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  • Writer's pictureDominic Testo

Keep Your Ego At Bay, Even When Shoes Are Flying!



A sales representative, Dave, on our technology team requested I attend a client meeting as his sales manager. He explained that the network installation did not go as smoothly as anticipated and the client was unhappy. We developed a pre-call plan of what my role would be, Dave’s role, and reviewed the history of the account and situation. We had a plan of action in our pocket for addressing the problem. Dave would take the lead and my role would be to listen and if he requested, assist in problem resolution.

Upon arriving we were called in to the President’s office, the decor of which can be described as a “power office”. The furniture was heavy duty, dark wood. One wall was covered with leather and hanging on the walls were swords. What really caught my attention was one was missing!

The client demanded we sit directly across from him, with the power desk between us. Clearly, this person wanted to take and be in control.

Immediately, the client became very heated and began to use profanity and become very demanding. Dave then made a fatal mistake. He matched the emotion of the client, and loudly told him to calm down and be professional.

You can imagine how well Dave’s statement went over with the client. Even so, I did not anticipate happened next. The client took his shoe off, and demanded Dave leave. He said if he did not leave immediately he would throw his shoe at him. After a few minutes of emotional back and forth, Dave left the room.

Hum, what to do, I asked myself. I calmly asked the client if he wanted me to leave. He stated, “No, I don’t want to deal with that guy anymore. I still need my problem fixed.” I said, “Well, I think we can make some progress. Shall we start again?”

He smiled and said, “I promise I won’t hit you with the shoe, as he placed it back on his foot.” I asked him to tell me specifically what was happening, asking questions along the way.

When I returned to the office for a debrief with Dave, I asked him, “If you had to do it over again, what would you change?” Dave shared the following lessons learned.


• When someone is in an emotional, childlike state the worst thing you can do is match their behavior. You cannot solve a problem when one or both parties is acting like a child.

• Paying attention to the personality style of the client would have helped him to know the client needed to feel in charge: the power office, where he had us sit, his taking control of the meeting from the onset, and the demanding outburst.

• Let the client state his feelings, and don’t take it personally. It is not you they are unhappy about. It is your role. In this situation, Dave as the salesperson, from the client’s viewpoint, was not doing his job well.

• While the client vents, listen carefully and let them finish. It is important to validate as a means of showing empathy.

• Dave shared if he had heard the client out, and then stated, “You have every right to be upset. May I ask a few questions so that can get this solved?”, he would have been in a better position to solve the problem. Why? Because his own behavior of remaining calm, concerned, and hearing the client out was moving the client toward a more adult like state of mind - one which is needed for problem solving.

• Sometimes as sales people, we create roadblocks by getting too emotionally involved because we want to prove ourselves or defend our position, We let our “ego” or need to be right get in the way. Focus on your customer, not on yourself when things go awry and you will have a long term customer.


Lorraine Ferguson, author of the book The Unapologetic Saleswoman, and has been a certified trainer and coach with Sandler Training for the last fifteen years. Sandler Training is a world leader in sales and management development and consulting with over 260 locations.


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