Reptiles vs. Representatives
That is what we are called by some. At least that is how I referred to some of the reps that called on us when I was a dealer. Why is that? Are we really so predatory? Do we lie in wait hiding in the reeds ready to snatch the offspring of our competitors?
I feel that way about some of the competition, especially since funding has gotten so tight over the last few years. Still, I like most of the reps in my industry. Of course, I am lucky as I represent the top selling brands and great companies with outstanding customer service. Maybe that is why I don’t hate all of the other guys. Some of them work really hard and get quite creative when either flipping one of our specs or scooping a prospective job away from us. (Of course it is possibly our fault for not keeping our eye on the ball). What I have a hard time with are the ones who are just lazy, waiting for our work to get published, then go for the flip with those trouser dropping bidders. They win the bid and our clients are left scratching their heads wondering why they got such a poor facsimile of what they were expecting.
Shouldn’t they get at least an equal? Yeah! An Equal! After all it is the owner’s money. I don’t mind losing out to an equal flip produced by an agency that:
A) Did their homework and understand the entire specified system down to the last integrated component and
B) have the experience and know-how to put together an equal system with the products they represent.
I respect those guys and I would even hire them if I could. I like them. They are nice people who are equally respectful of our firm.
Ours is a world of relationship selling. But what does that mean? I don’t think I ever sold anything to a relative. The friends that bought our products have already been in the industry for years that I have known since my stagehand days. I don’t count those guys. Do you think I would ever up-sell products to my friends? Never! I want them to stay my friends; and I want my clients to stay my clients. A lot of the clients I have gotten to know over the years I call friends, but most are clients who we like and like us. Not because of our good looks (or in my case, sense of humor) but because they trust us.
We have earned this trust over the years by knowing our products well and by telling the truth even when we don’t have the answer. Sometimes we have to say, “I don’t know. I’ll have to get back to you on that one”, and we do. Relationships, like friendships are built on that kind of trust. I have had clients say they like us and would change the way their systems are put together in order to have us on board.
As flattering as that is unless it makes sense we steer them away because that is what is good for their project. Do I hate losing the work? Absolutely – but not enough to risk our relationship and mostly because we simply care about them. We like them. And that is what I love about our business, the “like” part. I like doing a good job for our clients. It makes me feel great that we had some value to offer and that they allowed us to collaborate with them on their project. It gives us a feeling of ownership and pride to be included. It is that company wide feeling that makes us human beings… not reptiles.