Who are your brand ambassadors? If you think it should be your salespeople you, my friend, are dead wrong.
Let me tell you a little story about a house renovation project. These are the things that nightmares and divorce decrees are made of. It’s not really about the arguing over how to do things, or the different tastes or styles. I think it is more about the fact that everything in a renovation takes twice as long, costs twice as much and is blanketed by communication breakdowns.
As a side note, it is in these moments of contractors slapping you with a 50% overage on an estimate, showing up with incorrectly designed cabinets, and “crown molding costs WHAT a square foot?!” that you and your partner find ways to look the other way during personal meltdowns.
Our renovation project took over a year. As we entered the final stage, we had a problem getting the kitchen island to look right. The problem developed when our original sales person was let go, and no one at the company contacted us. After days of not hearing anything, we had to start over with a new salesperson and their interpretation of our concept.
Since we had kept all the documentation and the new salesperson had our file, we believed we were still on track. But lo and behold, there was a miscommunication on the design of the island which of course cost more and held up the rest of the project. Things got even more botched when the team sent to fix the island was not the original team on the job.
My thoughts on how to fix the island were communicated to the salesperson, but lost in translation to the production team. When the installer showed up he did not have any concept of what we wanted nor did he have proper materials to complete the job. That, in turn, meant that the countertop person could not do their job that day, and as a contractor lost a day’s pay.
And boy did it turn into a shell swapping blame game from there. The installer, feeling like an idiot, threw the company under the bus for lack of communication.
When poor communications occur on a consistent basis the person on the front line ends up trashing the team because they feel resentful for being in this type of predicament. Our guy was pretty diplomatic, but it was easy to see that he was left in the dark and therefore left holding the bag when the customer was unhappy.
Proper communication between sales and production would have solved this problem and kept the company’s reputation intact. All too often a sales team is separated from a delivery team either by physical location or lack of interest. Salespeople have been made to feel like they rule the roost – and at times they should. If your team doesn’t believe in your company enough to be able to close deals, then your company will suffer.
That being said, having a stellar sales force doesn’t mean a damn thing if you fall down on the delivery. Typically, your delivery takes place outside of the sales floor with an installer, an IT professional, a maintenance person, etc. THEY are your company’s reputation. Not the slick salesperson.
That story I watched unfold in my half-complete kitchen was the same thing I witnessed time and time again during my career in the apartment industry. Leasing agents deliver a slick bells and whistles pitch only to have things fall apart on the delivery either because the apartment wasn’t pristine or because it wasn’t delivered on time. This becomes a high hurdle to jump to regain trust, and it adds to the anecdotes we love to tell others and post on review sites.
During my career in the housing industry what made me appear successful to upper management was the ability to connect with people and close deals. What actually made me successful was how I worked to develop strong relationships with my maintenance team.
I knew how to negotiate a quick move in, the time it would take to turn a trashed apartment, and how to buy time for work order completion. Taking the time to understand my maintenance team, their needs, and their schedules, helped us develop a good relationship. In the end, if I made a mistaken undeliverable promise they would find a way to get it done or at the very least, back me up instead of trashing the company.
For me, maintenance people are the heart and soul of the operation in the apartment industry. But typically they are the last person in line with the sales promise and the first person in line when the customer is unhappy. It’s a reciepe for disaster.
While it’s easy to dote on salespeople, shouldn’t the people delivering your product feel like you’ve got their back? It is a crucial touchpoint that can make all the difference to the customer and their willingness to stay with your company. I guarantee you that brand ambassadors at this level will truly set you apart as a class act!
That’s my take, what about yours?