How do you deal with rude customers?

I’ve been working in the building materials industry as a field sales rep for some years now and I still haven’t figured out how to deal with rude or annoying prospects. I consider myself a charismatic person and try to be really empathetic with my prospects, and it normally works out really well. But when I come across people that openly show their anger or annoyance I get really nervous and I don’t know how to handle the situation. How do you deal with this type of people? Do you have any technique to stay calm and not lose control over the conversation?

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Trust me when I say I know how you feel. I have been in sales for about 12 years now and these type of people never go away. The great thing is that they are in the minority. Most people are generally good people and understand that you are just trying to make an honest living.
There is not really a technique or a magic spell to make people change from being rude to being respectful. Everything is sales comes from within. What can you do personally so that this won’t ruin your attitude?
What you have to understand is that you have the ultimate power over how you feel. Don’t let anyone take that power away from you. Once they see that they can change your attitude they will try to test you just to know they have that power. So don’t show them they can influence your attitude.
You also have to understand people may not be having the best day. You never know if they just caught their wife cheating on them or maybe they just heard some bad news. So whatever anyone says don’t take it personal since most likely it is not about you… You might just be in front of them just at the wrong time.
Have self control and always stay positive.


I think my biggest piece of advice would be to just hear your customer out. I find sales to be a relationship of sorts and I want all my customers, even the hard ones to feel that I genuinely care for them. I try to give them the space they need to vent because as @davesells pointed out, you never know what they’re going through. Just be patient and eventually, your customer will feel well taken care of and change their attitude towards you. Don’t let it get to you.


My advice would be different. I do understand that sometimes people are going through hard situations but that doesn’t excuse bad behaviors. In this line of work we are all professionals and we all must act as such. I have had situations where I’ve dealt with difficult customers and always tried my best to be understanding. However, there is always a limit and if I see that my costumer isn’t willing to change and isn’t treating me with respect, I can no longer have a healthy relationship with them. It has to go both ways. For me, when my customer of almost one year kept making ridiculous demands and was never content when I tried to fulfill them I began to worry about where the relationship would go. eventually I found myself to be very overworked, stressed, and unappreciated by my customer. They would call at all hours and expect me to treat them as my single customer not to mention how rude he was on the phone. Eventually I decided to speak to my supervisor and go to him for advice. He told me that sometimes it is necessary to part ways with a customer which is what I ended up doing. It made a big difference, I found myself with more energy to focus on my other customers.

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First, don’t take things personally. It’s really not worth it and your prospect probably just needs to vent and you happened to be in their way. A nice trick that works well for me is to refer to their behavior as inappropriate. Nobody likes to be called ‘inappropriate’, it embarrases them and it usually makes them change the way they’re addressing you. If this doesn’t work, you can always fire a customer. Some people it’s just not worth making business with. You can make a better use of your time focusing on customers with whom communication flows better and who are more receptive and polite.

I agree with @MWong here. You can’t take it personally! They likely deal with salespeople often and have themselves dealt with rude salespeople. Don’t react, use it as a learning experience. Try to stay positive and make sure you communicate empathy towards the frustrations they bring forward. If you ignore it, they might escalate it to the point where they completely forget about the purpose of the meeting and focus simply on being heard. Childish I know, but remember, regardless of how somebody is treating you, you never know what somebody else is going through.