Dealing with a Bad Reputation
Any sales organization that has been in existence for more than a year has probably had time to get bad reviews. Reputation management is vital for any company. Furthermore, your company's reputation can have a direct impact on your personal sales and networking interactions. Whether you are brand new to the industry or a seasoned veteran, you should know some basic rules to begin to overcome objections caused by a bad reputation.
Saying you are sorry doesn’t necessarily mean you're at fault. Don’t be afraid to say it. Thankfully for me, most of the complaints I hear are from people outside my territory or comments about one of my predecessors. I rarely have to apologize for anything I actually did. You don’t have to grovel. Simply saying, “I am sorry to hear you had a bad experience. What could have been done to make it better?” can make a world of difference. You have established that you care not only about your company’s reputation, but also the other person’s opinion.
2. Time is on Your Side
This may come as a shock to some of you, but PEOPLE HOLD GRUDGES! I can tell you are surprised by that statement. It’s the truth. The grudge holders can be difficult to reason with. However, they equip you with a unique angle, deflection. By deflection, I mean that you can partially invalidate their complaint by saying something like: “We have changed our policies” or “That’s the way things used to be done.” Most of the time, these situations happened YEARS ago. Use the time passage to your advantage. You can blame old leadership, bad management, a poorly performing predecessor, etc… Any of these “excuses” can effectively deflect their anger away from you and clear the way to charm them. I take a grudge holder as a personal challenge to win back. One caveat—if they try your service again, you better DAZZLE them. If you don’t, you’ll never win them back!
3. Ask for Input
People love to feel like their opinion matters. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “I don’t use your company anymore.” The first thing I want to do is know WHY! I don’t just flat out ask. I usually say, “Oh, would you mind sharing an experience you had that lead to your decision?” Sometimes, it has nothing to do with the reputation. However, I have found that at least 75% of the time it has something to do with it. Simply asking them for their opinion will soften them up and open the door for a reasoned discussion about what the company can do better and how their experience could differ on future encounters.
4. Make a Distinction between YOUR Reputation and the Company’s
This method can be much easier if you are only affiliated with a company and not employed. However, it can be used in either case. If you are a REALTOR, for instance, it is easy to separate your personal service from that of your company. I find it vitally important to make sure that my detractors know that MY service sets me apart from my company. There are times when their complaint is with customer service and not necessarily with the policies and practices of the company. I gained one of my top agents after she said a few choice words about a customer service experience. At the end of our conversation she said, “If you can promise me I won’t have to deal with the customer service people again, you can have all my business.” I was able to separate my reputation from that of my company and she recognized that I was worth a try.
5. Ask (Beg) for a Second Chance
If you are waiting for someone to offer you the chance to try again for their business, you could be waiting a VERY long time. When all is said and done, people like being courted. They WANT you ask. Well, they actually want you to beg. I don’t go that far. But there is nothing wrong with requesting a chance to change their mind. Even if they only agree on a small scale trial run, all you need is a foot in the door. If you don’t even ring the doorbell, how will anyone know to let you in?