Sales : Bad News

Sooner or later you will have to tell your client some bad news. It could be a botched order, delayed delivery, a price increase or just a simple screw up.

Whatever the message, there is a right way and a wrong way to deliver the news.

E-mail is the wrong way. The best scenario is to deliver bad news in person. This is the reason you develop a relationship with your buyer. It’s not there for you when everything is going well. It’s there to cushion the bad news. You want your client to remember all of the good things you have done for him and his firm when it hits the fan.
Man up and deliver the bad news in person. Your client will see that you share his pain and that you care enough to deliver the news face to face. You can gauge how big of an issue this news is for your client. You can be there to brainstorm and discuss possible solutions.
The second best way to deliver bad news is on the phone. It’s not as good as face to face but it’s much better than e-mail and sometimes it is the only practical way to deliver the message ona timely basis. make the call and deliver the message. If there are some options that your client can consider, then lay it out clearly. Don’t sugar coat the message. If it’s bad news, get it out on the table and wait for the client’s reaction. Be supportive, take the heat and move on.
E-mail is OK as a follow up or to offer a written apology for a screw up but it should be your absolute last option as your initial contact in this type of situation.
If the bad news is your doing or something you should have anticipated, take ownership. “it’s on me.” If it’s something that is out of your control…”a typhoon in the China Sea is causing one to two weeks delay in delivery”…. you can express your sincere concern but you do not need to commit seppuka..
Whenever possible, deliver the bad news, take the heat with the initial client reaction and then be ready to offer suggestions on how to minimize the damage. Even if your suggestions are not accepeted, you have already started the process of moving on and dealing with the issue and heading the relationship back to business as usual.
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