Today’s post is coming from a little different place than usual. It’s about a buying experience that taught me something important about selling. We all want to build partnerships with our customers, right? We all want to give — and also get — value in every relationship.
Back in my early years as a salesperson, I remember thinking that the world was a very unfair place. I spent most of my working life giving, dealing with that responsibility to bring the first measure of value to the relationships I was trying to create. Over a period of time, though, I started to realize that I was a consumer too, and that when I was on the buying side of any transaction, the people doing the selling had a responsibility to me!
I’ve become a lot more demanding of my suppliers since realizing that, but I have never lost sight of the fact that a partnership with my suppliers provides real benefits to me too. Here’s a “close-to-home” example. I have a chronic problem with my electric/electronic garage-door opener. Every 3-4 months, it works its way out of alignment, and when that happens, the door won’t open or close by remote control. The first time it happened, it took five days before a serviceman arrived to fix it. The second time, it took four days. The third time, I asked the owner of the company if there was anything I could do to accelerate the service.
“Let me tell you my situation,” he said. “You have a three year warranty on your garage door from your builder, and my agreement with him is that I have to fix those doors without charging him anything for all three years. It’s not a big job to adjust them, but I hope you can understand that since every repair call is costing me money, they don’t go at the top of our priority list.”
I did understand that. I don’t necessarily like it, I told him, but I understand. “OK,” I said, “how about if I pay you. How much will it cost me to get same-day service when this thing breaks down?”
“Mr. Fellman,” he said, “if I can charge you just $ 25 for a service call, I’ll make sure that we get to you within a couple of hours!”
I went into the conversation knowing what I wanted. Now I knew what he wanted. And when I considered the cost of $ 25 vs. the aggravation of having to get in and out of my car for 4-5 days to open and close my garage door, I decided that I was more than willing to spend the money!
You may not think this is a very good example of a partnership. After all, he should have been providing better service, or maybe he never should have made such a bad deal with the builder in the first place. I think it’s a perfect example, though, of a real partnership and of its opposite. The reality of the situation for me was that I had to give to get, and when I examined the whole value proposition, I decided I was willing to give what it would take to get.