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Recently, I had to cancel a highly anticipated family vacation to Central America. It was a trip my family had planned for a very long time. We were devastated when we realized that due to unforeseen circumstances we couldn’t go.

We had booked the trip through a travel agent recommended to us by friends of ours who had taken a similar trip.

As upset as I was that I had to cancel the trip, I was also sympathetic towards the travel agent. My cancellation was going to cost her a well-earned commission, and I felt bad about that. Well, at least I did initially.

I spoke first and after explaining the situation waited for her reply. There was a long uncomfortable pause followed by a muffled sigh. When she finally did speak she showed absolutely no empathy for our situation. In fact, this highly regarded travel agent could not have been more curt, rude or unprofessional. I was amazed she was able to keep the barrage of obscenities she must have muttered under her breath inaudible.

When I ended the call I was no longer consumed with disappointment. Instead, I had only one thought on my mind – I am never going to use this travel agent again.

Let’s face it: Losing sucks! Everyone hates to lose.

When this travel agent lost her commission, she was upset. However, her behavior and attitude were so affected by understandable disappointment that it cost her much more. Not only did she lose the commission from this trip, but from my future trips. Additionally, and more importantly, she lost my referrals. And with the power of social media, she could run the risk of damaging her reputation, and no commission I’ve ever seen is worth that.

Just because a prospect says ‘no’ today doesn’t mean he or she won’t say ‘yes’ at a future point in time. Moreover, in most cases when a client says ‘yes’ and then says ‘no’ it is due to circumstances beyond their control.

If you don’t treat prospective clients respectfully, you run the risk of projecting your disappointed as an insult. Not only will you never see any business from them again, but you potentially damage your reputation.

What if the travel agent simply said, “I’m so sorry to hear that you have to cancel. I know how excited you were about going on this trip.” By displaying empathy and keeping the conversation about me she would have ensured that ‘next time’ her phone would ring.

The agent might have lost the sale, but she would have won a client and all the ancillary benefit that brings.


Lou Diamond is the Founder & CEO of Thrive – a leading consulting and coaching company helping the best people and companies become even more amazing. He is also the author of the newly released international best-selling book “Master the Art of Connecting“.