week I was talking, over dinner, with a few friends. We are all in sales within
the service / project industry, and while slightly different offerings, we tend
to have similar tales to tell about client experiences. It must have been a
full moon or something because we all had a recent similar story to share.
is not uncommon for us to call upon companies that are small-to-midsized where
the owner of the company is the president or CEO. And, as such, we are often
engaged with this person during the initial sales process. You go through the
routine of presenting your company, learning about their company, engaging in
various conversations to see if the relationship would be a good fit, and then
off & running we go. However, all too often, this is the last time we see
or talk to the owner until the project is coming to or just came to a close. He
or she put “their people” in charge. The director of marketing or information
technology becomes the project lead with the supposed authority to make
decision on behalf of their company. They become the voice of their company,
including the owner, and so the projects continue. And, although everything
appears to have gone smoothly, here it comes…the owner shows back up.
isn’t what I wanted!” “I expected this or that.” “Why did you choose to go in
that direction, didn’t you understand I wanted to go in a different direction?”
where were you? You gave your team members the authority to drive the project
on your behalf. So, why are you now questioning or complaining? As a sales
person, we are now on a slippery slope. We can become agitated and defensive.
We can throw the clients team under the bus. We can throw our own company under
the bus. Or, and here’s my approach, we can address the matter one-on-one with
the owner in a professional but blunt way.
or Ms. Owner, please understand it has always been our goal to make your wishes
a reality with the service or project we’ve provided. That is why we spent so
much time working with your team to check and double-check along the way.
Naturally, we expected your team to keep you in the loop, especially since you
told us they were the people you wanted us to work with. I understand you may
not feel as though you had much input after the initial sales process, but let’s
also be frank, we did specifically as the contract had stated. And, you should
be patient and allow your team the opportunity to share with you the project’s
firm needs to be compensated for the work it did. The owner’s team should be
held accountable for their decisions. And, in the end, you may need to suggest
that you work directly with the owner going forward. Whatever the outcome, if
the owner finally shows up at the end and doesn’t like something, well then he
or she needs to accept that it was their responsibility to be more active
during the engagement, and they need to respect everyone else’s role.