Tag Archives: relationship

The Customer’s Story, Not Yours

27 Jul

Are you listening to product pitches that start with the vendor’s history? “Founded in Silicon Valley by really smart people with A-level VC funding and a market-leading solution” goes the pitch. Then they take 10 minutes to explain the problem. Another 20 minutes to explain the solution in (too much) detail. Does that work for you? It does not for me.

As a salesperson, I’m always interested in how other sales people try to sell me. While part of me is listening to their pitch, the other part is thinking about how effective they are. Are they doing things I would not? Are they doing things that I should?

Usually, those “selling to me” experiences have been while I’m a consumer. Recently those experiences have been in the business world and tend to be more relevant to how I do my own job. There are many smaller vendors looking to partner with my current employer on various sales opportunities.  As I am the point person on several large opportunities, I get these partnering calls.

Those that know me also know about my sales material. It’s a double-sided, laminated card with customer logos on one side and my solution architecture on the other. The card gets lots of smiles from peers and customers but it also is quite effective. Why? Because I start with the slide that tells the customers stories.


I got the title of this post from Geoffrey James’ recent article on Inc., entitled, “Tell the Customer’s Story, Not Your Story” The tagline is spot on, “Why are you wasting everyone’s time telling your company’s story?”

I’ve been listening to too many vendor presentations that tell their story. The salesrep has admirable enthusiasm for the solution and a deep knowledge of how it works. But I don’t care yet. What I want to know is WHY other customers are using the solution. I want to know what problem are they solving with this solution. If you can’t start with that information, then you’re wasting everyone’s time.

[5 Aug 2013 Update] Given the number of people who’ve said they’ve encountered this problem as well, I have created these 2 quick polls to see how pervasive this issue is. Please vote!


Managing Customers in the Short Term for the Long Term

28 Jun

How do you treat long-time customers when the economy is this challenging?  Are you tightening the rules to manage costs or are you more liberal in your policies?

I went to a business that I had purchased from for many years but not over the last year.  They greeted me warmly as if I had just talked with them yesterday, with no hint of criticism or complaint in their voice.

Later that day, I went to another business that I also frequent often.  They know me well enough to recommend new products they think I’d like.  And they know I’ve referred other customers to them. I was 90 minutes late in returning an item I had rented and they wanted to charge me another full day.  It’s their policy and it’s posted.  When I asked for leniency, the owner’s reply was, “It’s our policy and you need to pay.”

The next day I received a rather large bill.  I had made a mistake in understanding the rules so the bill was correct if unwelcome.  When I asked the Accounts Payable person for some flexibility, I was flatly turned down.  When I asked to speak to the owner, I was told that he refused to discuss these issues with anyone.  “Even customers who’ve purchased from him for 20 years?” I asked.  The answer was, “Yes.”

The economy is going to get better.  I will spend more money.  I will continue to make referrals to my vendors.  Which vendor mentioned above will continue getting my business and my referrals?

The Virtual Handshake – Building an online business presence

14 Nov

On the recommendation of a friend, I’ve been reading, “The Virtual Handshake” by David Tetten and Scott Allen.  It’s an interesting mix of research into online networking and practical steps to improve your online networking experience.

They suggest that how you build relationships has not changed since the days of networking via face-to-face and email.  What’s changed is the medium in which you network – now it’s primarily the web. I think that while the web is important, it’s primary purpose is to enhance your face-to-face networking, not replace it.

The book focuses on their 7 keys to building and maintaining an effective online network.  I think these steps would be just as applicable in building an effective in-person network.

  • Your Character – what other people think about you.  It’s your reputation
  • Competence – do you walk your talk?
  • Relevance – how relevant is your network to your networking goals?
  • Relationship strengths – how strong is your tie to the people in your network?
  • Information you know about the people in your network – parallel to the strength of your ties is how much non-published information do you know about the people in your network?
  • Number of people in your network – both your direct and two-degrees-away network
  • Diversity – the more heterogeneous your network the better it can help you

The authors believe that social networking software allows you to have the best of both worlds, a large quantity of high-quality connections.  While I don’t agree with this sentiment, as I wrote here, I do concur with their sentiments that successful networkers focus on what they can give you and not what you can give them.

All in all, a good book to read.  Especially if you are looking for a how-to book on building a sustainable and positive online presence.

My Contacts or Yours?

6 May

A buddy of mine joined a small company as a sales rep. They hired him because of his experience in the industry and his rolodex. So then he uploads his contacts to their CRM system and the marketing department comes down on him. “Where did you get those names?” “Didn’t you read the employment agreement?” “Take those names out!” were all comments ringing in his ears.

“What’s their problem?” he asks me. I’m thinking it’s the age old battle of defining what constitutes a lead. Marketing considers those contacts to be leads but Sales considers them to be nothing more than names. One group finds value in just the names and the other does not. This is the same battle that companies wage when a sale rep leaves and management tries to make sure the contacts don’t go with the rep.

It’s the combination of my buddy’s industry experience, the rolodex and his relationship with those contacts that makes those names valuable. The rolodex without the relationship is nothing more than the yellow pages suitable for spamming.

So let the rep come/leave with names. In today’s world, those names can be found anywhere on the web so there’s no trade secrets or IP attached to them. What’s valuable is the relationship to those names. And that’s why my buddy got hired, because of his relationships.

Pay for Relationships?

29 Feb

With the rise of various social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, the promise of easy and immediate connections seems realized. I connect to you, you connect to them and since I can see that connection, I want to get connected to them, too. Bingo, I have a prospect! The problem is that it’s too easy and therefore not really that valuable for business networking.

The names of my contacts are not valuable – there a lots of places where someone else can find those names – JigSaw, LinkedIn, Hoovers, Spoke, the Yellow Pages, industry trade organizations to name a few. What’s valuable is my relationship to them. I’ve earned that relationship and it’s valuable.

Jay Deragon, in his The Relationship Economy blog, posted recently about whether Relationships are for $ale. He argues that, “You don’t sell relationships you build and earn them.” I’d suggest that you can’t buy relationships, either. Certainly not valuable ones.

Jay continues to say, “Sales techniques have changed over time to meet the ever increasing demands from informed customers. It has become imperative in today’s business environment to gain the trust of prospects and customers by first focusing on building relationships based on common affinities and objectives.”

And thus easy access to names can’t be the easy way to generate sales.

So if that’s not the easy way, then what is? As Jay points out, “People aren’t for sale (although many act as if they are) and neither are their relationships.” Valuable relationships are not put up on the web for all to see. Rather, they’re kept secure and hidden behind walls and only let out when there’s a very good reason.

What’s a good reason to let a valuable relationship be known? When you meet another sales rep you believe can add value to your customer. And by adding value to your customer, you’ve added value and trust to your relationship with that customer. You won’t sell that relationship because if your customer finds out, your trust is lost. But you have built a new relationship with that sales rep that translates to them introducing you to one of their customers. And then they gain value, too.

That’s what Inquisix is all about – we keep your RELATIONSHIP with contacts safe and hidden while introducing you to like-minded sales people who understand that relationships are earned, not sold or bought. Who agrees with me?

Happy Selling!