It’s about the customer…not you!

Well…I’m hopping mad! I’ve tried to do something nice for my son and it has caused turmoil in my house.  Every time I try to be “unselfish” it backfires.  Things go much better when I’m dominating, self serving and inflexible.  I should learn that lesson and stick to being the jerk people love to gossip about.

Here’s what happened. I bought my son a puppy.  He pleaded and begged for weeks.  He worked his mother over and managed to introduce his case into every conversation.  Mealtime never passed without an “I’ll take care of it” or “My friends all have one” speech.  Finally, his mother agreed with him.  I was toast from that moment on.

So…I bought a puppy from a coworker. I’ll write a different story about that another time.  I want to focus this article on the fence.  Trying to buy one has been an education each of us can benefit from.

Our subdivision has restrictions. There are specific types of fences and specific companies you’re allowed to select.  This is designed to maintain the order of our property and the look we all supposedly like.  It’s fine with me.  It prevented me from interviewing dozens of fence people.  I called the first three companies on the list.

Now the quoting process is disruptive of your schedule. You have to meet the sales person at the property and show them what you want.  During the process you’re going to be up-sold, persuaded, manipulated and led.  It is amazing how complicated these fences can be.  When the other firms arrive they are going to tell you something totally different.  The whole process is less about the price and more about making you trust one company more than the other.

After three interrupted days of fence talk I selected the company I wanted. The proposals were similar in price so I was able to make a choice based on confidence.  I wrote a check and agreed on a schedule.  My fence would be installed in 7 days and my house could return to order.  Everyone was happy.  My wife loved me again and my son pledged a new commitment to raising the dog.  Even the puppy seemed to know what was going on.

Then…the fun started. I received a “let me tell you what’s going on” call.  You’ve had these.  They start with the tone that lets you know the salesperson considers you best friends.  It moves quickly into some sort of problem they know you’ll understand because of your intimate relationship of 36 hours.

The sales person was having problems with our order. It seemed that the steel pickets I wanted were not in stock.  A warehouse employee had miscounted and the internal documents the installers and sales people see were incorrect.  He could fill the order with an aluminum product at no extra cost.  It would change the design slightly but the basic integrity of our project would be maintained.

I agreed to the aluminum. I felt it should be less money but I didn’t argue.  He hung up the phone and called his office to schedule the installation.

The next day I received another call. This one addressed the “special skills” required to install an aluminum fence.  The crew we needed would not be available for 3-4 weeks.  He apologized for this delay but claimed it was beyond his control.

I didn’t cave in so easily on this one. The puppy was driving my wife crazy, which was causing things to go bad for me.  You don’t win arguments with angry wives.  You do whatever you can to make things better.  I called the fence guy and begged.  He took pity on me, claimed he called the district manager to plead my case and agreed to a 2 week delivery.

Two days later I received what turned out to be the final call. They didn’t have 4ft aluminum.  Would I accept 5ft?  They would be able to make my delivery and it wouldn’t cost extra.  The only problem is that it would be taller than the neighbor’s fence I’m tying into.

I snapped. He had changed my order from steel to aluminum, asked for 2 additional weeks to do the work and changed the size.   I fired the fence man.  I had to laugh when he seemed surprised.  I called a second company and placed the order and was promised a 1week delivery of my 4ft, steel fence…exactly what I wanted.

Later his general manager called. “I understand Dan has done a poor job for you” he said.  “I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to remedy the situation.”  “Good customers like you are hard to find and we don’t want a weak salesperson causing you trouble and costing us business,” he finished.

Now this guy was slick. I could see his tan, silk shirt and Rolex watch over the phone.  He was surprised at my response, however.  I explained that the salesperson had handled the situation fine.  It seemed to me that the company was not supporting him.  They didn’t seem prepared to get the necessary materials delivered and had trouble with their internal systems.  “No salesperson can perform if the facts change by the hour,” I told him.  I explained that my company would fold if it behaved like they had.

Now we would never do this would we? I certainly told the fence guy that we wouldn’t.  But…is that true?  We can all understand how ridiculous their service was.  Now, let’s insert our own answers or names into the following situations.

  1. I know I told you your proof would be ready this morning but…
  2. My plant manager wanted me to call you and see if I could get more time.
  3. We came up short on this job. May we deliver it short?
  4. I can’t get the stock you want would you accept brand X?
  5. Can you give me more time so I can schedule the press check during the day? That is when our best pressman works.
  6. Can I get another day on the estimate? The boss is out and I don’t do this type of job.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I realize that stuff happens.  Any salesperson worth a toot needs to be able to navigate through an occasional bump in the road.  Printing isn’t an exact science.  We have to be able to work with and manage the variables.

However, when excuses and special requests of the customer become the norm, we aren’t managing our processes. When we find it easier to impose on our clients than ourselves, we’ve lost our focus.  We exist to do their work.  They have hundreds of choices that don’t have to include us.

Now this IS about selling. It just suggests that it is the responsibility of every employee.  Everyone that draws a check should keep his eye on where it comes from.  The customer is this divine source

We all, easily, see how a salesperson benefits. They receive commissions.  But so does every employee.  Everyone’s check is a small part of the invoice paid on every job we were asked to produce.  The estimate calculated or the ticket we wrote or the proof we corrected and reran resulted in a customer getting out their checkbook.  They pay because they get what they want when they want it. It’s about the customer…not you!

I’ll let you know how the fence goes. It is due to be installed next week.  I’m counting on happier times and a wife that finds her smile again

Growth is Exciting – There are Endless Possibilities!

It might seem odd to talk about equipment additions in a blog…but we’re excited.  Bennett Graphics has added a new workflow line that will allow us to add flexible packaging, labels and shrink sleeves to our products.  It’s a huge addition, directly driven by customer requests.

In a few days, Bennett Graphics will take delivery of a HP Indigo WS6800.  There will also be finishing and rewinding equipment (AB Graphics Digicon 3) and shrink sleeve equipment.  Space is being built out for the new addition now.

This is exciting stuff with tons of marketing potential.  Everyone has seen the personalized Coke bottles and decorated Bud Light cans.  Today, we’re limited by our imagination only…not by possibilities.

Come see us!  Visit Bennett Graphics.  Examine the new gadgets an imagine the possibilities…the Endless Possibilities. We can’t wait to see what you invent!

Bathwater? Buyer Friendly VS. Seller Friendly

The idea that a given market is considered “buyer friendly” versus “seller friendly” is prevalent these days.  If a market is saturated with supply, it is believed that buyers have all the leverage.  In turn, many businesses invite competition, and then feel pressure to lower prices.

Certainly it’s easy to color a market toward the buyer, but that mindset is not healthy for the business overall.  Data may tell us that pricing is low and the number of substitute products and services is high, but giving way to those variables distracts us from connecting with clients on a differentiated level.

Our contention is that if we simply defer to the metrics of a business environment we are not creating value.  More specifically, value is created through a deep level of understanding of a community and by entrenching yourself and your company within it.

We are not saying that you throw the baby out with the bathwater and disregard the pricing within a market.  We believe that over the long term, sustainability is rooted in your brand’s relationship to your clients.  Just because you may have to sell certain products at lower levels, doesn’t mean you toss aside the opportunities that may not be explicitly clear right now.

When you have a deeper relationship with your clients, you become a trusted voice in their world.  The sale of a lower priced product without a focus on building trust defines your brand at a level that can prove to be unrecoverable.  Consequently, the sale of a lower priced product, coupled with trust, sets you up for an impactful future.

Some of you subscribe to our publication, “Connect Magazine.” This month’s cover story, “Back in the Saddle,” examines why it is important to embrace the lessons learned from the missteps that happen along the way and what future disciplines they can help you make.

Our second feature, “Impact,” takes a hard look at the art of going deeper than data and exploring the benefits of more intimate engagement with your market.

We hope that the lessons we’ve learned, shared and will continue to share can help you strengthen the relationships and commitments you are building with your customers.