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How Easy Are You To Do Business With?

by David Brock on May 6th, 2012

I have to admit, I’m writing this out of a little bit of frustration.  I have a prospect, it’s virtually impossible to communicate with them — at least through the normal channels.  Now, you may say, “Dave, don’t you get it–they don’t want to talk to you!”  But they really do want to talk and communicate with me.  They say so, they get upset when it appears that I’m not communicating with them.

They originally contacted me a couple of months ago.  I got an email from a mid level executive in the company.  He wanted some information, I responded–rather than doing a simple reply, I wrote a new email, using his email address, and sent it.  30 seconds later, I get it bounced back, saying it is undeliverable.  I call the guy on his mobile, apologizing and explaining the problem to him.  He groans and say, it’s our security system.  You can’t send emails to us, we can only send you emails.  It’s best for you to email me at my personal email.  I’ve been using his personal email to send him emails, he always responds from his company email.

As I’ve met other executives in the company, the same thing happens.  They can send me emails, but the only way I can communicate back is to respond to their personal email.  Now whenever I meet someone new, it’s one of the first pieces of information I get.

I tried calling one of the executives once.  I didn’t have his mobile number, so I called the office switchboard.  I did the “spell the name” thing, the response was, “No one by that name works here.”  I was surprised, I called someone else to get the story.  “Oh, we have trouble keeping our name directory updated (The person I had tried to reach had been with the company over 3 years.).  He gave me the guy’s mobile number and his extension for future reference.

Recently, I met with the management team.  We talked about a project and got a lot done.  At the end of the meeting, I said, “I have another topic I’d like to talk about.”  I went on to describe the email and telephone problem.  They chuckled, looked at each other sheepishly, and said, “Yeah, it’s a real pain.  We just work around it, you’ve figured it out too.”

I looked at them and said, “What if I were a customer or a prospect?”  The room went silent for five minutes.

I’ll stop the story here.  It sounds outlandish, but it is–was–true.  Perhaps that was part of their sales growth problem.  While that was an extreme case, consciously or unconsciously, too often we make it impossible for our customers to reach us.  We may steer them through a specific channel.  This company had a form at their website, that someone was supposed to fill out and submit—but what if your customers don’t feel like filling out a form.

There’s another example, this time I was the customer.  I was trying to buy a pretty significant piece of software for our company.  I had made the purchase decision, but then I had to buy.  The sales rep presented me with a 27 page contract.  It covered all sorts of things.  Then there were the forms I had to fill out.  Not only the normal credit information, but information about each user of the system, all sorts or unnecessary information about our company—I think it was for the marketing people.

I had my lawyer look at the contract.  It was OK, though it was so long and poorly worded, it just took time for both my lawyer and I to go through.  On the other information, I called the rep.  I said, I’ll give you the credit information, but nothing else.  You want the order, make it happen!

Often the only differentiator we may have is how easy we are to do business with.  Selling is hard enough, but if we make it difficult for those who do want to buy, then we’ve made it much more difficult.

Are you easy to do business with?  Look at your phone systems, look at your email systems.  Do you have guidelines for responses to phone and email queries?  What about your contracts and all the other things needed from those who have made the decision to buy?  Are you making it easy for them?  Finally, when there is a problem, does the customer know how to get it resolved?  Are there people that own the responsibility for solving the problem?  Is it clear, simple, easy?

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