Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Good Cop Bad Cop - February 21, 2015

C’mon you’ve seen this on the crime drama, in the movies, or even between lawyers in contract negotiations. It’s called the Good Cop Bad Cop scenario. One person (the good cop) is friendly, pleasant and befriends the subject while the other person (the bad cop) plays hardball, makes threats, tries to intimidate, all in an effort to win something (a result, a verdict, and admission). And then there are times where one person has to play both roles. So, you may be wondering what this has to do with sales.


In many transactions the sales representative is the good cop working with the client to achieve a specific outcome. The sales manager tends to be the bad cop and must stand firm with payment terms, contract restrictions, availability of product quantity, or deadline for service delivery. These are roles played over and over every day of the week in sales. There are two scenarios I’d like to share in this week’s post.


The first is the sales person as the good cop and the sales manager as the bad cop. For those that are the sales person – remember a few rules of engaging in this approach with a client. You must first earn their trust. You must have a commitment from them that they want to do business with you. They are ready to buy. They have the pen in hand and are ready to sign the contract. It is only when this is the state of the sales process that you are ready to put your arm around their shoulder and let them know that there is one final part of the sales process. Enter the sales manager. As a sales manager – you cannot be a jerk. You can’t come into the meeting with a raised voice or bad attitude. You can be friendly but firm. Your goal is to have the prospective client accept a term or element to the business dealing that they may not want. Here is an example: your standard payment terms are Net21 and the client wants Net60. You don’t need to throw them out of the office if they cannot agree with Net21. However, you can negotiate and compromise on Net30 or Net45. But, you must be firm that these terms, once agreed upon, must be adhered to and the client must make payment without delay.


Now as for the second scenario – here’s one for when the sales person has to play both good cop and bad cop. Take the above payment term example. Your sales manager came in and finalized Net30. Your company has been working on an eight month engagement and you’re into month four. So far the client has been delinquent on the past three invoices. The project manager has finally put the project on hold. While still maintaining the friendliness of the good cop, you must now take on the role of the bad cop, and you must explain to your client that there is an issue. Be firm. Be professional. But, don’t be a pushover. Try this – Mr. Client, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your project has been suspended. The past three invoices have been delinquent and the most recent is now outstanding. You know you’ve got me in a tight spot over here. My sales manager went against company policy and extended terms to you beyond our norm, and now he has egg on his face. I’m in the hot seat and you need to help me correct this situation.


Clients want to do business with sales people that have a backbone. Be professionally courteous, but make sure you hold your ground too. You can be the good cop, but to be an effective sales person, to be the ‘A’ level sales person, you must also be comfortable being the bad cop.

Comments are closed