It was 11 pm, and I had just finished a formal search of Volkswagen dealers in the Boston area. I was in the market for a new car, and I had just two weeks to make a new purchase. I read every Web site for VW dealers in a 20-mile radius. I looked at every sales deal and had narrowed my selection down to the make and model of car I wanted to buy. I emailed four different dealers to make a connection. Now it was time to sit and wait. Who would get back to me, and how would I select my new car dealer?
The first dealer sent me an automated email. It had a coupon for $25 to any Starbucks if I came in and took a test drive. The second took five days to get back to me (and they are in the business of selling cars!?). The third had one of their “agents” call me, and she took down some information but then couldn’t answer any questions about the cars, stating, “That’s not my role.” And then I heard from the fourth salesperson. He sent me a personalized email that introduced his role, his passion for cars, and his interest in chatting live so he could ask me some questions to help ascertain my likes and dislikes. He then asked me to suggest a good date and time for us to connect. Now we were on to something…
I’ve been in customer-facing roles my whole life. My first job was as a salesperson at the Gap. I loved to fold. I loved people. What more could a 16-year-old ask for? But, my expectations are high, especially when it comes to making such a big-dollar purchase. I know how important the initial conversations are when connecting with any new customer—I know the pressure of being the salesperson. Will I be able to appropriately share information about my product? Will I ask the right questions? Will I represent my company in the best way possible? And, that nagging question in the back of my mind: Will they like me?
Approaching any new customer requires a business savvy that is hard to teach. It’s about being able to assess a situation, read verbal and non-verbal cues, share related experiences, help my customer problem solve, and (most importantly) take the journey with them. It’s not just checking in; it’s checking on, out, over, and above. It’s having a laugh and sharing in the successes.
I wanted to work with that last dealer because:
- He showed a passion for his work.
- I felt excited speaking to him about my new car.
- He followed up with me immediately and he asked questions about my likes and dislikes and my lifestyle.
- He clearly demonstrated knowledge about his product.
- When I saw something I liked, he helped point me in the right direction if he thought it wasn’t the right fit.
- And, I liked him. I wanted to give him my business.
So why chemistry? I like to think of myself as a chemistry seeker. I’m always interested in hearing about what makes great relationships work. When you spend large amounts of time working with your customers and there is good chemistry, all aspects of the project and process flow smoother. So, I decided to go to a great source. I spent some time talking with a former client, Larry Lynam, who is now in the consulting business. Larry noted that his “rule” for vendor selection was a rule for dating. “ If you are not being treated the way you want to be treated before you sign the contract, can you honestly expect it to be better afterwards?” When working with a new customer, Larry approached his partner relationships with the following in mind:
- Will they supplement not duplicate? I like to have a partner fill a need or gap. They should be able to complement my team and make it more functional, not duplicate what I already have in place.
- Character. Can I trust, depend on, and rely on them? Will they deliver what we have agreed to? Will they be looking to make certain that this relationship is working for all of us?
- Are they a cultural fit? If the relationship is going to be a struggle, it just may not be worth pursuing. If my team is unhappy, if there is more stress created for me, or if the relationship is not enjoyable, I am looking to end it and move on.
So, the next time you are working with a new customer, vendor, partner, or agency, what do you plan to do to make sure there is that right dose of expertise, passion, commitment, and chemistry?
Until next time,
The Chemistry Diva
Chemistry Matters @ Informa
Stay tuned for the next installment where I’ll tackle what to do if the chemistry just isn’t there.
A special thank you to Larry for providing input on this blog (www.thelynamgroup.com).