Modern Selling: How to Handle Confrontation with Customers

June 10, 2022
7 tips to help your sales team navigate unexpected price increases, empty shelves and more

This article originally appeared in the June 2022 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.

I cannot remember a time when consumers have received worse treatment than today. Whether trying to order a coffee at Starbucks, purchase groceries at a reasonable price, or install an access control system in a new building, the experience is not much fun right now.

There are not enough skilled personnel, prices have jumped drastically, and lead times are longer than ever. We are being asked to pay higher prices for worse attitudes and wait in a very long line to do it.

That makes selling stuff even worse – especially in the security technology industry that relies on many layers of supply and pricing. The irony is that the actual selling has been easy lately – the market is booming! However, much of a salesperson’s job has evolved into managing heated customers. This can be difficult since most sales professionals are not trained in conflict resolution, but it is possible, and the salespeople should be acting as the front-line representatives.

Here are seven ideas to help salespeople manage confrontation:

1. Be comfortable knowing that everyone is experiencing price increases and supply chain issues. It is not just you or your company – your customers are having these challenges with other vendors and in their personal lives. Many other vendors are complaining, making excuses, and staying focused on pointing their fingers at others, making it easier for you to shine.

2. Communicate in person or on the phone. There is an increasing trend to communicate bad news through technology like texting or emailing. Do not fall for it. There is no better method to resolve conflict than to do it in person. Include as many appropriate people from your customer’s site as possible in your meeting. Reason and temperament tend to level out when more people are involved.

3. Take on the persona of the fixer. Knowing that you are the person taking responsibility for delivering the solution will relieve your customer and add to your confidence.

4. When in doubt, communicate. When your customer is waiting to hear about a project kick-off date or the possibility of a price deadline extension, they are anxious and want to make sure they have not fallen into a black hole. Even if you have nothing to report, give them frequent updates.

5. Follow-up all resolutions in an email. When doing this, you are serving your customers by keeping everyone in the loop, and you are also creating documentation in case there is disagreement later.

6. During the selling process, let your potential customers know how you are handling these common issues. They will appreciate that your company has addressed them, and that you have a plan.

7. Look at the situation as an opportunity. Case in point: Barring something unexpected, I will never leave our IT provider because of how they handled a recent issue. At first, I felt like they should have identified the problem earlier; in fact, I had the attitude of “this is why we pay you.” I was angry; however, they worked hard, communicated fully with me, and did the best they could. They did not fully fix our problem, but I got to see their commitment.

Without this confrontation, I never would have known how great they were. It was an opportunity for them, just as your current issues are opportunities for you to prove yourself to your customers. You may not be able to fix their pricing or lead times, but your effort and communication will impress them.

While it is a tough time to be a consumer and even tougher time to be a salesperson, by following these ideas, you will move out of this time period with minimal losses and many more committed clients.

Chris Peterson is the founder and president of Vector Firm (, a sales consulting and training company built specifically for the security industry. Use "Security Business" as a coupon code to receive a 10% lifetime discount at To request more info about the company, visit