Getting Along with Your Vendors

Get the Most From Your Vendors.

MonMan Customer Service

Wait, what? Getting along with my vendors? THEY need to get along with ME, or else they won't be my vendors any more!

That's what you thought when you read the title, yes?

And you're right: your vendors should be all over their customer service and should treat you like gold! But, after attending a recent seminar, I have a new perspective on the matter that I'd like to share with you:

I was sitting in the hotel conference room at a long table in the front row. Several speakers had presented their dry material, and it's difficult to relate what, exactly, was their point. Dry, polite clapping followed dry, polite speaking.

Glancing down at my watch, I got the bad news: There was still another hour and a half before the scheduled end of the seminar. Rolling my eyes up to the front of the room, the host delievered even worse news: they were running behind and would skip the 15 minute break noted on the schedule.

As the next speaker walked up to the front, with the obligatory "thank yous" to the host and the sponsors, I realized I had missed my chance to excuse myself from the room. Being in the front, everyone would see my departure. I envied the people in the back of the room; able to slip out unseen.

So the speaker reaches the front of the stage, introduces himself and starts in with an obligatory joke or two. Except, these jokes were actually funny!

"At least this guy talks like he has some energy," I thought to myself.

"Yeah, no kidding, " said the attendee next to me. "I need a drink after that last one."

"What? Oh, oh right." I replied, realizing I had spoken out loud. I was obviously more bored than I thought. The signs of seminar hypnosis were manifesting themselves. If I was already mumbling aloud, full-blown nodding off would soon follow. I shifted in my chair and took a drink of water, determined to persevere through.

Knowing the entire seminar was behind schedule, and wanting to keep the crowd's attention, the speaker quickly moved into the core of his material. Price objections had been a recurring theme in this seminar, and we were promised he would explain everything.

You see, this seminar was sponsored by a manufacturer of very high tech, very high price equipment. They make the absolute best product in the world, with all the right features, specifications and ratings. But, it is also the most expensive.

So how were the salespeople expected to sell the most expensive version of this product, when alternatives were available for less?

The speaker asked the crowd what are the biggest questions they get asked as salespeople. Typical responses were:

  • How much does it cost?
  • What does it do for me?
  • How soon can I get it?

He then told us he wanted to do an activity. These types of activities can go one of two ways: either they feel ridiculous, or they strike home a point that is otherwise very hard to make. Luckily, this activity fit into the latter category.

The speaker split the crowd up into two groups. One group was escorted outside with an assistant, and the other group remained. Although I would have preferred to leave with the first group to stretch my legs, I was chosen to stay.

He said that one of the biggest challenges sales people have is the same challenge customers have: they just aren't speaking the same language. But he said it's not always that big of a difference. It would be interesting to see how far off customers and salespeople are.

Spending time in their shoes

He flipped the drawing board to a new page and began a list titled "Customers". He then asked us a simple question: "Imagine yourself as a customer, say, when you were buying your car. As a customer, what do you want from the salesperson?"

The answers were slow to come, but once they did, nearly the entire crowd got involved.

"Value" said one man.

"Don't waste my time," said another.

"To tell us how much it really costs!" said another, to a few chuckles.

"To listen to and understand my needs."

I began to see a trend, and I wasn't alone, because the speaker was quickly making his point. "Ok, those are all good." he said, in that tone people use when they have some good answers but are obviously waiting for someone to hit the nail on the head.

He pointed around the room with the marker in his hand, hoping someone would speak the magic words he was looking for.

"To be honest with us!" said someone in the back.

"BINGO! As a customer, you don't want the salesperson wasting your time spitting out a bunch of features and benefits from the brochure. True, you want to know how this product can solve your problems, but you also want the salesperson to be up front and honest with you."

As a followup question, he asked: "And what do you think the salespeople are going to want?"

"They want to know our budget," shouted one guy.

"Are we the decision maker?"

"When can we make the purchase?" replied someone else.

The speaker was smiling at all this. He said "well, let's find out how far off you are!"

How the other half lives

As an assistant brought back in the other group, he explained "You see, the group that was outside the room came up with a list, pretending to be the salesperson, a list of things they want from a customers. And the group that stayed in the room acted as the customer and came up with a list of things they wanted from their salespeople."

I scanned the list we "customers" had created: Value, don't waste my time, honesty.

He brought the "salesperson" list to the front. It read:

  • What are their needs?
  • What is your time frame?
  • What is your budget?
  • Honesty

Once we had all simultaneously experienced our "ah ha!" moments, he began to speak: "So we all thought, as salespeople, that our customers were always way off base, creating tough expectations for us, but in reality, both salespeople and customers just want the same thing: Honesty."

As salespeople, we can have the best product, with the best features, and we can sell it to the right customer, but we really just want them to be honest with us. We don't want to waste their time and we don't want them to waste ours."

Customers want salespeople to be up front about their products and how they can solve problems. And sales people want customers to be up front with them, too.

It was refreshing to hear a motivational speaker who didn't expect me to try some new-fangled sales technique. It was great to hear someone reinforce one of the basic tenants at MonMan, honesty. I began to think that everyone, salespeople and end users alike, would do well to listen to this man speak.

And the best part? He managed to finish 15 minutes early!



MonMan is a Division 09, 15 and 16 firm specializing in market entry, sales channel development and service of efficient solutions for mission critical facilities.

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