Imagine a company spending millions of dollars to research, develop and produce a valuable and well-respected product, then spending millions more to market it, and then putting the entire customer relationship in the hands of a 12-year-old on a bike.
Sounds like a pretty stupid way to do business, doesn’t it? Well, that’s how the billion dollar newspaper industry worked for decades. The newspaper’s relationship with its customers was through untrained young kids flinging the paper onto subscribers’ porches/lawns/bushes. And if the kid didn’t do a good job, there was no “governance” process where they sat down with the customer and explained why they failed their service delivery commitment. The customer simply canceled their subscription and went to the competition.
A lot of technology companies today are not too far removed from that short-sightedness. They spend millions pursuing work with their clients. When they land a huge systems integration engagement or managed services contract, they send in a delivery team untrained in how to handle a customer relationship. I am not talking about the account executive or the project manager; I mean the developers facing off with the client day in and day out.
Years ago, when I was a newspaper editor, I recognized the absurdity of how the industry cut costs in delivery. The lesson I took from that into my role in sales has been a powerful tool in winning business: when you work for a services company, there is not a “sales department.” Everybody is selling! From the CEO who appears on the financial talk shows to the first-line developer who works in a cube alongside the client, every interaction is a sales discussion. Each one builds on your company’s reputation for reliability. If my first-line delivery team is with the client enthusiastically solving problems every day, my job is so much easier. The praises of the quality of my team echoes through the halls to the C-suite and the conference room where I am pitching my proposal.
Investing in sales and relationship management training for the people who actually deliver what you sell pays tremendous dividends: better referrals, better overall customer satisfaction, easier to sell new business, easier to resolve conflicts. Sure, you can save some money by just training your people how to throw the newspaper on the lawn. But when your product lands in a mud puddle, don’t be surprised when your client switches to the competition.