You’re working with a customer. You’ve done your homework, and you understand what they hope to achieve. You’ve asked a hundred open-ended questions, and you know what they need. Then… when you’re ready to get the ball rolling, they tell you they want something else. You know that “something else” is a mistake. It won’t meet their needs; it’s not cost-effective, practical, or it may create customer service issues. The customer is wrong. How do you tell them?

How to Tell a Customer They’re Wrong

Don’t make it personal. Never attack them, instead of using personal pronouns talk about the plan. Discuss the project not the person. Remain objective.

Use your experience to teach them. State the facts, give evidence, and share insights. Lead them to the best choice.

Offer alternatives. Fine tune their idea to make it work or include their thoughts in the initiative.

Blame misunderstanding on your miscommunication and use the opportunity to re-communicate what will best serve their needs.

Make it their idea. After explaining what they need and why, seek input, if their input is positive and they’re receptive establish a buy-in by agreeing with them.

Be direct, not blunt or combative. Rather than dwell on why the plan isn’t their best choice talk about how the proposed plan fits their needs.

Telling your customer they’re wrong isn’t easy. I mean, ultimately they pay the bills, don’t they? However, the alternative may cause more difficulties. Allowing a customer to make the wrong choice, which leads to an ineffective solution or worse, creates more problems than it solves, exposes you for exactly what you are—a salesman more concerned about the sale than the customer. Advising your customer the best possible fit to their needs will establish you as a customer-centric consultant and form the basis for a long term relationship. How do you say no?

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