How to give ‘bad news’

 In Delivery

Recently some of my clients have asked me how they should give bad news. While there are different types of bad news, here are general suggestions for delivering a ‘bad news’ message in a business environment, face to face interaction.

1. Connect with energy and certainty in your face, voice and body. (This means you should use an easily heard, energetic voice while you fully face the person and hold eye contact).

2. Make direct statements of what you can not do, and what you can do, paired with a leveling hand gesture. (This means making statements without qualifying words – eg. ‘might’, ‘maybe’, ‘possibly’ – while holding out one hand in front of you with the palm face down).

3. Use tag questions to keep control of the interaction. (This means using, as appropriate, short questions at the end of your statements, to get agreement from the other person. For example, “Are you fine with that?

4. Close the interaction with energy and certainty in your voice, face and body. (Please see Point one).

5. Do what you say you would do. (This means you take the action you said you would when you said you would do it. For example, you phone the person at the time you said you would. If for some reason you are unable to do that, you phone them in advance to arrange another mutually agreeable time).

In practice – keeping in mind the above voice, face and body language suggestions – here is sample language for the opening of the interaction:

“Jan . . .got a moment? . . . Jan regarding the PAK solution, we’re not going to be able to deliver it by the 29th . . what I can do is deliver it by the 5th. Now at this time I can give you a 90% commitment of that delivery date . I want to give you a 100% commitment. To do that I need to do some work with my people over the next two days . . . so I want to do that work, and then I’ll phone you at 2:00pm sharp on Thursday to tell you the result of that work. Are you fine with that?”

If the ‘customer’ accepts that recommendation that’s good. If they don’t accept it you need to have other options for them.

The ‘how to apply’ for this post:

  1. Reflect on the above steps.
  2. Adapt them to your style and circumstances.
  3. Practice them in safe situations and reflect on their effectiveness.


p.s. A number of posts ago I shared the various Services and Products you can buy from me. Let me elaborate on one of those Services:

Sales presentation consulting

Whether you have to present to one person, or in a sit-down board room presentation or a in stand-up presentation, this service will give you an edge in delivering a winning presentation. One of my clients who took on this service converted a $300,000 sale.

One area covered in the programme is how to establish quick rapport with senior executive prospects through asking a tough though-provoking question. An example of this question that you could ask at the start of a one on one meeting/sales presentation is this one: “Let me ask what maybe a bold question . . . tell me this . . .what has to happen over the next thee years both personally and professionally for you to feel happy with your progress?”

One of the things my clients like most about this consulting (as with all my other work) is that they get repeated attempts with immediate feedback, on how to improve their performance.

I’d love to talk with you about how this sales presentation consulting could be tailored for you or your sales team. Please contact me if it interests you at michael@kellyspeech.com.au or phone (02) 9416 2311. Thank you.



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