How to close deals when you have bad reviews

by Steli Efti
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Every salesperson has to deal with sales objections. It’s part of the job. And with practice, you’ll become much more comfortable dealing with them.

But there’s one objection that many salespeople have trouble with even after years of experience:

"I heard your company sucks."

Maybe the prospect has read bad reviews of your company. Or one of their friends had a bad experience. Either way, they have a low opinion of your business.

Whether your company actually has a terrible reputation or they just read a single bad review doesn't matter. You have to overcome their negative view of the company and make the sale.

It might seem impossible at first, but it's not. In fact, this objection can be a great opportunity for impressing your customer!

We'll start with what not to do in this situation.

If you want to create your own ways for handling these objections, be sure to grab our free objection management template so you can fill it in as we go along!

What not to do

Don't get angry. (Even if the prospect is hostile.)

Don't get whiny.

Don't get deflated.

Don't get overly apologetic.

And, most important of all, don't lose confidence.

Just because someone has heard something bad about your company doesn't mean the sale is lost.

This is where many salespeople go wrong. They react quickly and they end up screwing themselves over. Remember that "I've read a bad review of your company" is just like any other sales objection. It can be overcome. It's not the death knell of your sales call.

In fact, you should be grateful that your prospect brought up this issue. They're under no obligation to tell you that you have a bad reputation, and many prospects won't tell you anything. They'll just politely listen to your sales call and then forget about it.

If someone tells you about your bad reputation, you've been given an opportunity.

Get the source of the bad review

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First, find out where your prospect read or heard the bad review. Was it on a Google or Yelp review? A comparison site? A tweet? A friend or colleague?

The strength of the source makes a difference in how likely you are to sway the prospect. If they read a single tweet trashing your company, it might not take a whole lot to overcome this objection.

If a trusted coworker told them about a bad experience, though, you have a bigger task ahead of you.

You'll treat the objection similarly no matter its source. But it's a good habit to find out why the prospect thinks you have such a bad reputation. If you find out that you have a lot of bad reviews in a specific place or because of a particular issue, you can spend time to deal with it.

Now, let's talk about actually overcoming this sales objection.

Be honest with your prospect

There are four ways you can address this sales objection. The method you choose depends on how accurate and up-to-date that information is.

If you're getting these objections often, be sure to include responses in your objection management document so everyone knows how to deal with them.

1. The information was correct, but it's outdated

Every company makes mistakes. You made one and it resulted in a bad reputation. But you've addressed the concern.

How do you tell your prospect that in a way that doesn't sound like a denial?

Start by telling them that the bad review was correct. "Yes, that was true; good job doing your research before the call. We messed up. But we've addressed the issue and here's how things are different now."

The important part is to tell your prospect how you've changed. Maybe you had terrible customer service and you've brought on a new manager. Or your product was notoriously fickle, but you spent three months recoding the problematic areas.

Close actually had this issue. When we first released our CRM, we had no built-in reporting at all. And we would occasionally hear this from prospective customers: “I heard a lot of good things about your CRM, but not about your reporting.”

We’ve since remedied that and offer some of the best sales reporting features in the CRM space.

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Reassure your prospect and give them specific information on what you've updated.

But what if the information isn't totally correct? That requires a different method:

2. The information is partially true

Things tend to get blown out of proportion on the internet. When someone has a bad experience, they don't often say that it might have just been them, or that there were extenuating circumstances.

Instead, they say that you're the worst company ever and everything you've ever done totally sucks.

In these cases, it's important to give your prospect context that explains why you received a bad review.

For example, maybe you're not good at serving a particular type of customer. That's fine. But you'll need to communicate that in an effective way to your prospect.

You might say something like, "Yes, it's true that we don't have the in-house expertise to work with companies in the manufacturing industry. We're working on that. But we've gotten great reviews from businesses like yours in the service industry."

This changes the focus from the true, but not contextually relevant, bad review to how you can help this prospect. You don't need to convince them to ignore what they've heard. Just that it's not as important as it may have seemed.

When the bad review or your reputation is totally false, though, you'll take a different tack:

3. The information is wrong

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Sometimes this happens. People don't do their research before leaving a bad review. Or they exaggerate. Sometimes they lie.

It's easy to get defensive when you hear about a reputation that's just plain wrong. But don't give in to the temptation. You need to be sensitive about how you approach this one.

If the information is wrong, why is that reputation out there? Your prospect will probably want to know, and you'll get the best result if you have a concrete answer.

Unfortunately, this usually blindsides salespeople.

So you have to overcome this objection carefully. "I've never heard that criticism before," you might say. "Based on hundreds of interactions with customers, I can say that I've never seen that happen and that we always strive to make sure that it doesn't happen."

Backup your assertion with your experience—let the prospect know that you've seen hundreds or thousands of interactions. Or that you've been with the company for years. And promise to look into the false criticism to see where it's come up and why.

This is an important one to follow up. If there's false information out there, it can seriously hurt your company. And you don't want other salespeople to be dealing with this on a regular basis.

And now, onto the final situation. When the information isn't totally wrong—but totally right:

4. The information is right

Believe it or not, this situation is a great time to impress the prospect. If you own up to a bad review or admit that your company sucks at something, they'll be surprised. And they'll respect you for it.

Of course, you have to admit your shortcoming in the right way. You can't just say "Yeah, we suck at that."

Instead, approach it like this: "You know what? You heard that we're bad at providing social media tech support. And you're right. But we chose to not put an emphasis on quick social media responses. Only our paying customers have access to our direct tech support phone line, and we're more concerned with solving their problems immediately. That's what you'd get from us, and that's why the delay in social tech support won't matter to you."

Every company makes compromises, so there's a good chance you'll have to take this approach to address a criticism or shortcoming.

The crucial part of addressing this objection is to tell people why they should go with your company anyway. Maybe that criticism isn't a big deal because you offer something more important. Or it seems overblown because people get really upset about it, but later realize that other services you offer make up for it.

Whatever the case, make sure your prospect knows that your reputation for being bad at something isn't actually as big of a deal as it seems.

Admit it, address it, move past it

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Whether your bad reputation is deserved or not, you can move prospects past being worried about it. But you'll need to approach this situation delicately.

It's easy to get upset or feel defeated when a prospect tells you that your company has gotten bad reviews for a particular issue. But you can turn that around and emphasize the best parts of your product or service.

I'll say this again, though—you can only do this effectively if you stay calm and have a plan. If you get defensive, you're not going to create a compelling face for your company.

Stay cool. Get the sale. 

If you want to learn more about handling objections, be sure to grab our free objection management template! It's a great way to share your best objection-handling methods with everyone on your team.

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