Because I Say So and No Soup For You

by Bob Poole on May 4, 2010

You may of heard of the terms hunters and farmers as they relate to salespeople. Farmers supposedly are the type of sales people who farm current customers. They call on their customers who give them repeat business. Hunters are at the top of the sales food chain (at least they believe they are) because they open new accounts. They only call on prospects with the goal of making them customers.

In my experience too many farmers have never been taught to really sell because management believes they are only order takers (waiters for example) which without the right knowledge they often become. And, many hunters (stockbrokers looking for new accounts) focus entirely on their own needs, egos, and compensation and are the type of salesperson who often gives salespeople and selling in general a bad reputation. And, as one of the top hunters ever for my division of 3M Company, I've got the credibility to back up those observations.

So, let's forget about being a hunter or farmer. Throw those terms away for good and concentrate on being a salesperson because every single one of us has to be able to sell. It doesn't matter if you are a surgeon or an artist you'll want to sell a patient on a course of treatment or a patron on seeing the genius of your art. If you're a parent your sales skills will be tested for years by your children. Imagine telling a prospect about your product and when they ask why they should buy it you say, "Because I say so!"

Let's use my interaction with Dell Computer's support forum yesterday as an example of what not to do when you are selling current customers. Dell has a forum they monitor and use to solve problems, answer sales questions and pretty much anything related to their products and services. That's a great idea and a really excellent way to talk to customers in almost real time without having them wait in line to speak to someone who is usually better at preventing sales than making them. Score one for Dell for the forum.

But the reason I was on this forum is because one of my LCD monitors went to sleep and won't wake up. It turns out by following the conversation on Dell's own forum that this is a major problem with lots of monitors (maybe thousands or hundreds of thousands) and Dell knows about it. You can Google the problem or follow it in forums. So, what is Dell doing about it? Well, based on the forum they let people spend time and money trying to fix the problem by working on everything but the monitor itself. Then eventually someone from Dell pops up and offers a Dell solution which sounds a little bit like reciting an incantation around a campfire and waking up with hope in your heart that the problem is fixed.

I tried the incantation and it didn't work. I couldn't find evidence that it works for anyone else either. What would work is if Dell contacted everyone who has ever bought an A01 or AO2 monitor and ship them a new one. They thought they fixed it back in July 2008 when they came out with the A02 but they didn't and now they are sticking their heads in the sand and replying to customers like Dell-Chris M did when she answered a customer's email by saying the useless incantation sequence was Dell's only fix for the problem. She also said they don't have a firmware patch to fix it. When the same customer jokingly asked if he had to stand on his head when doing the incantation solution Chris-M's response was "That is up to you."

By the way – Sales rule number one for business owners – Never let anyone communicate with your customers who is not in possession of a sense of humor. If they really do add value to your organization keep them away from all customers and other employees too.

One last thing, Chris M from Dell told a customer in Feb. 2010 she believed all problems were solved when the A02 version replaced the A01. However, In May 2009 she was addressing the exact same issue. Bad memory? At least in that Feb. 2010 post she admits that "I see your A02s still have issues and she would check with engineering. How many Dell customers said, "Let me out of Dell Hell" as a result of how they are handling this?

By now you are probably thinking neither me nor my employees would treat our customers this way. You'd be wrong. I know good companies who do it all the time because they pay too much attention to pennies and no attention to the value of a long-term customer asset. Think GM, Ford, Verizon, most airlines, and my favorite sushi restaurant – Ooka.

A waiter or waitress is a salesperson. Last week my salesperson at Ooka failed badly. I arrived ten minutes after they open for lunch and was the first customer in the door. I ordered a lunch special and 3 more sushi/sashimi choices. That's a $30 lunch order at this place. The special comes with soup and salad but it seemed someone had dropped the ball in the kitchen and the soup was cold and would be 15 more minutes. I said, "Instead of bringing me my soup and salad halfway through lunch would you please bring me some seaweed salad and forget the other salad and soup."

You already know what she said, "I can't do that." I said, "Why not? You'd be exchanging soup and a salad for another salad and making a good customer not have to wait." Her answer again, "I can't do that."

The difference is price is $1.00.

I would guess that I spend $700-$1000 a year there. That means over the last ten years I've spent as much as $10,000 and I'll spend another $10,000 over the next ten years – unless I find someplace that values me more. By focusing on pennies – the bottom line – this restaurant stands to lose many thousands of dollars from me and the other ten people I'll send to my new favorite sushi place. By the way, this is the second time this has happened to me at Ooka. I was hoping this time the result might be different.

These are only a couple examples of how not to build value and relationships with your customers and prospects. They happen in millions of companies every day and every day billions of dollars are lost because you or your employees don't know how to sell.

The question is – what are you going to do about it?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jodi Kaplan May 4, 2010 at 3:10 pm

When my monitor was acting weird, Apple sent someone here to fix it. Free.
This reminds me of what happened to my mom when my dad got her a pajamagram. She loved it. She even loved the box. She wanted to buy some more boxes to store things in.
They wouldn’t sell them to her. It wasn’t in the rule book. They turned a happy customer into an unhappy one. Which part of the experience do you think she talks about more? The lovely gift or the refusal?

Bob Poole May 4, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Jodi – Pajamagrams. Now you’ll have me checking them out. Which goes to show you a clever name might get you attention but an unhappy customer experience is likely to get you less buyers. Rule book reminds me of my Seinfeld experience. It is on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6jxPzd6G5A

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