Sometimes you learn lessons late in life and that certainly applies to my understanding of the sales person’s role. I bought out my partner over 3 years ago. He did a great job looking after our existing accounts but he and I didn’t see eye to eye on our need to add new clients. It was the old farmer/hunter sales scenario and it’s a discussion I still hear tossed about frequently throughout the industry.
Buying out my partner, the recession and hiring a younger “high-polish” sales person all came at the same time. Like many who entered into a position of top line responsibility during the recent recession, it was a tough time to start a new venture.
It was interesting how people reacted to a change in the guard. Most of our existing customers preferred my old partner calling on them and found the new guy a bit too slick. But, he was a hunter and the new opportunities he created with like individuals were a good match… they thought highly of him. We gave it a year, he got an opportunity back in the finance world he came from and we called it a day. I recouped maybe 25% of what I spent on the exercise but I also learned much from the experience. The number one thing…the role confidence plays in the sales process.
Times were tough, we put more weight on our online marketing and it worked, so we passed that on to our smaller clients. Many of our big clients disappeared during the recession, they had to stop the bleeding and they chose to cut advertising.
We saw immediate results from the more enhanced web efforts and entered into social media a bit, including blogging. Our sales approach was more technical in nature and we took a team of 3 individuals with diverse skill sets and backgrounds and that got the job done…or so we thought.
We opened up Montreal earlier this year and have a very capable representative calling on the industry. We followed up with another account manager in Toronto this summer. Why you might add?
The web gives us as many new sales opportunities as we can handle but I found that we were running too lean to properly stay in touch with the clients we had. We would do our best on each client’s project but then we would lose touch if there were no pending additional needs. Recently, we discovered that we missed additional opportunities as a result of our “sales silence”. This isn’t just bad for us, it’s bad for our clients as the continuity of their marketing can get off track in a hurry.
The lesson learned once again… it’s not A or B, it’s A and B. You need to farm and hunt for a balanced sales diet and there is equal value to both.
Lee’s quote for the day
My last blog was in August and I just came up for air now. Where did September go? Pretty easy to get behind these days. It’s time to put some extra effort into catching up and staying caught up. It’s a better way to operate.
So you had a game plan and you fell off the wagon, like me? Does that mean the plan was flawed or that you just lacked the discipline to follow through? Based on my experience, I would suggest the latter.
I think we are all capable of laying out an achievable plan that could improve our communication, finances, health or relationships. The trick is to try and avoid too much change at once. Start with something you can manage and make it a habit, then take the next step towards where you want to be. After all, life is a marathon not a sprint. It takes time to get off track, so it’s going to take time to get back on top.
Lee’s Quote for the Day
The first sign that a company is struggling with service issues is when you see a survey from them entitled “How’s our service?” At least that was my recent experience with a prominent Mississauga dealership.
I trade cars a lot and I’ve always been partial to sport cars and European styling. Now that my young family and mini-van days are behind me, I’ve spoiled myself over the last few years and currently own a BMW hardtop convertible. I tend to buy used and off season, so that I can experiment without taking too big a hit on depreciation.
Anyway, with this car you just need to change the oil once a year, although I’m not sure why. I put it in for that annual service recently and they said I was also due for their 100 point check. I asked the cost and at a $133, I said go ahead. Other than a service last year, I haven’t put a dime in the car since I bought it last February, so I expected they would find something. I was surprised when it got a clean bill of health.
I bought the car last year from a dealer in Hamilton. It was a big price advantage to buy a BMW at a Toyota dealer, as they don’t know the car and typically move them at a better price. As a matter of fact, when they showed me the car they didn’t know how to start it or operate the roof. The initial service was a precautionary measure and I was charged just under $150 at the Mississauga dealership in question.
Fast forward to present day. I went in to pick up my car and in addition to the $133 they quoted for the 100 point check, the same oil change was $200 this time. I politely asked why it was different. The service gal had no answer. I asked “if it wasn’t too much bother to bring up the bill from last time, I would like to see if my memory was correct”. It was but instead of acknowledging a possible error she proceeded to say that last time was less expensive because it was a low mileage oil service. When I asked the difference between a low mileage service and a high mileage service she nervously directed me to who she introduced as the service manager at a nearby desk.
I got a similar skating exercise with the person I was directed to and decided to leave it be. When I got back to the office I had an e-mail asking me to complete a customer satisfaction survey from the same dealership. I couldn’t resist. After a couple of emails with more awkward stick handling on their end, the chap stated, “I’m a service advisor not a service manager, I have no power to address your complaint and I just want you to respond to how I performed as a service advisor.”
I sent back a quick note saying that he was certainly very nice and asked him for the service manager’s name and a breakout of how the 100 point check was uniquely different than the oil service check and why the charge was significantly higher than last time. I haven’t heard from the dealer since, except for another request to fill out their survey.
My long winded story has a point. We started developing marketing for a growing transportation provider recently. As a part of their growing pains, they have discovered some cracks in their customer service such that they were immediately losing several new customers that sales had brought on.
As long as I have been serving the transportation industry, this has been the main sore point between operations and sales. It continues today, to the point that the some senior sales people I know tend to babysit their new accounts through the initial start up phase to keep a screw up from happening. From an operations standpoint, the feeling may be that the sales person has over promised what can be done as part of their standard process, from a sales perspective, the sales person promises what they need to, to win the day…so the historic feud continues.
We all know that how you handle a complaint is critical to maintaining a customer relationship. I’ve certainly made my share of mistakes over the years that have cost me business. It took me a while to learn that it’s never about being right or wrong. It’s all about communicating that you care what your customer thinks and showing that concern in person where possible. E-mail is great for documenting but may be the worst way to resolve a service complaint.
At the end of the day, the BMW service advisor was more concerned about how he looked in the survey than resolving my concerns or protecting the reputation of the dealership. They have a service process in place but have missed some critical steps along the way.
The transportation company I mentioned thinks better communication and training is the answer to improved customer service. It’s certainly a big part of it. Getting across the point that real success is a team effort, not how successfully you divert blows as an individual or point fingers as a manager… now that’s the ticket!
Lee’s quote for the day
“I have a tendency towards getting defensive and taking things personal when I feel the quality of my work or ethics are being questioned. It’s a hard habit to break but I know it’s the wrong approach and something I need to keep working on. I might install a reset switch when brain surgery becomes more affordable.”