People Who Love People

Each lesson is a direct personal experience.. My 45 year career was packed with memorable happenings, but the people – whether colleagues or customers – taught me there was a right way to do good business, whilst making friends and helping organisations grow and prosper along the way..

I received a ‘phone call from a lady in London (300 miles south of my office), asking for a price for a new software system specific to her profession (she nominated the product for which we were Gold Star resellers), with support, training course, ongoing maintenance etc. I didn’t know her, and she didn’t know me, but I detected a slight note of exasperation in her voice. She knew exactly what she wanted in terms of licenses etc etc (always a brownie point for organisation!)

Me: Have you been given proposals from suppliers in your area?

She: (hesitating a little) Yes, I’ve had quotations from A and B (the two major London area suppliers)

Me: But have they discussed how best to implement it with you, and dare I say, made a business proposal on the back of that?

She: No – they’ve given me quotations

Me: But surely if you’re spending that amount of money, you expect a little more TLC?

She: Yes – well put. We know we need to do this, but I’m not convinced that I have found the supplier I want to work with

Me: (sensing the opportunity). OK, I understand, this is what I propose….

I said that I would prepare a document summarising what she said she needed, a draft plan of implementation (to be discussed) – and of course the financial implications of their purchase. I said that I would do this, on the premise that if she liked what she read, I would come down to London without obligation, and talk/walk her and her management team through the whole implementation process from A-Z – something I would expect to do for any company.

So, arrangements were made for me to go to London. When I talked this through with colleagues, there was many a dissenting word – ‘a waste of a day’, ‘A or B will always get the deal down there’, ‘haven’t you better things to do?’. I explained the scenario, and whilst I couldn’t guarantee an order, I felt sufficiently strongly about it that I would be prepared to fund the trip myself, in the event of no contract. They went along with my assessment – and maybe the thought of a £10000 margin for a day’s effort was an influencer. People, eh?

The day came – train into King’s Cross mid morning, a one mile walk to their offices, and a 3 hour meeting over an extended lunchtime. They seemed happy with my approach and how the implementation would be achieved over the following 12 months to achieve the payback they wanted (making sure that they understood their responsibilities). They said that would get together as soon as I left with a view to coming to a decision. They also knew that I was asking for a 30% prepayment with order.

I walked back to King’s Cross, and caught up with my messages on the concourse, waiting for my scheduled train. PING – a new email, and it was from the company I had been with that day. “Thank you for coming to see us today. We are happy to confirm our order for the new system as proposed, and if you would forward your company’s bank details, we will lodge a payment for the agreed 30% of the contract value”.

I raised my arm in the air was if celebrating a winning goal, and forwarded their email to the team back at the office, with a smiley face.

The Moral

Take each prospective sale situation on its merits, and make a judgement. Many, many times you might choose not to progress a situation, or at least make sure that your price covers the inevitable challenges which some customers present. Listen to what is being said to you, and how it’s being said, and see if the main ‘qualification’ boxes are ticked. I think I’ve always been good at doing this – there’s no value in coming a glorious second in the race – that just costs time, money and reputation. AND the bonus of this luxury of choice, is that you should ensure a good, long-term and profitable relationship, with people you enjoy working with. You will become a ‘trusty’, and your word should not be questioned – as long as you keep your promises and and don’t let anyone down along the way.

They will then be happy to sing your praises, which in turn helps the next sale, and so the carousel of business goes around.