Dealing with difficult customers is a never-ending challenge that we must constantly face in the business world. While there will always be difficult customers, and we can never completely avid them, there are some things that we can do to make our jobs easier. Let’s take a look at what goes on in a difficult customer/salesperson scenario.

The only way that we can deal with difficult customers effectively is by knowing their personality style, and our own personality style. By having an understanding of how they think, we are better able to understand why they are being difficult. Once we know their personality style, we can adjust our own style to meet it. It is very important that we know our style too, because if we don’t, there are bound to be personality clashes and conflicts. Also, when we know our own style, we can modify our behavior to best handle difficult situations and people. We like to ask this question when running training sessions, “How many different kinds of people are there in the world?” It’s really fun, because there are so many different responses to the question. Many people come back and say four, which is correct.

Now let’s take a look at the four different personality types that we find in the world. Psychologists the world over have given these people different names, but let’s take a look at each of them and we will label them accordingly. We usually name these four types of doctors as follows: Friendlies, Control Artists, Intellectuals and Eccentrics.

Now all four styles are good, and no one style is better than the other, in fact the world needs all four styles, to keep everything going.

Let’s take a look at each style of doctor, and see what characterizes them. The Friendlies remind me of the love children and flower power people of the 1960’s. The Friendlies like people, they are real social animals and always have to be around people; relationships as well as people are important to them. One way that you can recognize them is that they usually have photographs of many people in their offices. They are very kind and friendly, in fact they are so kind and friendly that they will never say no to a salesperson, for fear of offending them. They will also never refuse to see a salesperson, unless it is really impossible. Friendlies will also give you a lot of time, because they don’t want you to leave, they really like the company. Often, they are even intimidated by assertive salespeople, which is really not a good situation. Because they are so nice and friendly, it can also be a double-edged sword. Salespeople may find these doctors very frustrating at times, because they always say “yes, I use your product all the time, “ when in fact, they never used the product at all. The reason being, that they don’t want to offend or hurt the salesperson’s feelings.

Doctors who are Control Artists are power people. They like to be in charge, and they never let you forget that they are the doctor and you are the salesperson. The Control Artists are strong forceful people, who will give you just enough time, and then you have to leave. They can be assertive and even aggressive at times. You have to be constantly on your toes with Control doctors, because they will constantly challenge you and they may even look for an argument. A high backed chair, a clean desk with few or no papers on it, and usually many diplomas on the walls, usually characterizes their offices. Make sure that you know your information well when dealing with Control doctors, because they are usually very up to date on product knowledge. They are the shakers and movers that make things happen.

The Intellectuals are those doctors who strive on lots of information; they are usually the doctors who are always asking you for clinical reprints. Their offices are always full of reprints, books, medical journals, and other informational materials. The Intellectuals tend to be very knowledgeable and very technical. These doctors, while they like information, they also need a lot of time to digest all of this information, and usually don’t make decisions quickly. They will ask you many questions, be patient with them they need to analyze the situation very carefully. Go slowly with them, and don’t try to close too quickly, you may need many visits before they make a decision.

The Eccentrics are the real out-going risk taking doctors; they are always looking for new medications to try. Many of these Eccentrics will get so excited over a new product, that at times they won’t even let you get a word in. Their enthusiasm and vibrancy is overwhelming. Their offices are usually very modern in design, have nice soft music, and often there are unusual or modern art paintings and sculptures. You will find a lot of creativity in the Eccentrics; they may be very innovative in their selection of drug therapy. Beware that while they may be first to adopt a new product, they also may be first to drop it, as soon as a newer product comes along.

Now once you have looked at all of these doctors and know their styles, you will be very able to deal with them effectively and with very few difficulties. Let’s take a look at each of the styles again and see what we can do to work with them, so as to encounter as few problems as possible.

When dealing with Friendlies, be as amiable and sociable as possible, don’t refuse any offers of hospitality and don’t be assertive. Smile, relax, imitate and mirror their behavior in a very cordial manner. Try to get involved in social activities with these doctors; it’s a great way to build relationships with them.

When dealing with Control Artists, remember that they are in charge, let them direct and even dominate the presentation, if need be. Know your stuff, be right to the point with them and get out of there. They are not very social animals, so don’t try to socialize with them, but do always show respect and courtesy. Beware that they may look for an argument, so be as diplomatic as possible with them and avoid conflict at all costs. You can never win an argument with a Control Artist.

When dealing with Intellectuals, you must be prepared for many questions, and be able to answer them. However, even your effective responses to their questions may not make them ready to prescribe. Provide them with a lot of information and make sure that it’s quality information. Most of all with intellectuals you have to be patient, don’t rush them. They need a lot of time to analyze all of the information before they can make a decision.

Dealing with Eccentrics is always a new experience. Their flamboyant style makes them very interested in new and adventurous ideas and products. Be sincere with them and don’t look at them as if they are crazy. Be a good listener with them and try to understand the rationale behind their thinking. Use new and novel presentation techniques with them; they will love things that are original. Be enthusiastic, excited and motivated, just as they are.

Now that you have analyzed and determined all of your customer’s behavior styles, it’s time to determine which is your style. It’s not just enough to know your style, but you need to know how to be versatile and adapt your style to that of your customers/doctors. It takes a little time, but if done properly can pay you big rewards give it a try.

Author's Bio: 

A U.S. Air Force veteran and MBS, Vince has spent over thirty five years in the business world, primarily in the pharmaceutical industry.