How To Use Soft Skills in Sales To Soothe Angry Clients

BY Jessica Helinski
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There are many situations in which soft skills in sales are helpful; one of those is when dealing with an angry client. When working with others, conflict happens. The most successful sellers are prepared, smartly navigate the conflict and diffuse the situation.

Soft skills in sales can diffuse tensions

According to HubSpot’s Sophia Bernazzani, “Soft skills are the combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, emotional intelligence, and personality traits that make it easy to get along and work harmoniously with other people.” By leveraging specific soft skills when a client is angry and upset, sellers enhance the client’s satisfaction and encourage loyalty.

In an article for TeamGantt, Sarah Hansen shares her own insights into how soft skills in sales can soothe even the most difficult customer.

See the opportunity

First and foremost, when faced with an upset client, your mindset will set the tone for how you approach the situation. While it’s doubtful that anyone enjoys conflict, it is possible to approach it with a positive attitude, which can set the tone for a more pleasant experience for everyone.

When faced with an angry client, Hansen encourages reps to look at it as an opportunity to help a client and leave a lasting positive impression. “The more intense the emotion people experience, the more concrete the memory of the event,” she explains. “Think of this moment as the opportunity to take a picture and store it in their mind of their opinion of you and your company.”

Rather than falling back on the typical feelings of anxiety, frustrating, annoyance or avoidance, adopt a helpful, curious mindset to offer the best assistance possible.

Be empathetic

Empathy is one of the most important soft skills in sales. The ability to understand a situation from another perspective can be powerful, especially when you’re dealing with an angry client. Putting yourself in their position will give you more perspective and the ability to understand the situation through their eyes. This is important in conflict resolution because often, we are only able to see things through our own lens. But the more you practice shifting your perspective, the easier it will be to step into others’ shoes. And the more genuine it will appear, which is vital. “[Clients] must feel your concern for them, and know that you see things from their perspective,” she points out. “They must truly believe that you empathize.”

However, this particular soft skill can take time. As David Bloom wrote for Sales Hacker, “Empathy can be hard. It requires vulnerability and emotional intelligence. Not only do you have to understand someone else’s reality, but you have to be able to transpose yourself into it, leaving behind your own attitudes and biases to see the world from their perspective.”

For more tips on nurturing empathy, check out our past articles on the topic.

Practice active listening and mind your words

Facing an angry client will certainly test your communication skills. This is where soft skills in sales shine. Active listening is a key soft skill for sellers. Demonstrate to the client you truly care by listening to their concerns and employing body language that shows you’re listening. Eye contact, not interrupting, nodding, and thoughtful responses, including questions, can achieve this.

Also, be mindful about your own words. “Phrases such as, ‘What's your problem?’ ‘Calm down’ ‘It's company policy!’ will just trigger more anger,” Hanse explains. “Instead, tell them that you understand why they are frustrated. Thank them for bringing this issue to your attention. Apologize that this happened to them. And then, offer to sincerely work towards fixing their complaint to their highest satisfaction.”

Calm your energy

This can be very difficult when faced with someone who is upset, especially if they don’t have control over their emotions. But emotional control is such a valuable soft skill in sales. By not resorting to anger yourself, you are instantly helping to diffuse the situation. Your energy does impact others, and by staying calm, you aren’t adding any more fuel to the fire. While this may be easier to do over email or phone than in person, you do have the power to keep calm and patient.

We are all human,” Hansen writes. “No one likes to be yelled at or blamed for things by an unhappy, angry person. The natural response is to defend and defy. Employ whatever anger management techniques are needed for you to quell this response. This will put you soundly above most other sales consultants.”

So, when a client’s emotions are escalated, take a deep breath, and center yourself and your own energy. If you feel like it’s needed, consider reading up on best practices for difficult conversations and emotional control.

Nurture these skills to settle conflict and stand apart

Soft skills in sales are valuable in so many situations, especially when a client is upset. Leveraging soft skills in an emotionally charged situation will not only expertly help the client through the issue, but also maintain your professionalism, inspire loyalty and strengthen the relationship. You’ll also set yourself apart from sellers who still haven’t embraced these practices. “While no one likes conflict, it is inevitable in any business relationship dealing with a large volume of customers,” Hansen writes. “However, being fair, empathetic, and honest will go a long way towards building a bridge of trust with your customer.”

Photo by Yan Krukov