Would you sleep with your customer if they offered you a million dollars to do it? That was the question that was asked in the blockbuster movie “Indecent Proposal” with Robert Redford, Demi Moore, and Woody Harrelson.
Sure Demi Moore wasn’t a product manager, but the situation was similar to the one that we often find ourselves in when we are dealing with a manipulative client. What should you do – take the money and feel dirty in the morning or refuse it and watch your product sales hit rock bottom?
It’s Really Not About Sex…
In the world of product management, (hopefully) we don’t spend a lot of time talking about sexual favors in order to boost the sales of our products. However, there are a lot of customers who will do almost anything to get their way. Couple this with product managers who have the inability to say no to a customer and you’ve got a recipe for a disaster.
I think that we all know what an angry customer looks like, but what is a manipulative customer? A little psychology textbook research shows that this type of customer is attempting to both mange and control another person (you!) , or a situation, in order to make things turn out the way that they want them to.
Before you blame the customer for manipulating you into doing something that you’ll regret tomorrow, hold on a minute. All too often we product managers not only allow, but in some cases even invite our customers to manipulate us.
How do we do this? Simple: we make two mistakes.
First we have a deep need to seek constant approval of both ourselves and our product from our customers. Second, our greatest fear is that the customer will tell us that they don’t like either us or our product and we’ll end up losing our product manger jobs. We can’t bear the thought of that happening. Shape up product manger!
Learn How To Turn Down A Customer’s Improper Advances
Manipulative customers aren’t going to go away – they will always be out there. As a product manager you are going to have to learn how to deal with them in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling cheap and easy.
The first thing that you need to realize is that every manipulative customer has their own special way of twisting you around their little finger. Once you understand how they do it, then you’ll be in a better position to prevent them from doing it to you again.
A case in point is the customer who has the way of turning your words around and using them against you. The next time you find yourself presenting to them, take the time to write out what you are going to say – perhaps even going so far as to use flipcharts instead of slides. This way you’ll control the conversation and take away his greatest weapon against you.
If you dread meeting with a customer because of the bad experiences that you’ve had with them in the past, then you will probably be putting off that meeting for as long as you can and caving into his demands when you finally do meet with him. However, this just shows that you are suffering from low assertiveness – show some spine!
To solve this problem, you need to tackle the next meeting with that customer head on. Get it set up as soon as possible – don’t delay! Then, before you meet with the customer, picture a successful meeting in your mind. What would you say? What would the customer say? Having a picture of success in you head will allow you to keep steering the conversation towards that idea. You’re not assured of being successful, but this will certainly boost your chances.
In the end, you are not going to be able to get your customers to change their manipulative ways. Instead, you are going to have to change how you deal with them.
In the product manager job description we are told that we need to be empathetic with them and listen to their issues; however, just because they have issues does not mean that you need to make changes to your product or your pricing just to suit them.
Every time you deal with a manipulative customer, you need to keep a record of what they tried to do and how you dealt with it. As you have more and more successes, this record will serve to remind you that your own judgement is more than good enough to deal with customers who just want to have it their own way.
What’s the best way that you’ve ever dealt with a manipulative customer?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Shopping for groceries is a pain. Being forced to do a grocery store’s job for them is a bigger pain. The U.K. supermarket chain Asda (owned and operated by Wal-Mart) is #2 in their market and they want to be #1. Their product managers have come up with a truly horrible plan to get there.