Then there are the customers who are internally focused: it is always about them.
If you could sit at the table with your current customers and truthfully tell them “how it is” to sell to them, what would you say about your supplier side customer experience?
One of my coaching clients related this story to me. It rang so true. I’ve sanitized it; it is identify-neutral. How many of you have experienced the same supplier side scenario?
Her: Every time I show up for a scheduled appointment with the VP, I get stuck in the foyer waiting area for a minimum of 45 minutes. And I’m not alone! The room is full of sales reps, all waiting to speak with their respective clientele at this company. What are they doing that makes them late – all the time!?
Me: How does that make you feel?
Her: Frustrated. Unimportant, like I’m a commodity. I was taught to show up for appointments on time. It’s a sign of respect.
Me: Have you addressed the situation with the VP?
Her: I’ve tried. I’m defeated by the situation. By the time I get in for my appointment, the VP is distracted. He’s got another meeting to go to! He says it’s out of his control. How can everyone always be in so many meetings?
Me: Can you play the valued supplier card?
Her: Considering we never accomplish what was intended, measuring ROI of my offering gets elongated. My program implementation gets delayed. I know our software can have a huge impact on productivity in that organization. I get shortchanged and so does his company.
Me: Do you like partnering with this company?
Her: Truthfully, no. I could be doing so much for them, but they stand in their own way. They are always months late paying their invoices, too. It’s like the entire company really doesn’t care much about their supplier relationships.
Me: Are there companies with which you have great supplier side relationships?
Her: Oh yes! I have customers who appreciate what I bring to their business tables. We bring out the best in each other. They let me in on their strategy. I’m able to suggest products and services that are appropriate for each stage. We accomplish a lot together. I have lucrative contracts with them and upsell and expand their programs each year. I learn a lot and build my expertise in the process. I call them my A-List customers.
Me: What type of customers should you be working with?
Her: Oh wow! I never thought about it that way. I’m going to go through my entire customer base and determine how many of my customers are A-Listers. I’ll target these types of customers moving forward. That’s the most productive and profitable use of my time.
Customer experience is a two-way street. If you are a company working with many vendors, take a walk around to the supplier side of the table. See yourself through their lenses.
Your suppliers have a choice to work with you, or not. How many excellent sales people have ceased to do business with you, in pursuit of better supplier side customer experience? How has your own company’s output been impacted?
It’s always easy to think about sales reps as a commodity. That’s your professional bias. Talented professional sales representatives put in many hours perfecting their thought leadership and expertise in various industry verticals.
You may be marginalizing the very people who can catalyze your company towards growth.
Babette N. Ten Haken builds innovative, productive and profitable teams focused on excellence in the execution of strategy. Her Playbook on collaboration hacks, including tools, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.com.