How Sales Reps Can Sell to Difficult Customers

Dan Galante
2 min readJan 4, 2017


In sales, we all have to deal with difficult customers. Today, I am going discuss how to deal with difficult customers. Before I can discuss how to handle difficult customers, the situation needs to be put in context. In other words, why were the customers being difficult? Were they being difficult because you screwed up their order or service call? Are they just miserable people? Does the customer constantly cancel their orders? What kind of relationship do you have with this customer? How important is your customer to your bottom line or monthly quota.

Now I know that the first thing you want to do with a nasty customer is to tell them off and fire them. My answer is to resist this urge. You need to remain calm in order to figure out what is causing the customers hostility. If the customer is being hostile because you and your company screwed up, take responsibility and fix the situation. I always did this during my time in outside sales. If you have a customer who constantly wastes your time having you order items only to cancel these orders, I suggest having a discussion with the customer to try and settle the issue at hand. If this goes nowhere then fire the customer! (Provided they do a small amount of business with you.)

Should you have a customer that is nasty who has a long standing relationship with the company, with you and is crucial to you bottom line/ making your sales quota, I suggest that you suck it up and find a way to keep this customer happy. You do not want to cut your nose to spite you face.

Handling collections can also create difficulty between you and your customer. However, this does not have to be the case. Customers will usually not pay an invoice because of the following reasons: the product you sold them did not work, they lost their invoice, they are having cash flow problems, or the sales rep was too lazy to follow up with the customers. If the product you sold them does not work, fix the issue immediately. If the customer lost their invoice, provide them with another copy and follow up. If the customer is having cash flow problems work out a payment plan. If you are the sales rep follow up. If you’re the sales manager, lean on the rep. Remember to be respectful to the customer. It is important to keep in mind that you want to sell this customer items in the future; not just collect a debt. (I discuss getting customers to pay on time in a previous post.)

Many difficult customers can be managed with great customer service and follow through. However, some cannot be dealt with and need to be fired. Firing customers should be a last resort.