What a Company Can Do to Keep Me as a Customer

I started writing this article shortly after being locked in an airplane on a runway for 2 hours. The first draft was noticeably more negative than I normally am. So, here is the much calmer second draft.

I’m a salesperson. I love it. But I’m also a customer too. And sometimes, I’m a very difficult customer.

Sometimes I don’t live up to my own high standards. I try to achieve perfection in my profession, but it’s an unreachable goal. I’m human, but that doesn’t stop me from everyday trying to do my best.

Ocassionaly, when I write an article like this, I’ll get an anonymous message from someone who has some complaint about my past service. Please, don’t be anonymous. Let me know what I’ve done, and we’ll see if together, we can make it right.

OK, so here are 10 things that any salesperson, or any company can do to raise your chances of keeping me as a customer.

1) If I call you, Ms. Salesperson, and you are not at your office, don’t leave a voicemail telling me to call you on your cell phone. Please forward your calls. (The technology is only 10 years old or so, so pick it up).Anytime a customer wants to talk to me, it’s important. Important enough that I forward my calls. If I don’t answer your call, just leave voicemail. I’m with another customer, if it’s during business hours. One number to call: 877-VPNDude (876-3833). It’s simple to remember too.

2) If, Big Company, you have me on hold, please refrain from having a taped recording that tells me how great your company is, and don’t use that message to try to sell me anything. Each minute I’m on hold is a minute that I’m thinking about taking my business elsewhere. If your company was really great, someone would answer my call. I know that sometimes you are slammed, so at the very least, play music. I can then put you on speakerphone, and get some work done while you finish up with the other customers.

3) Please know what makes you different from the competition, Mr. Salesperson.

A lot of my competition doesn’t read my website. Don’t worry, I’m reading theirs. I know all about what they’re doing. I know where I’m better than them, and I know where they’re gaining on me. I know their financial picture and what the analysts are saying about them. If you want to know about my competitors, call me. I’d be happy to give you a brain dump.

4) Read my website. Google my company. Don’t ask me what I do.

I do my homework. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to spend time with you, and I like being prepared. I check your website, Google your company, and Google your name.

5) Please don’t leave me a voicemail without your phone number, Mr. Salesperson. I don’t have my phone book handy all the time, but I will have your message.

If number my competitor does that to you, remember that my phone number is easy to remember- 877-VPNDude. If they send you an email, and it doesn’t have their number, again call me, the number is 877-VPNDude.

6) Please don’t arrive consistently late for meetings, Ms. Salesperson Most of us live and commute in DC traffic, and we know that even the best of us will, sometimes, hit a snag. Many of us have kids, and they get bloody noses or fall just when we’re just getting ready to leave for the call. It happens, but not every time.

I give myself one hour before my first appointment in DC in the morning. If I’m running late, 95% of the time, it’s because my earlier appointment is running late. I’ll call you if that happens.

7) If you want to sell me something by conference call or Webex, please don’t be late. If I have a team of people on a call, and I’m waiting for a salesperson, it’s costing my company a lot of money.

I am on a conference call 5 minutes before it begins, and 10 minutes before a Webex begins. If I’m not on time, it means that my last customer call has run late. I’ll do anything in my power to let you know that.

8) If you don’t love your product, or your job, please don’t bother to call me, Ms. Salesperson.

I have never taken a job with a company whose products I did not love. Here’s why. Because I’d know I’d stink at it, and I’d waste my time and your time, and maybe do irreparable damage to my relationship with you. I’ve worked with products that were difficult to sell, that I couldn’t sell, but I believed in them, and still do.

And sales… I love it. I love getting on the phone, calling you, educating you, having you educate me, writing emails, doing my newsletter and website. I work a whole lot, but have unbelievable freedom at the same time. My job uses all my creativity, I never run out of things to learn, and I get to talk to my true bosses, YOU, everyday.

9) Fight like a madmen internally for me, when I have a problem. That’ll keep me as a customer.

I learned this one the hard way, and it won’t ever happen again. I had a customer, the World Bank, who I absolutely loved to work with, but who was having some problems with the product I was working with. My customer at the World Bank knows more about Linux and Unix than probably 95% of us, and he probably knew more about my products than most of my first tier engineers at the time. He had a problem that I escalated to the head of support, who just sat on it, and sat on it, even though I called a couple of times to follow up. By the time I was able to get an engineer to help him, it was too late. I lost the customer

World Bank, I can’t tell you how bad I felt losing you, but I can tell you that I’ll never lay down for anyone when I’m representing a customer.

That being said, I’ve been extremely excited about the responsiveness I’ve seen from Product Management, and Technical Support since I’ve joined my company. They all know me, I think I’ve only had to shout once.10) Please don’t waste my time, Mr. Salesperson, trying to sell products that don’t work for my organization. Guess what? I am always trying to find a reason that I can’t sell to you. I’ll let my product managers know that reason, and if they can’t or don’t want to fix it, I’ll be the first one in the conference room who says good-bye. And if I’m in that conference room, you better believe that I’ve done everything before my first call to you to see if I can’t sell to you.and the bonus…11) Put yourself in my shoes once in a while, Ms. Salesperson. Download your demos, try your own products, and take notes. Let your inside team know the problems, and try to get them fixed.

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