Friday, December 14, 2007

Being A Good Customer

As a sales professional -- sometimes frustrated with certain customers, sometimes I feel like saying: "I'm doing the best I can in selling to you---you need to start being a good customer!!"

Actually, that statement is not as arrogant as it sounds. Professional sales people seek to create meaningful value for their customers. They want to establish relationships--partnerships with customers. In today's tough procurement environment, sometimes customers do themselves a disservice by putting barriers in place so these true value based relationships can be established.

I just saw a John Quelch's blog on Harvard Business Review Online: How To Be A Customer, posted September 18. Here is an excerpt of some key point---but go read the article, it's worthwhile.

Here are five behaviors that, in the eyes of vendors, make for a good customer:

Be Demanding. Make sure the vendor knows you have other options, that you’re going to seek out more than one bid. Ask for references, a good supplier will be glad to provide them. Don’t be afraid to negotiate and pin the vendor down, but don’t overdo it.

Be Respectful. If you want your vendor to do a good job, respect him (or her). Treat him as a professional. Don’t be haughty. Be on time. Ask his opinion. The golden rule applies to customer behavior as well as vendor behavior.

Be Reliable. Do what you say you’ll do. Don’t keep the salesperson waiting if she’s come to your office for an appointment. Pay on time. Don’t try to nickel and dime the seller. Don’t ask for free value added services that weren’t part of the original deal.

Be Surprising. Reward a job well done. Leave a tip. Pay a little over the contract price if the seller’s costs clearly exceed expectations or promise to refer the supplier to a friend. You may want to do business with the same supplier again (Why waste time on selecting another vendor from scratch?). You’re going to enjoy more timely and more customized service next time if you leave a good impression.

Be Engaging. Differentiate yourself as a customer by engaging the seller in some friendly conversation. You may get an extra shot of whipped cream in your cafĂ© mocha if you’re nice to the barista. Treat the seller as an equal, as a problem solver rather than a mere order taker. The seller may be able to confirm or broaden your perspective. In some cases, you may even have expertise that can help the seller do a better job for you.

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