Check Your Title at the Door … Focus on the Job
Somewhere along the line, we got sidetracked into focusing all of our attention on becoming a recognized professional in a recognized, “respectable” field.
We got busy Tweeting, Facebook/LinkedIn/Snapchat posting and “friend” hunting.
We forgot what business people are supposed to do.
We got so wrapped up in our own status in the organization and our own feeling of self-importance (our title), we forgot what our real job was.
We forgot that at the end of the day our task, our objective was to sell something – a product or an idea to someone – internally or externally.
You don’t?Customer Relations – Most firms have a customer relations/customer support staff; but in today’s online, always-on business environment, working with and helping customers or business partners doesn’t rely on a title or job description. To be successful, customer relations/service has to be part of every employee’s responsibility–no matter what your title.
Take a moment and ask yourself:
- When a customer problem, question is received, do you try to answer it? Do you make it a priority to go directly to the people who can assist and ensure they get assistance and a satisfactory answer?
- When you mysteriously get an irate call from a customer, do you simply pass the response on to customer service or customer care?
- Have you talked with industry analysts and insiders to find out everything you can about your competition and their products/services? Have you worked with your own products? Your competition’s’?
- When a query from a reporter or editor comes in you do you immediately return the call or respond at least within an hour? If you simply can’t, do you ensure someone handles the query, especially if you are on the road? Do you make certain every query is answered before you leave the office at the end of the day, even if is to say you received the request and will get the answer to the person in X hours? Do you fulfill that commitment or is it just an empty promise?
- Do you spend at least 20-25 percent of your time with your field sales force calling on customers and/or prospects? Do you try to find out why they purchased (or didn’t) your firms products/services and what they like/dislike?
- Do you track your competition’s activities and efforts? Are you aware of the companies, products and services in your market area?
- Do you visit channel partners or retailers to see how your company’s products are presented and promoted? Your competitors’?
- Do you talk about your projects, programs, activities with senior management in terms of market response/reaction, impact and sales? Or do you talk in terms of positioning, the message, image, clipping volume, impressions with influentials and thought leaders?
- Do you time your product announcements and rollouts so they coincide when the product/service will actually be available — in a solid form?
- Do you take it as a personal defeat or shortcoming when an editor or reporter doesn’t bite on a story or tell management that the press doesn’t understand or the idea isn’t worth covering?
Those things aren’t your area of responsibility or your concern?
Beyond Marketing – When the Web became all consuming, management saw it as a cheap, easy way to reach more customers. They quickly found the Internet and Web are also effective for customers to contact almost anyone in the company to complain or get information/assistance. It also became a way for them to reach, influence other prospective customers – positively or negatively.
A recent report on ecustomer relations made us realize that too many people losing touch with their real job. It’is little wonder that customers – business and consumer – so intensely dislike the buying process.
Fortunately, there are companies that have a focus on the customer.
In the late ‘70s, early ‘80s Buck Rogers, at IBM, was the epitome of the salesman’s salesman. Sure, his dark blue suit, white shirt, rep tie and red pocketchief are a little dated for the hoodie generation, but the fundamentals he espoused are as sound today, as they were when he was responsible for Big Blue’s marketing and sales activities.
In his mind, everyone in the organization was a sales person. The janitor, the buyer, the accountant, the engineer, the lawyer, the PR person … were all part of the IBM sales team.
The internet didn’t change that. The customer support department didn’t change that. Specialties didn’t change that.
The eGain customer relations study polled 300 US, Canadian firms in various market sectors. The email inquiries all expressed a keen intent to buy one of their high-value products or services.
- 41% of the firms never responded
- 39% sent an answer within 24 hours
- 15% sent an acknowledgement that they had received the inquiry
- 17% responded with an accurate, complete answer
- 6% didn’t have an email contact
Don’t shrug off the figures by saying, “Well, that’is the sales department for you.” Rewrap the inquiries in terms of the media’s inquiries in terms of your internal correspondence, in terms of your response to an existing customer. Do you think the results would have been any different?
Does your organizations list easy-to-find service/support contact information, easily found press contact information on your web sites? Direct email addresses? 24-hour phone numbers?
Do you answer every inquiry, even from prospects or customers halfway around the globe? Do you follow-up to make certain they are supported properly?
Do you respond to a photo inquiry immediately with the photo or artwork?
Do you make certain that a technical, product information request is handled promptly and thoroughly?
Do you assist a radio host in Juneau Alaska in the same manner you assist one of the consumer or technical editors of CBS or your local station?
Do you provide the information as quickly to a Massachusetts weekly, online reviewer in Dallas as you do to the NY Times, ReCode, CNet?
Listen, Engage – Companies that do a good job with their online communications know that the first step is often the most difficult – listening. If you do it well, the customer will tell you precisely what he/she wants you to do to meet their needs. The approach saves time, money and frustration all around.
But sales isn’t your job?
It is your job–at work and at home!
- Didn’t you take engineering and technical jargon and put it into words ordinary people could understand?
- Didn’t you advise your management what the ramifications might be of some policy or program you didn’t feel was in the best interest of the company’s reputation or future?
- Didn’t you explain the reasons for an editorial tour or press conference with your marketing department?
- Didn’t you get your CEO on the conference program as a panelist or key speaker?
- Didn’t you pitch a solid company/product story idea to a reporter or editor?
- Didn’t you convince your spouse that buying a new UHDTV was a wise move?
- Didn’t you discuss the reasons why camping in the mountains was much better than a simple visit to Disneyland?
- Didn’t you negotiate a date and vacation with that new person who caught your eye at the athletic club?
Rationalize all you want; but if you are a good publicist, engineer, accounting, marketing person you’re selling all the time. You are selling your ideas … your words … your ability to look at problems and opportunities from every angle … your reputation.
If you’re uncomfortable with the word then don’t call what you do selling. Instead, you persuade, influence and negotiate.
Then wrap it all with a superb title.
But understand the basics of solid sales efforts. Understand deep down that you need to get others to adopt your point of view and that you have to get them to respect/agree with your opinion.
Only with help, cooperation and agreement can you achieve what you honestly believe is best for your company, its products/services and the market at large.
You’re a Target – It’s nice for people – regardless of their job – to think they don’t have to worry about such tough work like customer service/customer support, but they’re wrong. Today, everyone in the organization can be a target for a customer question and it’s the individual’s job to assist the customer even if it’s only to ensure the individual gets to the right member of your team and gets the answers, information, assistance they want.
Buck Rogers’ mantra is as true today as it was in the early ‘80s.
It is as true for engineering, accounting, quality assurance, purchasing, legal, marketing/marketing communications, product planning and public relations as it is for the sales department.
It may not be part of your job title or even in your job description but …“If you aren’t selling, you’re buying.”
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