In the best of times, closing a deal is hard. It’s even more difficult in today’s COVID-19 environment, with stress and anxiety reaching record levels.
A recent human resources study found that 69 percent of surveyed workers are experiencing more pressure than ever before in their careers. The impact of these stressful times is so severe that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines to help people cope.
Homeowners in need of vital repairs are no exception and unexpected expenses will likely increase the anxiety they are already experiencing. While it may seem that the “sales-deck” is stacked against you, there are many effective ways to calm nervous customers.
Understanding Nervous Personalities
Human beings are complex creatures, particularly when discussing psychology. Anxious or nervous personalities are nothing new, and salespeople will still have to sell to people with these temperaments once the pandemic passes. Anxiety-prone people typically fall into two categories, that of feeling overwhelmed or the need to be in control.
Without a doubt, a new home repair, particularly in unstable economic times, will function as a stress trigger, causing the homeowner to feel subjugated or unable to control the situation. Understanding the causality of a challenging customer is the first step in easing the situation.
Identifying Anxious Customers
Trusting your instincts is never bad, but there are tell-tale mannerisms to look for when identifying a nervous customer. An anxious prospect may display speech patterns that are hesitant or cautious, exhibit long pauses, or the use of qualifying phrases such as “I guess,” “perhaps,” or “sometimes.” They also may have disjointed ideas or vague expressions and may start a sentence then trail off.
Non-verbal anxiety ques can include fidgeting, trembling of hands, foot jiggling, and self-touching gestures, such as hand wringing. Recognizing non-verbal signals when conducting a video conference can be challenging; thus, it may require some additional probing as well as paying acute attention to the types of speech patterns that indicate stress or nervousness.
Calming Nervous Customers
Even the most persuasive salesperson won’t be able to take away the stress that COVID-19 has wrought upon our society, but it can be mitigated. Speak deliberately in a soft and controlled tone to project quiet confidence. Address customer concerns in an emphatic, concise, and confident manner to ensure them you understand and care about their priorities and apprehensions. Maintain control of the conversation but remember control should not be perceived as dominance (great salespeople do this instinctively). If the dialog starts to sway off-course, politely steer it back by explaining you would be happy to discuss another topic once this discussion is finished.
Make sure your body language sends relaxed and reassuring signals. Reinforce wording with smiles and head nods – if wearing a face mask, substitute a smile for a hand gesture like a thumbs-up. Keep your body relaxed by avoiding jittery body movements. And allow for personal space between you and the customer; this spacing also follows the CDC guidelines for social distancing.
The meeting venue can also help set a calm stage. If meeting with a client via video conferencing, use a non-distracting and soothing background color. Video conferencing apps like Zoom and Cisco Webex make it easy to update backgrounds. If meeting with the homeowner in-person, suggest a sedate area of the home, such as the backyard. This is not only more relaxing, but may help decrease the spread of COVID-19. While outside, make sure to maintain social distancing practices.
Lastly, consider easing standard contract requirements. Even the most stalwart of prospects will be concerned about spending money on unavoidable home repairs during uncertain financial times. If feasible, offer deferred interest-free payments or waive the deposit – perhaps consider presenting a secondary repair in the future at a discounted rate. Each contractor will have to access what contract elements can be relaxed; however, the gesture well may be the key to calming the homeowner’s trepidations and building a trusting and long-term relationship.
It’s an Opportunity
Moods, whether positive or negative, can be just as contagious as a virus – this phenomenon is called an emotional contagion. Although often nonconscious, humans can transfer feelings to those around them; this is not good or bad, it is just how we are wired.
Therefore, when working with a nervous client, consider it an opportunity rather than a challenge. Reacting to apprehension in a calm and empathic manner should help deescalate the situation. Never take it personally; a customer’s anxiety stems from internal and external sources; you are not the cause.
Close the Deal
Dealing with nervous customers doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover; remain firm on the value of the project you are quoting. But make sure the homeowner knows you understand and care about their concerns.
Concisely and coolly address each concern while emphasizing why working with your company can ease their fears. People tend to appreciate working with those whom they find reassuring. With a little finesse and empathy, you may turn a nervous prospect into one of your best customers.