A friend of mine was recently complaining about a computer vendor that had failed to deliver on some training that was promised as part of a major purchase. Oh, the training was conducted… it just wasn’t effective (at least, in the buyer’s opinion). For weeks after the equipment was deployed, “People were still spinning their wheels, trying to figure out the new system,” he explained.
Ultimately, the manager escalated the issue to the highest ranks of the computer company, and made this fundamental assertion: “I was not buying a number of computer units, nor a fixed number of hours for training. I was buying capacity… and your company has not yet delivered.” There was no explicit return policy to be enforced by the buyer. But there were two implicit threats: 1) I’ll be making future purchase decisions based on past experiences, and 2) “I will be talking about my experience with your firm… with my company’s leadership, my colleagues, and even my friends. The way you correct this situation will determine the way I describe my experience.”
Eventually, the computer vendor made the situation right, with a support plan better suited to his customer’s needs.
As he finished giving me the play-by-play, my friend explained how he hated to play the part of the bad guy when taking any vendor to task. “I like to be a nice guy,” he said, “and I hate it when it requires that I get nasty before a vendor takes the effort to make things right.”
Of course, I cannot know with certainty that the problem was entirely the fault of the vendor; it could have been that the buyer (my friend’s company) shared culpability for the training breakdown. Maybe their people didn’t show up for training on time, or perhaps they were texting during the sessions… I don’t know. (But knowing my friend as I do, he and his staff were taking this all very seriously.) And in the end, it doesn’t matter. Perception, as they say, is reality.
Before you close, compute:
1) What outcome is expected of the buyer’s investment with you? Equipment? Training? Or a very specific outcome. Talk it over now, or sweat over it later.
2) Do they realize—beyond simple cash investment—what will be required on their part to make the purchase effective?
3) If follow-up contact, care, training or other service is required, has both your company and the customer’s company made it clear to the participants what is expected of them?
4) Think of your best customer… and your worst sales experience. What did YOU do, personally, that might have contributed to either situation?
Learn more about the contracting steps you should take throughout the sales process when you download "How Selling Steps."
Mike Anderson is VP of Consumer Insights and Communication at The Center for Sales Strategy.