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Posts Tagged ‘customers’

JUST SAY ‘NO’…TO BUSINESS?

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 4, 2012

– Is the customer always right?

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Although vendors will generally work overtime to satisfy the wants and needs of a customer, sometimes it is more important to maintain one’s dignity as opposed to allowing the customer to walk all over you. I have seen many situations in sales and customer service where the client relentlessly pushes for the lowest prices and/or maximum benefits, just to earn brownie points with his management. He is not so much concerned with doing business with a particular vendor as much as he wants to look good in the eyes of his boss.

There are many danger signs to look for in bad business relationships, lying, cheating, and verbal abuse are but a few. Another telltale sign is when a customer asks for copies of the contracts between your two firms. This means two things: first, they’re screwed up administratively, but more importantly, you are about to be cancelled and replaced as a vendor.

One of Bryce’s Laws states, “The only good business relationship is where both parties benefit.” If one party wins at the expense of the other, then you have an unhealthy business relationship which is doomed from the beginning. To prevent such a situation from arising, it is sometimes necessary to just say “No” to the other party. They may not like it, and it might cost you money, but by saying “No”, you are defending the integrity of your business and yourself.

To illustrate, years ago we were asked to give a sales presentation to a well known Fortune 100 company in Dallas, Texas. At the time we were marketing a proprietary methodology for the design of information systems. To maintain the confidentiality of the product, it was necessary for customers to sign a non-disclosure agreement, even in sales situations. We informed the company in Dallas about this stipulation in advance and they agreed to it. We then booked a flight to Texas and arrived at the company to conduct the presentation. There were ten people scheduled for the meeting who greeted us cordially. As we were setting up for the presentation, we distributed the non-disclosure agreements for signing by the attendees. It was at this moment, the senior manager announced nobody from his organization would be signing the non-disclosures but we should proceed with the sales presentation anyway. When we protested we could not conduct the presentation without the signed non-disclosures, they adamantly refused.

This was obviously a situation where the corporate giant was trying to bully the small business. From their perspective, they believed we needed their business more than they needed us. We explained that due to the proprietary nature of our trade secret, we had to take precautions to protect it. Frankly, they didn’t care and called our bluff. Without batting an eye, we thanked them for their time, packed up our materials, and left the premises before showing them anything. One of the Texans followed us out into the parking late, apologized for the snafu, and begged us to come back. We said very matter-of-factly and professionally, we could not, thanked him for his time and departed. From our perspective, it was a wasted trip and even though we were not rash or disrespectful, we felt mistreated by the company. Nonetheless, our dignity and integrity remained intact, not to mention the confidentiality of our product. Interestingly, the Dallas company was still interested in our product as they heard many good things about it from our customers. They subsequently called us many times imploring another chance for a sales presentation, even at their expense, but we respectfully declined their offer. Remarkably, they ended up buying our product sight-unseen, our only customer ever to do so. They did this because they knew the reputation of both our product and the company. They may have been much larger than us, but they respected our integrity.

From a marketing perspective, we like to believe “the customer is always right.” In reality though, this is simply not true, as the customer may have a different perspective than your own. As vendor, it is your responsibility to be honest and upfront with your client, do not compromise your principles, be tactful and professional, and never be afraid to say “No.” One “No” can be more valuable than 100 “Yeses” if told at the right moment.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


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SYSTEM START-UPS: A HOSPITAL DRAMA – A lesson in how NOT to install a system.

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REMEMBERING NAMES

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 14, 2009

I hate to forget a person’s name. There is probably nothing more rude in business than to forget someone’s name, particularly if you have had to deal with them one-on-one. Years ago, when I was just starting out in business, I met a gentleman from Worcester, Massachusetts who attended one of our systems courses in Cincinnati. He was a nice guy and I actively worked with him during the class. Two weeks later, we held a customer conference in French Lick, Indiana where I happened to run into him again, this time on the golf course. My mind went totally blank as to what his name was, thus creating an awkward moment as we greeted each other (he, of course, remembered my name, but I was blocked). After some clever maneuvering, I finally got him to say his name which I instantly recognized. However, to make matters worse, I mispronounced the name of the town he is from which, if you are not from Massachusetts, is easy to butcher (look up “Worcester” in the dictionary and you’ll see what I mean). All in all, I didn’t score well in front of my customer that day. Consequently, I was determined not to let this happen again.

Following this episode, I started to take introductions more seriously and made a concerted effort to learn a person’s name, how they liked to be addressed, where he or she was from, and their interests. At the time, I developed a Rolodex file with this information printed on it. If I had to leave my office and visit customers on their premises, I would be sure to take pertinent cards from the file with me. Today, of course, I keep everything in a Personal Information Manager (PIM) which I can take with me anywhere on a flash drive, but the principle is still the same. This little intelligence has served me well over the years and I have impressed many customers with what I remembered about them, even years later. It’s not that I have developed a great memory, I haven’t, it’s just that I recognized the usefulness for remembering little details about people, cataloged them, either in my head or written down somewhere, and used it as needed to develop a good rapport with my clients.

Customers find it very comforting when such detail is remembered by their vendor. It gives them a sense of security that their interests are being maintained, which helps to develop trust and a bond between customer and vendor.

These days though, few people take the time to remember your name. As a small example, when you go to the drive-up window of a local bank, tellers are typically hospitable, but rarely do they take the time to remember your name. I hate it when they try to be pseudo-flirtatious with you when they don’t know who you really are. No, it doesn’t endear me to the bank.

It is these little observations that go a long way. As an example, perhaps the best secretary I ever saw was a lady named Myrna who worked for an I.T. Director in Chicago. The first time I visited the office, Myrna warmly greeted me and asked if I wanted a cup of coffee. Saying Yes, she then asked me what I wanted in it. I said cream and sugar, which she then made for me. Months later when I returned to visit the I.T. Director, Myrna greeted me by name and presented me with a cup of coffee with cream and sugar. Frankly, I was startled that she not only remembered my name but how I also liked my coffee. Later I found out that Myrna also maintained a simple card file; whenever someone visited the office, Myrna would record their name and the type of coffee they liked. Sharp. Very sharp.

It’s these little details that make a difference in customer relations. As Michelangelo said, “Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.”

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s new eBook (PDF), “Bryce’s Pet Peeve Anthology – Volume I” (free) DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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