What Every Salesperson Can Learn from Katie Couric

What do you do when you’re in a sales conversation and the customer throws you a curve ball by asking a question……

That you don’t know how to answer, or
You know the answer but it’s not the right time to respond?

Does your heart jump to your throat, your palms begin to sweat and your blood pressure rise?

Do you know how to keep your emotions in check and your mind clear so you remain on the “sales conversation” path to success?

Justin Bariso, the author of the soon to be published, EQ, APPLIED and Inc. and TIME Contributor, studies emotional intelligence. In his recent article, published in Inc. Today’s Must Reads, Bariso states that “emotional intelligence is the ability to identify emotions (in both yourself and others), to recognize the powerful effects of those emotions, and to use that information to inform and guide behavior. In short, it’s the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you.”

Do you know how to make your emotions work for you?

Bariso drew our attention to Katie Couric’s example of this skill.

Couric chose silence as her first response to NBC’s termination of Matt Lauer, Couric’s co-host of Today for 15 years. However, when confronted on Instagram by a post from a fan who assumed Couric’s silence implied her approval of his behavior, Couric responded by saying,

“It’s incredibly upsetting and I will say something when I’m ready to. Thanks for your interest.”

Set aside your personal opinion of the Matt Lauer issue and focus on Couric’s response. Stay objective and notice what she did.

Couric responded with truth, brevity and yes, even gratitude!

Can the same be said about you when your customer slams you against their office wall with a zinger that is meant to stop you dead in your tracks and one that demands an immediate answer?

Let’s say a customer tells you at the beginning of your sales conversation,

Customer: “I don’t have a lot of time. Would you just give me the price of your Wachet system, including five Prongs and two Divets?”

You could whip out your rate sheet and quote away….. as many sales reps do, or, you could take a breath and realize that you have no idea if what you will be giving a price for is what the customer really needs. You don’t have enough information so why in the world would you give a price quote now? Especially, if it is important to you to be a true professional who does the right thing for the right reasons.

Further, this was a scheduled appointment and now the customer is saying that they don’t have a lot of time. Why would you want to continue a conversation without the customer being completely focused and engaged?

So, learn from Couric. Be honest. Be direct and also try this.


Acknowledge – Defer – And – Push Through


You: “Oh, how much time can you give me?”

Customer: “I’ve got another meeting in about 15 minutes.”

You: (Acknowledge) “Oh, so you really are in a rush.”


You: “Why don’t we reschedule for either this time tomorrow morning or Thursday morning when you can give yourself more time.”

But we all know customers who will then say the following.

Customer: “Would you just give me the price?”

Again, learn from Couric when she said, “I will say something when I’m ready to.”

Stand your ground. You are the one with the answers. The manner in which you deliver the answers will either help or hurt both you and your customer. Remember, you wouldn’t be in the customer’s office if they didn’t think you had something of benefit to offer.

Collect yourself and your wits. Have confidence in your product, the pricing of your product, and your ability to discern when your product is right for a particular customer.

In this case, don’t be an order-taker. Focus on creating a long-term relationship based on solid information, mutual engagement and trust.

Back to the frenetic exchange. By the way, you are still “Deferring.”

You: (Continuing to Defer) “I will certainly give you the pricing when I know what the correct pricing is. However, just as you are an expert in your business, I’m the industry expert in mine. I have too much respect for what you are trying to do here not to take the time to better understand your business.  The Wachet is constantly going through upgrades. I may have a version that will better fit your needs and at a lower price point.”

And, Push Though

You: (Continuing) “For both of us to discover this and so you can make the best-informed decision, would you make time for me to come back either tomorrow or Thursday? In fact, I’d be happy to bring your favorite specialty drink from Starbucks.”

If they still persist, why would you want this person as a customer? This is a customer profile of disaster because their entire world is focused on price, not value. Run like the wind! Go to Starbucks and treat yourself for escaping that nightmare.

However, let’s say this happens.

Customer: “Okay, but I have to stay within my budget. Come in tomorrow. Same time. I’ll give you an hour.”

Here’s the olive branch of gratitude.

You: “Great. And, just know, I have your best interests at heart. Now, what beverage is your preference?

What you have just done in this conversation is:

  1. Established respect in the eyes of the customer by standing your ground for both the good of you and your customer. You are seen as a professional and not an order-taker.
  2. Moved the sales conversation to a time when the customer’s frame of mind will hopefully be one that is open and willing to engage.
  3. Expressed gratitude by showing your understanding of their lack of time and offering to bring a specialty drink for them to the next meeting.
  4. Demonstrated successful Emotional Intelligence.

By keeping your emotions in check your mind is clear to accurately assess the situation so you can guide the customer and the sales conversation to a successful outcome.

So, every salesperson, when faced with a customer who exhibits less than stellar “emotional intelligence,” can learn from Katie Couric and the ADAPT system.

Be Direct and Truthful

And always end your conversations by showing gratitude. Showing gratitude is always the right thing to do and makes the world a better place.

Chiqeeta Jameson Bestselling Author Sales Coach and Speaker
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Chiqeeta Jameson Bestselling Author Sales Coach and Speaker

Chiqeeta Jameson – Sales Coach, Speaker and #1 Bestselling Author of Don’t Sell. Let Them Buy, Master the Sales Conversation and Guide Your Customers To A Successful Outcome Every Time.