I recently ate lunch with someone who wanted me to provide referrals to them. I do these meetings from time to time so I can fill out my Rolodex with qualified experts. I also find them interesting because I get to see how well employers prepare their employees to represent their company.
In this case, there was no story. The potential customer base for this company was everyone. When I hear that I know there is no focus for the company and everything they do is a one off. There is little industry expertise and often their customers will end up paying a lot of money for their supplier to learn what’s important for the customer. Many times the supplier never learns what the customer needs and a lot of money, time, and effort will be wasted.
If you own a company know what you’re offering. The first step in making sure your employees know how to represent your company is for you to be clear about what it is your company offers. If you can’t clearly communicate what it is your company does, then there is little to no chance your employees will be able to do so either.
You need to be very clear about who your customer is and what the value proposition you have for clients you would like to work with is. In my case, my customer is a very successful private business where the owner is over fifty years old. This company is likely in the specialty manufacturing business. The owner wants to continue creating value in their company and the owner is coachable in looking at and adopting new ideas.
The services I provide are consulting where we help our clients understand what it is they want to do and why it’s important that they do it. We then move to a coaching relationship where we help the client know how they’re going to implement and who is going to be involved. Coaching involves putting together a strategy for success and monitoring actions once we know what is important. We also provide help in answering the question of who needs to be involved for success. If necessary, we help our clients develop a strategy for bringing outside help.
The person I was speaking with had no clarity about what they provided. For the first thirty minutes of the conversation I had no idea what they did. There was something about technology support, but past that I really had no clarity. Because I had no clarity there wasn’t any way I would or would want to help this person find customers.
I don’t blame the salesperson I was talking with. I blame her bosses. They have let this person down. They didn’t provide her with training about what it is that they do. They provided no guidance in how they provide value for their customers. The only thing that happens with this lack of support is total failure.
Make sure people who represent you do so with excellence. Because the salesperson didn’t have a good explanation of what they did, I came away from the conversation with no confidence in her company. I wasn’t willing to give her any referrals. I was pretty convinced that if she used my name in talking with my contacts my reputation would have been hurt.
When you ask people to represent your company you have to remember that it’s easier to say bad things than good. You want your people to be very clear about the value proposition your company provides. When your employees have this clarity you not only get recommendations, but you get recommendations that provide leads you’re interested in.
Have you reviewed how your company is presented to others? If not, why not?
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