Pitfall 9: Tough Conversations Aren’t Practised (Lesson 10) (Part 1)

There are big and small moments every day when holding your ground and calling out a customer could lead to a huge improvement in net margin outcomes. When these moments arrive, would you back your staff to step away from the potential conflict, or would you back them to engage?

It should not come as a surprise that tough conversations between suppliers and customers are constantly required at every level of function-specific interaction. Your staff members can prepare for such conversations by practising them. The inherent fear of “getting hurt” can be negated by role-playing anticipated verbal exchanges.

Football teams practise defensive and offensive manoeuvres constantly. For a supplier, the available manoeuvres should not be limited to simply saying “no” or pointing to a contract clause.

While there may be occasions for those approaches, there may also be opportunity to counter the customer’s demands with an equally unrealistic request of your own, such as “I can provide you with all the widgets you require within 48 hours, but you will need to pay a 300% price premium in advance.”

This will test how serious the customer is about the urgency of their request.

The bigger point here is that you must be prepared to have meaningful conversations “in the moment” (right when things happen), which means your staff needs to be equipped with some guidelines around what is acceptable and unacceptable and be rehearsed in the delivery of the message.

In Part 2 of this post, we’ll look at some specific language you can use to work with customers.