The world and beyond – Surviving in the economic jungle

Advice, tips and tricks on how to engage with the UK jobs market and commercial environment, from a female executive's perspective

When is bad really bad in Sales? A disgruntled customer’s view.

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My own recent experience just made me realise, again, how important the personal brand of the sales person is to the customer and the buying relationship.

In this case, I was the customer who bought some advertising. The sales rep arrived in typical flush fashion, all high heels and big hair to signify her role in the media industry, and with lots to say about what would be best for me and my business. I listened, asked for advice, listened and asked for advice. This particular advertising medium was out of my frame of reference so I needed all the help I could get.

I placed the order, and in due course I had an email with my proof. I made a few little changes, assuming that what was delivered was right and appropriate given the detailed brief I gave, and also implementing the trust on my part that my request for advice was heeded.

Now I know that advertising can be hit and miss, so my expectations were pretty well-managed.

The first issue developed when the campaign started without me being advised of the date, so my back office systems were not quite ready yet. I complained, they apologised.

Off we went again, and 4 weeks into the 8 weeks campaign I had a call to see how it was going, and also to offer me some more advertising in a different medium. It wasn’t going great so I wasn’t going to buy any more advertising! But she did offer to make some changes to the current ad to hopefully improve the response rates. I emailed my new information, left messages and even emailed the rep to talk to her. I was ignored for over a week!

When she did eventually call, it was full of excuses about how her iPhone had let her down. Frankly, I didn’t want excuses. I was mortified that this sort of stuff still happens in modern-day sales! Especially when the solution she offered involved paying a lot more to keep the same ineffective ad running.

Eventually, I got to speak to the Sales Manager who was very quick to defend their business principles, but also pointed out that the ad was grossly inappropriate for the medium. I respected how well she defended both her team and her employer. But I was also surprised that, as the Sales Manager claimed to be a recruitment expert, and given my repeated requests for advice, I didn’t get to speak to her at all in the process? I felt even worse when she said another recruitment agency had taken the same package deal and had a fabulous response. Really? Why were they given different advice to me then, if we were obviously paying exactly the same price for exactly the same deal?

In the end, I am getting some of my money back. But the damage this has done to my perception of this organisation is huge. I will be very dubious to trust anything they say, ever again, regardless of the Sales Manager’s claim that they are an ethical business.

I believe that this is all down to communication within their business internally, and the lack of the Sales Rep’s ability to establish credibility after she had promised the earth but failed to deliver. As sales people, we operate hugely on a basis of trust with our clients. The client buys both the wider branding of the seller, and the personal brand of the sales rep. If the two brands do not line up, there is a real likelihood of a disgruntled result at the end. To the client, that person sitting in front of him making the promises represents the company and this is were buying decisions are made and later, regretted.

The true mettle of any sales person is tested when things go wrong. It is easy to manage affairs when it’s all hunky dory. However, a real professional sales person will put his own pride in his pocket to make sure the customer gets what he pays for. And this includes pro-actively ensuring that the customer gets the best pre-sales service as possible, to try and avoid mishaps in the first place.

Communication, at each step of the process, is vital to make sure the customer knows what the challenges are so he can make an objective decision, When things go wrong, emotions come into play and it is far harder to recover damaged relationships than to manage problems when they are still small.

But most of all, don’t ever make promises that you can’t keep. Forewarn the client of potential issues. And if you can see that they are making a mistake, compare the commission you may lose on the deal with the respect you will earn from being honest. The latter will get you referrals and probably even more business deals. Only going for the sale, at any cost, will end in tears in the long run.

Or have I missed something, somewhere, in this wonderful commercial world we live in?


2 Responses

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  1. Absolutely brilliant post here Cathy. Similiar thing happended to me with a job board. They want the sale but the aftercare was poor. I was astounded that the service could be so poor after they appeared to want my business so badly.

    Alana Carroll

    March 28, 2012 at 3:20 pm

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