I think the way you handle losing a customer is every bit as important as winning a customer.  It might be tempting to throw a tantrum on the phone, but there is much to learn by being polite.

When talking to a lost customer, I:

  • Congratulate them or wish them the best with their purchase,
  • Ask them why they made the choice,
  • Offer to provide advice, and
  • Follow up in a few months.

Whilst it is sometimes tempting, I believe the things you should absolutely not do are

  • Get irate or angry at them over the phone,
  • Be hostile towards them, or
  • Discredit the choice they went with.

The last point is perhaps the most important here.  I recall once when a family member bought a computer from advice from someone else, they didn’t ask me about it.  I was angry and upset that I had lost the ‘sale’ as I considered myself the ‘tech expert’ in the family.  (The ‘sale’ in this case was to provide advice, not actually sell them a computer.)  I remember discrediting the product they had purchased, to a point where they became upset over their choice.

Nothing would have altered the fact that they had purchased a computer and being childish about losing the ‘sale’ would amount to nothing.  It didn’t even make me feel good, in fact I felt terrible about it! It has all been resolved now and I have taken away an important lesson in sales.

In ‘the real world’ when I lose a sale, I immediately congratulate them for going ahead with the product – in it’s general sense.  For example “well done on buying a TV” is more general than “well done on buying from X”.  Then, and this is the important bit, I offer them advice and support should they need it in the future.  Whilst it would be very rare for you to get something on the spot, this action will put you in a very strong position should they have a problem with brand X in the future.  Be sure to make a follow-up call in three to six months and you’ll be surprised at how well received you are.  You may even land support sales – especially if brand X failed to deliver!