In business we talk cool. With the right mood, we target market share with the on going activities. To keep the trend positive, executives happy and the firm a leader.

It’s obvious that in this fashionable delirium of words we cannot say pissed off customers. Let’s call them differently satisfied customers?

Well, we settle the terminology, but our client is still bellowing. How do you handle it?

Let me be clear, here is not about slightly unhappy customers. Confused or perplexed ones. It’s really upset people.

With those ones you cannot sell or negotiate, so don’t even bother trying. At least as long as they are in that condition. The first word is ACKNOWLEDGE. Recognising she’s cross means try to start an emotional link with her. It doesn’t not mean that you agree she’s right, only understanding and acknowledge her emotional state. Something as simple as “I understand”.

Create empathy and lower the friction. How? Speak at a slower pace and calmly. Wait! It’s not zen or a lullaby, the opposite would be crazy and counter-productive. Just a little slower a calmer, to reduce tension rather than fuel it.

If you feel like, and it makes sense in the context, plainly ask her what would help her get over her anger. Make sure you understand well, nothing is worse than asking and then act incoherently.

Remember you are a sales person, thus you should spell “problem” o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y (memory of my past in Anixter). So if what you are asked is reasonable and doable, go ahead and inquire if that not only solves the issue but it is also a chance to show how your organisation can satisfy customers even in less than happy times.

If your proposal is not enough, ask if there’s more you can do, just as before. Only once more. Otherwise you risk entering a never ending loop with the outcome of both loosing time and raising your blood pressure.

You always have two chances: telling her what you CAN do immediately to help her and ask for some time to speak to your managers and get back to her. And then do it, please!

In a nutshell, create empathy, cool down the situation, find a concrete solution that shows that you care about her needs. Avoid what doesn’t work, a direct clash, fighting on the same level, wear a t-shirt that says walk over me, lying, go 100% on her side (you are employed by your company, not hers).

All of the above can work. Or it cannot.

Sometimes the customer will stay cross. Sometimes, luckily not often, you lost her for life, and neither your kids will never ever sell anything to her kids. It happens, you did what you could. What matters is that you did not loose time dealing with a problem you could not solve.

You did not waste resources trying selling to someone that wasn’t going to buy anyway. Your energy wasn’t squandered negotiating the un-negotiable.

All of this inspired by this great Seth Godin’s post.