a Victim of Sales Seepage

Sales seepage happens when a qualified and interested prospect seeps out of your sales pipeline …. and is probably never to be seen again. Why? They forgot about you and you didn’t maintain the initial belief that you were the best person to do the job. The excuse for not contacting the qualified prospect is that you don’t want to spam him with useless emails and “salesly” voice-messages. While I agree with this concern, you’ve failed to safeguard yourself against the threat of Mr. Sales Seepage.The way to protect yourself from sales seepage is to nurture your network in a meaningful, consistent and thoughtful way. This means NO generic emails, NO sales emails or calls and NO typical content that is sent by people in your industry. For example, agents send out information about the market that you know was slapped together by an email program or someone other than the agent. This is boring, insincere and makes you look like an amateur.Don’t know how to stay in touch? Read below for some tips I found on Branding Universe. I’ve modified all of them but for numbers 12 to 23 as they were rich enough without my two cents.

Simple Tips to Keeping In Touch WITHOUT Being Obnoxious

  1. Create a monthly newsletter or blog that is interesting, short and not something everyone in your industry is sending. The critical part of an effective blog is to be consistent. If you tell everyone they’ll get the article the first of the month at 9 am. It better be sent to them  the first of the month at 9 am.
  2. Ask prime prospects or current clients if you can quote them or interview them for one of your newsletters.
  3. Set up Google alerts for bizarre information on your industry and send out monthly “Surprising Things Happening in [YOUR INDUSTRY HERE]?” Remember – consistency and unique is critical.
  4. Establish a community telephone call-in once a month. Speak on some relevant topic and open up the line for questions and answers.
  5. Keep a calendar of birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions. Pre-schedule cards through one of the online services, like Paperless Post.
  6. Create a postcard mailing for your entire list using a service like Never include a pitch. This is a greeting card that you should send out for birthdays and during Thanksgiving. Yes, Thanksgiving and NOT the winter holidays.  Why? Because EVERYONE is sending holiday greetings and yours will get lost in the shuffle.
  7. Celebrate special events for prospects and customers like a promotion, new job, new assignment, or new website, and send out a postcard or email.
  8. Send out a lighthearted “tip” – kinda like the one I’m sending -customized for your network.
  9. Send a “thank you for your business” note and remembrance to clients at least once a year.
  10. Focus on your top 10 people in your network and drop by with a coffee, send a  “How are you?” or “Just thinking of you” note every two weeks. If your client runs a restaurant, clothing shoppe or otherwise, pay them a visit. Buy something or eat something.
  11. Set your Google alerts about your prospect’s company or about your prospect’s industry. When you learn of news that is relevant to these people, send an “I noticed …” or “thought you might find this interesting…” email.
  12. Comment on your clients’ and prospects’ blog.
  13. Ask them to comment on yours.
  14. Ask clients and prospects to speak or be a panel member at an event you think would be right for them.
  15. Invite them to a networking event where they might enjoy meeting the people.
  16. Send surveys and industry information, links to podcasts or videos, and links to websites that offer free information that would help your network with their businesses.
  17. Create your own industry survey using a service like Send it to your entire network and publish the results.
  18. Write a testimonial about them or their product or service and submit it to them without being asked. One cautionary note: you must be sincere and talk about an actual experience.
  19. Write a recommendation for them on a business social network such as LinkedIn or Twitter.
  20. Invite them to be a short-term advisor to a committee in a relevant business association (They will appreciate that you haven’t asked them to be on the committee.)
  21. Invite them to lunch or breakfast every six months.
  22. Learn what causes or charities they support and make a donation (even if a small one) instead of a Christmas gift.
  23. Follow targeted contacts on Twitter and re-tweet their tweets.

How Often should You Nurture Your Network?

Various sales studies confirm that a contact will not remember, trust or buy from you until they’ve heard from you – in a meaningful way – at least five times. Great. But, this doesn’t tell us how often we should contact a prospect in a week, month or year. While some sales experts say that your frequency should be  7 times in an 18 month period, the most successful sales people I’ve interviewed do so at least once a month – or more.

The most effective sales people are successful not because they’re better looking or smarter. They’re successful because they put the effort in to make meaningful content. They provide true value every time they reach out, while keeping themselves top of mind of potential clients and while reinforcing the belief that they’re the expert in their field.

Lose Your Ego to Get the Best Deal

Confidence is often confused with having a massive ego. Women (exceptions notwithstanding) typically lack the same level of ego as men. Studies too long to list suggest that this lack of ego impedes us women’s ability to rise to the top, negotiate well and get the biggest bang for their buck.  Even if we have the confidence, however, there’s still an assumption that we aren’t assertive enough. In fact,  a law school friend of mine blatantly stated that he’d never hire a woman to negotiate – “they’d probably start crying. Plus, women typically just don’t come off as confident”. This conversation occurred in 2010.  He still regrets saying that to me.
True, men ask for more money than women. They’re also more inclined than women to  apply for jobs, despite not having the credentials. The outcome of this assertiveness is that men fare much better than women when it comes to salaries, bonuses and climb up the corporate ladder…or are they?
While  men are better than women when it comes to standing up for themselves, the same isn’t true when they’re negotiating on someone else’s behalf. Women are just as good. One growing theory is that it’s ego, not gender, that really sets apart the wheat from the chaff. 

History Shows Ego Doesn’t Help – This Includes Steve Jobs

The biographies of numerous contemporary greats – such as Elon Musk and Steve Jobs – suggests that the bigger the ego the better. Ego fuels passion, drive and ability to live off of apples (Jobs) or no sleep (Musk) in order to achieve greatness.  
Peeling back the layers and comparing these more recent “greats” with the everlasting “greats” of our not so distant path – such as Katharine Graham, Bill Belichick, and Eleanor Roosevelt –  reveals that being a jerk and having a big ego is not an asset for success. It’s an impediment.
Musk and Jobs succeeded because of their drive and brilliance, despite their egos. They were kicked out of their own companies and faced tremendous disasters because they believed they knew better than everyone else. They had to fight twice as hard to succeed simply because of their egos blinded them to necessary realities. Imagine what they could have achieved by not being so arrogant so as to get them fired from their own companies! 
If you dig deeper and examine a wider array of successful and influential people, you’ll uncover that the key to success is not ego. It’s hard work, the ability to diplomatically negotiate (very true!) and a bit of luck. As Ryan Holiday, author if Ego is the Enemy and self-proclaimed recovering ego-driven jerk puts it:
“While the history books are filled with tales of obsessive, visionary geniuses who remade the world in their image with sheer, almost irrational force, I’ve found that history is also made by individuals who fought their egos at every turn, who eschewed the spotlight, and who put their higher goals above their desire for recognition.”

Many of us insist the main impediment to a full, successful life is the outside world. In fact, the most common enemy lies within: our ego. Early in our careers, it impedes learning and the cultivation of talent. With success, it can blind us to our faults and sow future problems. In failure, it magnifies each blow and makes recovery more difficult. At every stage, ego holds us back.

The Ego is the Enemy draws on a vast array of stories and examples, from literature to philosophy to history. We meet fascinating figures like Howard Hughes, Katharine Graham, Bill Belichick, and Eleanor Roosevelt, all of whom reached the highest levels of power and success by conquering their own egos. Their strategies and tactics can be ours as well.

But why should we bother fighting ego in an era that glorifies social media, reality TV, and other forms of shameless self-promotion?  Holiday believes that “you will be less invested in the story you tell about your own specialness, and as a result, you will be liberated to accomplish the world-changing work you’ve set out to achieve”.

This is particularly true during negotiations. The more arrogant, the better. Have you ever fed an ego and watch it devour the host’s ability to reason? If you’ve yet to witness the miraculous nature of ego, then try this tactic when negotiating.

The No Authority Tactic and Using Ego to Get Commitment

We’ve all been there – your counterpart finally agrees to your position. You think negotiations when they say “so, all I now need is my boss’s approval”. Ugh! You’ve wasted your time because your smart counterpart just pulled the “appeal to higher authority” tactic. The reality is that your counterpart never intended to agree to that decision. He pretended to “given in” or agree to your point so that you’d reciprocate his cooperative behaviour by conceding to some of his points. In a seemingly legitimate way, however, he’s now pulled back on his promise by hiding behind his boss. Time for you to pull out the “ego tactic”.

 The Ego Tactic

This “appeal to higher authority” tactic (a great tactic, by the way, that you can use if you’re not sure as to how to respond to a request or when you feel pressured to make a decision) can be countered by appealing to his ego. Simply say, “but you have such a high position and you clearly know the needs of (X). I’m sure you have the authority to make this small decision, don’t you?” You may have to poke him a few more times and say, “you’re clearly a reasonable person and you’ve convinced me to make many concessions I never thought I’d make. Obviously you have the power to commit to getting your boss to agree, don’t you?” And, just like a peacock, watch your counterpart perk up and show his feathers.
For those who experience self-doubt, don’t fret. It’s clear in history and during negotiations – ego is an impediment to success and it’s a virtue not to have one.

Why you’re not having success cold calling

Proof Sales People Are People Too

Sales people are people too (shock!). I help train them and – believe it or not – they are good people who are just like you. They don’t want to be sold and they don’t like people interrupting their day with calls about a product or service they neither need nor want.

Yet, as soon as the salesperson pick up that phone, he forgets these sentiments.  He forgets what it’s like to be the recipient of that call. And the salesperson goes into the stereotypical sales role: me, me, me, me and me. Oh, and me some more!

Why does this approach fail? Because besides your mom and maybe your dog (but, definitely not your cat): NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOU.

A Few Tips for a Successful Call

Before you pick up the phone, remember this golden “cold calling” rule: the call you’re going to make will interrupt someone who is thinking about themselves, their issues and their struggles. They’re not thinking about you and how they can help you. So, in order to avoid a disastrous call and waste of everyone’s time, make the call fun, interesting and about them. Here’s how:

  1. Be prepared. This goes beyond just understanding your product, the market or the CEO’s name. Know everything about your client. If they’re struggling to find a new a new location, have a notoriously horrid landlord or are in growth or loss mode, know it. Understand their problems. If you’re going to interrupt their thoughts about themselves, you better have a solution for them.
  2. Be funny or interesting. We all watch weird videos on YouTube to be entertained. If you make your call entertaining, you’re in. Funny and interesting openings are your hook.
  3. Be honest. Opening up to people will bring down their guard and they may be more open to reciprocating. Give and take is a social norm – especially if you’re being vulnerable. For example, tell them that you hate making these calls, just as much as they like getting them, so you promise to make this as painless as possible and worth their time. Or, that you were once in their position and that’s why you started your company – to help people achieve [insert outcome of using your product/service].
  4. Be sharp. No one wants to listen to someone who is, frankly … zzzzzzzzz …. or has no product knowledge. Talk quickly during the opening of the call and then slow down for the details of the offering.
  5. Be scarce. Have something they want or need and given reasons to act now, such as a hot market with signs of slowing or a one-time offer.
  6. Be enthusiastic and SMILE. The WORST is getting a call from someone who sounds distracted, bored or angry. When you’re talking in a monotone voice, it comes across as disinterested and rude. No one is going to put up with that. We like nice people and we’re much more open and forgiving with a nice person than a rude person. Especially if they’re interrupting our thoughts about us.
  7. Be other-oriented and curious. The call is not about what you want, your sales quota or your service. It’s about them. This means you should be doing very little talking. You should be doing a lot of listening and asking questions. Ask about pain points and follow up with “tell me more about that”. You should also, in most cases, a) NEVER “SELL”, b) NEVER PUSH YOUR PRODUCT and c) NEVER ASK THE TYPICAL SALES QUESTIONS, such as are you looking to sell your house? Are you looking to buy a car and spent thousands on this random person who just called? The answer will be – NO! They don’t trust you and you come off sooooo salesy  – ew!
  8. Be generous. Ask them if you could shoot over a quick email with some information that is RELEVANT to them. State what is and why they can’t just find it on the net (e.g. exclusive report). You’re sending this for free and when you do and DO NOT SELL ANYTHING in your email. If they need something, they will ask. The first interactions are not to sell. Rather, you’re there to prove you’re valuable.

The above tips are just ice breakers and there’s no guarantee that they’ll love you. Nonetheless, you’ll make a much better first impression which will ease your nerves during the call and lose the “sleazy salesperson” stigma.

The take home lesson is that it’s not about you. It’s about them, so focus all of your attention on who is on the other line and not your nerves.


Nibble to get the best deal

Aggressive is Not Good – Unless Used Strategically

A common mistake negotiators make is asking for everything they want at the beginning of the negotiations. This aggressive approach is tantamount to forcing your counterpart to eat an entire elephant in one bite.  They’ll be offended and suspicious and likely walk away from negotiations.  From their perspective, you’re too difficult and, since they haven’t spent a moment negotiating with you and they haven’t invested time and resources into you or your client, you’ve given up the other negotiation tactic – the sunk cost gambit. The better approach is to deliver the elephant in something smaller than a bite – nibbles.

What is Nibbling?

The Nibbling Tactic is used at the end of negotiations when the deal is almost finalized. Your counterpart is thrilled that the deal is about to close and they’ve made up their mind to buy, sell or lease. Since people like be consistent with their actions and hate “losing” time spent on negotiations, they’re likely to stay the course even if they have to give up earlier demands. At this point – right before you sign the agreement – start asking for a few concessions.

For example, you’re about to buy a car and sign the purchase agreement. As your pen hovers you say “this comes with a full tank of gas, right?”. The sales person will likely agree because: they feel like they’ve already made the sale and have a positive attitude, which makes people more likely to give things away. Not to mention the thought we’ve all had: “we’re so close, what’s a few bucks to close the deal?”. Had you asked for everything upfront, however, I can promise you that you would have to have given up the gas tank request in order to shave off a few dollars on the purchase price.

Warning: Use the tactic only after commitment is clear

This tactic works because people are less anxious and confrontational after they’ve made a decision to buy, sell, lease or gamble. A study at a Canadian racetrack showed that people who hadn’t yet placed a bet were anxious and unsure about what they were about to do (i.e. gamble). Once people had made the decision to bet, this anxiety dissipated and they felt good about their decision to gamble. In fact, once they continued on the course of their decision they reinforced their actions by gambling even more! The same behaviour applies in negotiations. You have to coax your counterpart into the negotiations and convince them to close the deal. Once it’s clear that the deal is going to be done, ask for a concession. Your counterpart will likely give in to reasonable-ish requests to keep the deal alive and to be consistent in behaviour (I’ve acted committed this far, I can’t turn back now!).

Prevent your counterpart from nibbling on you

The problem with the nibbling tactic is that it can happen to you too! These simple tips will help you avoid this outcome:

  • Write down a list of all of the concessions you’ve already made and show them that you’ve sacrificed a lot to get to this point
  • Counter with a causal nibble – “what about the return policy, let’s make it 90 days”.
  • With a big smile say, “Oh, come on! You’ve negotiated a great deal already, don’t make us give up everything and go red on this deal!” Make your opponent feel cheap, but in a joking way.
  • Negotiate all of the details important to your counterpart up front, but don’t make any demands until the end.

And, when in doubt as to timing or aggressiveness of your request, just say it with a smile.

The Only Tip Needed to Negotiate with a Liar

We all lie. And we’re all lied to. In fact, in any given day you’re lied to between 2 and 500 times. Think about it: has anyone told you “yes, you do look fat in the that dress” or, “yes, she is too good for you”. Probably not.

Men typically lie about themselves and their awesomeness more than women and women lie to protect others more than men. And both men and women are terrible at detecting lies.

One meta-analysis (a study of studies) found that people can correctly identify whether someone is telling a lie only 54% of the time—not much better odds than a coin flip. Even the polygraph—a technology specifically engineered to detect lies in a controlled setting—is riddled with problems and comes to the wrong conclusion about a third of the time.

Some argue that lying is a natural part of survival and that technology has made us less likely to lie than before. The problem with lying is that it confuses negotiations and makes it difficult to close a deal and get a win-win outcome. How could you possibly make the right concessions if your counterpart deceives you as to what they need? The answer is simple: ignore the possibility of lying and find ways to induce the opposing party to tell the truth. And the way to do this: offer options.

Use Options to Detect Truth

Present to your counterpart two or more offers, each containing different options. All of the offers you present must be equally acceptable to you as the goal is for your counterpart to choose which option they prefer. Your counterpart’s decision as to which option they like best divulges information “about [their] priorities and giving you insight into [their] relative valuation of the issues up for negotiation.” In other words, by rejecting certain offers with distinct terms, you now know what issues aren’t important and others that are critical to getting the deal done.

Lies are unavoidable (if you don’t believe me or want to be entertained, watch these TED Talks). But, the truth is out there if you take the time to think creatively and maintain a “win-win” attitude.


How Successful People Say No

Why Aren’t You Protecting What’s Important to You?

The more you do, the more people ask you to do. And if you’re a people pleaser – which most people are – you’ll say yes. And as soon as the “y” word escapes your mouth, I bet you begin to cry on the inside because saying yes means saying no to: sleep, friends, loved ones, rest, hobbies that keep you sane, family and exercise. Or, at least I do.

Learning how to say no does more than help you keep your sanity. It’s also a useful discipline because knowing when to say no means that you have a clear understanding of what you want. This ensures that you pour your energy into the right places.

Clarity on what’s important to you also helps you fight the very Millennial issue of FOMO (“Fear of Missing Out”) and reduce the number of failures you experience. If you want real examples of why saying no can save you from financial and personal ruin, listen to this 30 minute podcast (tip: fast forward the first 5 minutes as it’s all ads).

How to Say No – Even if You Need to be Liked!

As a professed “yes” addict and someone who gets a lot of “nos”, I’ve accumulated some very effective strategies on how to say “no”:

  1. You’re typically caught off guard, which means that you’re likely to default to your typical response – “yes”. Prevent this knee-jerk reaction by ALWAYS delaying the response. Say something like, “that’s interesting. Let me see if I can fit it in. Can I get back to you in a few hours?”.
  2. Turn it back on them. No, don’t ask them for the favour, but make them feel like you’re doing them a service by saying no. For example, you may not be able to give the project the attention it deserves. You may also not have the skills needed to provide value. The goal of this “no” tactic is to show why you wouldn’t be doing the committee/group any favours.
  3. If they desperately need the work done immediately or are guilting you into the work due to lack of resources etc, offer the “requester” another colleague or enemy’s (depending on the request) name. If you’re able, you can also offer to help find someone else to take on the task.
  4. If you’re truly interested, but are swamped, ask them to check back with you in a few months. List everything you’re working and provide an exact date to reconnect on the opportunity offered. Do this only if your desire to participate in the future is genuine. It’s not fair to waste anyone’s time.
  5. You may have a conflict. In fact, this happened to me. An organization asked me to sit on its Board, but I had to decline. Not only was I busy, but the organization was a potential competitor to another group in which I was involved. This gave me a second and legitimate reason for not being able to commit.

Saying no, just like negotiation, take practise. Let me know if you try these yes-addiction-busting-tips and how it worked out!

The Unexpected Negotiating Trick that Anyone Can Master

This past Friday, I was negotiating the terms of a 50-page lease– which isn’t unusual, except that the landlord rejected EVERY single one of our edits and refused to budge on even its most ridiculous demands. My stomach began to knot.

My stress was further compounded by the fact that I was up against a sharp lawyer who’d been in the industry longer than I’d been born. Not to mention the fact that the landlord was in a better position due to financial, location and market reasons. As these realities sunk in, the knot grew tighter. How was I going to get any leverage over this lawyer and the landlord?

This is a common question we all ask whenever we have to negotiate with someone who may have more grey hairs, more authority (i.e. a boss, Rogers cable), a fancier education or someone with a disturbingly aggressive ego. And this question is easily answered by patience. As in, your leverage is patience.

How Patience Works

The landlord didn’t have time to “deal” with the negotiation, as he wanted to get through the negotiation before his vacation. It was also revealed – after a lot of digging and listening – that the landlord needed the lease to be signed due to a refinancing requirement. Both the lawyer and landlord weren’t much interested in patience and I had plenty of it. And using it worked. I took my time during the negotiation. I allowed for many awkward pauses. I hummed and hawed, dragged out the conversation, asked lots of questions and made them sweat under the time pressure until they simply conceded to one request after the other, for reasons described below.

I wish I could claim that my patience solution came from a moment of clarity – the sea parting and a voice booming down. But, it didn’t. It was something less dramatic, but nonetheless useful: Dawson’s book, Secrets of Power Negotiating. For anyone buying, selling or negotiating anything, I urge you to read on and discover how to use the simple trick of patience and why patience works so well. 

Time Pressure

Time pressure plays a part in every negotiation […]. If you want to see how time can be used as a negotiating tool, just watch some children getting concessions from their parents. Children know all about time pressure. If they want something, they ask for it just at the last moment. They wait until you’re rushing out the door for an important meeting … that’s when they know they have the best chance of getting what they want. Why? Because they subconsciously know that under time pressure people become flexible.

Unless sellers are under time pressure, it’s hard to get good buys. However, when they are under a lot of time pressure, you can get terrific buys. And what time pressures might sellers be under? Of course, you won’t know until you have done some work gathering information and asking questions. But there are a lot of possibilities:

  1. Maybe they’re behind on their mortgage payments and don’t see how they can catch up.
  2. Perhaps they are actually in foreclosure and in danger of losing the property unless they can find a buyer.
  3. They might need money to pay off mounting debts.
  4. They might have contracted to buy another home and can’t close on it until they sell this one.
  5. Possibly they’re retiring soon and want to move as soon as possible.
  6. That’s just a partial list of the many things that put sellers under time pressure. Make your own checklist and expand it with each new situation you encounter. Keep your list in mind when you first meet with potential sellers and see if you can spot symptoms of the time pressure they may be under.

To extort time-pressure information from the seller you might ask, “Would you consider a lower offer for a fast sale?” Sellers don’t always respond truthfully, but you may get a feel from the eagerness of their response. If you are dealing with a real estate broker, have your agent call the listing agent and ask, “How long has it been listed? Have they turned down any offers? Why are they selling?” The listing agent will be more likely to share this information with another agent than with you directly.

Another aspect of time pressure that is especially germane to buying real estate is Acceptance Time. It often takes sellers time to understand that they are not going to get as much for their property as they hoped. A low offer that might horrify a seller just after they’ve put their property up for sale may look a whole lot better after the property has been on the market for three months without an offer. Never write off sellers as being hopelessly inflexible on their price. Some of the best buys are from sellers who call back weeks after they turned down the original “unacceptable” offer. They needed time to see that they weren’t going to get a better offer. Always leave the door open for sellers to reopen negotiations. Instead of pressuring them by saying, “This is my final offer,” leave the door open with a statement like, “I hope you get what you’re asking, but if you don’t, call me. I’m not saying I’ll be in a position to buy later, but we can always talk some more.”

Patience is a real virtue when negotiating. The longer you can keep sellers involved in negotiations, the better chance you have of getting what you want. Take your time inspecting the property. Ask as many questions as you can think of. Discuss things you may have in common with sellers. If you see golf clubs or a fishing rod and you golf or fish, have a conversation about it. Take a tape measure with you, measure some of the rooms, and note down the measurements. Pace off the back yard and write it down. Why do these things? For two reasons: The longer you spend with sellers, the more trust they will develop in you. And the more time they spend with you, the more flexible they will become when the negotiations start. Time spent with you will increase their flexibility on price, terms, and other considerations. Why? Because mentally, they want to recoup the time spent with you. Their mind starts to tell them, “I can’t walk away from this empty handed after all the time I have invested.”

There is a caveat here. If you aren’t careful, time can work against you in the negotiations as well. You may find yourself becoming more flexible for the same reasons sellers do. Your subconscious mind will be saying, “I don’t want to walk away from this with nothing after all the time I’ve spent on it.”