Last week at our office, for a marketing exercise we were in need of a duplex color laser printer. It was urgent. We wanted to buy immediately. Except, some of the leading companies on Earth just wouldn’t sell it.

Our first stop was Canon imaging center. It happens to be right next door to our office so it was more or less an obvious destination. Lots of printers on display. You could use and then decide. So we did. We told the store manager that we’ll buy this one. Response: “This is just a display center, we don’t sell here.” He also told us that we could walk into Reliance Digital Mart next door. They are the authorized sellers.

(The Mistake: – Why on Earth will you ask a potential customer, ready to buy, to go and do more work? And Why would you expose a customer to a place which would have printers from other companies?)

So we walk into Reliance. At the printer section we told the sales guy that we ant the A3 Canon (so and so model number) printer. Response: “This is a high end printer. We don’t stock it.” He also said he didn’t know where we could buy it. However he gave us a phone number for an HP dealer who deals in high-end printers.

(I couldn’t believe it. Why wouldn’t you do it yourself and SELL. It’s a 4.5L sale lost.)

So it’s HP now. We explored the HP site, which by the way is a very good one. We zeroed in on the printer and called the number. The guy wasn’t an HP dealer. He was the Regional Sales Manager for our region. He was not going to lose an opportunity to make a quick sale? Here’s how the conversation went:

My Colleague: “We want so and so printer”

HP: “That’s a high-end printer. It will take at least four to six weeks to deliver it.”

(Why would you kill a sale before even making one)

My Colleague: “Ok do you have any color duplex laser printer that I can have by tomorrow.”

HP: “Yes I do. Let me send you a quotation.”

My Colleague: “I don’t want a quotation, Just tell me the model number. I’ll look it up on your site and confirm to you right now.”

HP: “I need to look up the stock position. I’ll call you back in ten minutes.”

My Colleague: “Ok”

(I was actually by the end of this wondering – how do these companies make money – how many sales do they lose like this )

Two hours later the guy called: “The duplex printers will take at least one week. I’ll try for it sooner and might be able to manage it. I am sending you a mail with the quotation (AGAIN). Just reply with a confirmation and we’ll get started.”

The mail arrived after 48 hours. There has been no follow up call till today?

In the meanwhile we called BROTHER, who said they’ll have the concerned person call us back. He did call but by the time he did we’d called XEROX.

XEROX was actually a great experience and something to learn from. We called the XEROX dealer and told him we wanted a duplex printer. He over the phone directed us to the web page the printers (and price) were listed. It took about five minutes to decide on the model. Once we told him the model number he said this “it usually takes two weeks to deliver these machines. However the company stock position shows availability in Hyderabad. So we can probably have it delivered in three days. All I need from you is a mail conforming the order. The printer will be delivered to you within three days. Once the machine is installed and you have a test print in your hand – you can write our cheque. Is that fair?”

No wonder that XEROX is known for exemplary sales processes.

The point is this: It’s easy to talk about lousy service and lousy business practices when it’s someone else’s company, but it’s much more difficult to address it in your own backyard.

The question really is How easy is it to do business with you? Read this carefully,

We called 14 businesses last Friday. I can guarantee that these businesses are not even aware that they lost business on Friday (like you might not be on other days)

The receptionist answered the phone, I told her (or him) that I want to buy XYZ (product or service that I pulled out from their website). In all the cases the receptionist didn’t know what to do. In 11 of these – The phone call was transferred to someone who didn’t know what to do as well. Mostly this person wanted to have someone else to come and meet me. WHY? I don’t know. I am placing an order but they couldn’t take it. In the other three – the phone was received by someone who probably were sales guys – all three insisted on sending me a proposal or a quotation. They just didn’t have the GUTS to sell without one. They just didn’t know how to close a sale.

To make sure you are not driving your customers away, PLEASE implement the following steps that create customer loyalty and makes it easy to do business with you.

1- Be available to sell: Be available 24/7 – online, on the phone and in person – anything less is not acceptable.

2- Have people behind the telephone: Please No automated Systems – They drive customers away for good.

3- Be friendly: VERY IMPORTANT – How comfortable are you or your people in making friends with a stranger?

4- Technology: Use technology to be more productive. (for example Xerox as above)

5- Identify reasons for customer attrition: and fix them. If you think customers are leaving you for price then start again at #5.

6- Make it easy – for people to do business with you – Speed is essential – Do not delay in sending requested information or proposals etc. If you delay, it tells people that you really aren’t very keen on getting their business.

7- BE YOUR OWN CUSTOMER: Call your company now to find out if you will buy from you..

8- Be ahead – of your competition – Small things you can do can make a big perception difference. It could be sending information faster or friendlier people or educating a customer (not essentially selling you intended product but helping him to arrive at a decision) on what is best for him or her. Doing these small things will position you as an expert and help being perceived better than the rest.

You don’t have to be a Wizard but you do need to be smart – FOCUS your efforts on people that give you the numbers – Your Present Clients.


Chetan Walia

News Reporter