Who are your brand ambassadors? If you think it is your sales people 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. But I don’t think it is because of the reasons generally brought to mind. It’s not really about the arguing over how to do things, different tastes/styles, or money. I think it is more about the fact that everything in a renovation takes twice as long and costs twice as much as what you planned. It is in these moments of contractors slapping you with a 50% overage on an estimate, incorrectly designed cabinets, and “crown molding costs WHAT a square foot” that you and your partner find ways look the other way during personal meltdowns. Couples that have gone through a renovation can come out the other side with a better understanding of how their partner handles stressful events and how they themselves handle their partners reaction to the stressor.
Our renovation project has been a work in progress for over a year. And now in the final 60 day window we are having a problem getting the kitchen island to look like what we thought it was going to look like. Part of 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 sales person and their interpretation of our concept. Since we had kept all the documentation and the new sales person 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 is now costing more money and holding 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 cabinet job.
My thoughts on how to fix the island were communicated to the sales person, but lost in translation to the production team. When the installer showed up he did not have any concept of what we were wanting nor did he have proper materials to complete the job. This in turn meant that the counter top person could not do their job that day, and as a contractor lost a day’s pay.
And boy does it turn into the shell swapping blame game from there. The installer, feeling like an idiot, begins trying to explain that the communication at the company is nonexistent and that it is not his fault. When this happens 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 and kept the company’s reputation intact. All too often a sales force is separated from a delivery team either by physical location or lack of interest. Sales people 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 sales person.
That story I watched unfold in my half-complete kitchen is the same thing I have witnessed time and time again in the apartment industry. Leasing agents deliver a slick bells and whistles show stopping 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 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 my ability to connect with people and close deals. What actually made me successful is how I worked hard 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. I also knew that through the time and attention I devoted to understanding my maintenance team they would help me out. In the end if I made a mistaken undeliverable promise they’d 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. They are the last person in line with the sales promise and the first person in line when the customer is unhappy. Shouldn’t the people delivering your product feel like you’ve got their back? Doesn’t your customer deserve that?