(Today’s guest essay comes from Donna Cregger. Donna works in sales and understands the frustration that comes with the territory. However, what makes her so awesomely impressive is her perspective. She is here today to speak some truth about details you may be forgetting when dealing with your customers. Donna, the floor is yours.)
I am a road rep. A sales group principal. A welcome and unwelcome advice giver.
Recently my sales rep, Steph from Arkansas, and I were on a 10-hour drive, returning from a large trade show in Tennessee where most of our best customers gather to do their buying. We were a tad exhausted and that always leads to a few little negative tales…
Steph was frustrated because a customer back in Arkansas time and again has either cancelled at the last minute or hasn’t been there when she arrives, all following a three-hour drive.
Then, there’s another customer who is never ready when she gets there, has no idea what is in inventory, and isn’t sure whether they need to place an order.
And before you get the chance to ask, yes, these things happen even when you have JUST SPOKEN to the customer the day before.
As sales reps, we have all had these frustrations. However, as a store-owner-turned-sales representative, I always have this experience-backed advice for my road warriors:
YOUR CUSTOMER is your top priority of the day when you’ve made that appointment. You’ve prepared. You’ve collected catalogs from the companies you think they’ll appreciate. You’ve run sales reports, gathered samples, baked a cookie or two, picked up coffee for them. You arrive at their door, full of optimism and a smiling face at 10 am sharp.
YOUR CUSTOMER has other things going on. She’s dropped her kids at preschool. She’s gone to the bank and post office. She’s answered two calls from employees – one is sick and one is going to be late. The landlord has called wondering when they are going to remove the wooden shipping crate from the alley behind the store. She decides to stop by the Chamber of Commerce to pick up some flyers for an upcoming event. She is running late. She has completely forgotten that you are sitting in front of her store, waiting for her to arrive.
She pulls up, extricates herself from her car, arms dragging with tote bags of work-related stuff. As she approaches the door where you are waiting with your sunny smile, you see it. The look. The I-forgot-you-were-coming-and-I’m-not-ready look. And you know. This isn’t going to be that productive visit you had all played out in your head.
There’s no big chunk of wisdom here. Just a reminder that because you are in sales doesn’t mean that YOUR sales and agenda are a priority of your customer.
As a matter of fact, these probably don’t make their list at all. The ONLY way to keep your priorities matching theirs is to:
- Know what their priorities are.
- Know the hot keys to getting them to offer those to you regularly.
- Send something in advance of your call that makes them salivate at the thought of what is coming.
This applies to all areas of business and just plain ol’ life. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone couldn’t wait until you get where they are? What’s amazing is that God has done this as well. He’s done all of the above and just asks us to replicate it and bring our friends with us.
(Donna, in case anyone hasn’t told you yet today, you rock. If you’re interested in submitting a guest essay, we’d love to hear from you. We’re looking for stories about management, marketing, or motivation that would be helpful to people who own or work for family businesses or nonprofit organizations. Contact us with your submission today!)