When I was at the gym last week, I eavesdropped as a distraught salesperson spoke on his cell phone to an unknown listener—and to everyone else within earshot. He spewed a litany about why he and his company were about to lose a major client. “The past six months have been the most stressful of my business career,” he opined to the intended recipient of his diatribe.
Sequestered behind a wall of lockers, I listened in on what was to be a long discussion, and because the conversation was about sales and CRM, I decided to take out my writing pad and begin taking notes. As I listened with clinical detachment to the systemic breakdowns he was describing, it became almost painful to hear how many there were.
His one-sided story is great fodder for a business case study. The only parts that might elude controversy are which outcomes are inevitable if nothing is done. His customer will become someone else’s, and, based on the sales rep’s passionate dismay, he will head for the exit as well, along with his knowledge and his electronic rolodex.
Here’s what he said along with my observations. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Salesperson: “Sheldon Johnson at Megacorp was really (peeved) last week. He called me and sent an email telling me how long it took them to restore their communications last week after the system went down.”
Me thinking: “Wow. That’s a lot of information. I wonder if he’s oblivious that his competitor might be in the locker room. Maybe he hasn’t heard of ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.’ “
Salesperson: “They have been telling us and telling us and telling us about these problems, and nothing’s being done about them. Nobody is paying any attention and the same issues keep coming up.”
Me thinking: “Megacorp’s culture is saturated with a ‘bring me solutions, not problems,’ mentality. Also, service and support expenses must be over budget because of high overtime costs, staff attrition, or both. I wonder if pre-sales and post-sales support are staffed by the same group. Most of their support staff must be either filling out reports for management, or trying to win new business—but they’re not supporting customers.”
Salesperson: “Last month, they (Megacorp) ordered an upgrade which Engineering specified, but we couldn’t get them the cables and power supplies, so they were late installing.”
Me thinking: “Their supply chain must not be integrated with demand management. Orders are placed and the high dollar items are shipped, but no one is measuring customer time to value, so the equipment just languishes in boxes until the nickel-and-dime stuff arrives. Meanwhile, the vendor’s revenue must look healthy.”
Salesperson: “Sheldon told me that he contacted support about (issue name), but nobody called back. Nobody called back for three days, so he had to email me to find an answer. I looked into it and I couldn’t get an answer either. This is what they go through all the time.”
Me thinking: “At Megacorp’s last quarterly meeting, the CMO probably presented a ‘Sales Process’ slide that started with ‘Prospect target accounts’ and ended with ‘Close business.’ No wonder no one seems to care. Salespeople receive commission on revenue alone. Once the order gets signed, support is considered an expensive annoyance, not an opportunity to grow revenue. They’ve installed so many silos they probably look more like an agribusiness.”
Although some might accuse me of being an ambulance-chaser, I politely handed the unhappy salesperson my business card and let him know how I could help. There were five years of projects in this single phone call.
Although I didn’t get a hug, he told me he’d think about calling me after the dust settles. I haven’t heard from him yet.
If you’re the one who had this call, could you contact me and let me know if you think my observations are on target?