Are you the expert in the room?
You may already be asking what I’m talking about, but bear with me. This article is aimed at VARs/Integrators, but if you’re a customer feel free to keep reading.
Let me start by saying, I am no wordsmith and the opinions in this narrative are strictly my own with no representation of my employer or anyone else. Ok, over with the legalities and onto real content.
For those of you that don’t know me, the company I work for is a reseller and system integrator. I say this as two separate descriptions as over the years I have found, as many of you may have, that these two are not mutually exclusive. Some sell things, some install things, some do both but not well, and some do both extremely well. One of the best parts of my company is that we have flipped the typical business model of the industry. Where most are 3:1 sales to engineering, we are the exact opposite. Thus people are happy working with us, because we always go the extra mile to make sure the customer has exactly what they need without the typical position of just filling an order for what the customer asks.
A few days ago, I was invited to a meeting with a new customer for my company who simply wanted to renew a firewall subscription. The meeting naturally began with us describing our company and the philosophy behind how we like to do business. Over the course of the meeting various topics came up with one of those concerning wireless. I happen to be a wireless engineer with time spent in large venues such as stadiums and auditoriums, major universities, and other mission critical locations such as hospitals. Over the years I have seen many things, but by no means do I ever claim to be an expert. My goal in any meeting as stated before is to provide the best solution for the customer. Even when it means pushing back against a customer. This is where being the expert begins.
This particular meeting saw the customer asking for a particular product because they had done their due diligence and found the product needed. After asking a few probing questions, I made a recommendation of another product for the job. The product was in fact a less powerful piece of gear, but was an adequate product with plenty of growth overhead included. The customer was shocked. Shocked by the fact that I would not simply fulfill the original request, but provided pushback against it.
In order for one to be an expert, they have to be able to realize that the “customer first” mentality must be ever present. Too many times have I gone into organizations after another company, and found that the customer has been oversold on the gear needed for the job or has been completely misled and purchased something that could never handle the task. As the expert, you should always provide the best possible solution to the customer. For those of you that are sales driven you may want to close your ears on this part. Even if it means you make less money. Customers will appreciate you for doing the right thing, and more often than not reward that by continuing the business relationship with you. Over time that small amount of money you may have given up originally, is repaid many times over.
For customers reading, if you find yourself in a position such as this, don’t ever think you have to consider yourself the expert in the room. This was the exact comment made by the customer in this story, as too often they had previously found themselves in that exact position. The vendor they were meeting with was satisfied fulfilling the order, no questions asked. If you as the customer ever feel you are in this position, it’s best for you to be polite but end the meeting and find another vendor to work with.
I hope that this narrative is a useful reminder to all of us in a sales role, whether you are the sales person or engineer. What are things you find help you do your job better?
I welcome your feedback.