By Jim Fedele
Working with salespeople is part of my daily life because there are always requests from customers that require information from a salesperson. Whether it is a quote for a new product or information about an accessory, I interface with salespeople regularly. Most of these interactions are with salespeople who I have developed relationships with over the years. They know my personality and how I like to have information. Generally speaking, the majority of my interactions are good. However, lately, I have become very frustrated with a couple of people who are fairly new to me. I am struggling to get things done for my customers.
My customers are used to working directly with me and my team for equipment questions and needs. We are often asked to obtain quotes, part numbers and suggest models for our customers. They like using us because it insulates them from having to deal with salespeople. Plus, it saves them time. Since we try to maintain a standardized inventory we work with the same salespeople regularly. We are all comfortable with each other and the salespeople are familiar with our needs. We have excellent relationships with a couple of salespeople. They get back to us quickly and thoroughly with just the information we need. Alternatively, we have some fairly new ones that are not meeting my expectations.
One of these new salespeople works for a monitoring company that we have not done business with in the past. After seeing their products at MD Expo, I felt like they had a solid monitor that could be an alternative to our present standard – which we are not happy with. Our early meetings were great, the salesperson gathered lots of information, competently showed me the units and we came up with a plan to introduce the monitor to my customers. Everything was going as planned until we actually needed a quote. The quote we received was incomplete and did not match anything we had discussed. I had to send it back for several revisions. My frustration increased when we received the monitors. They came without notice and without field service help to assemble and check them. I called the salesperson to get the issues addressed and to reinforce my expectations for the next project. The salesperson was extremely apologetic, let me know where the break down occurred, and promised to correct it in the future. I felt like we had overcome the issues in a constructive way. However, the salesperson has avoided me (he is working directly with my techs) and has not followed up with me or my customer regarding the purchase.
Another issue is that we have been working hard to integrate our monitoring systems with the different communication tools used throughout the hospital. We have settled on a company that is an industry leader and offers many products that appear to be exactly what we need. The salesperson is great at introducing products, but terrible at executing the quote and implementation. I think the products can meet a real need for my customer and truly help keep patients safe. I have taken these products to my nursing customers and watched them become excited only to be left waiting for a quote. I have never had a salesperson fail to produce a quote like this person. I have begged for a quote only to have our deadline pass. I became so annoyed that I escalated my request via a group call and the quote still has not been delivered. At this point, they have lost a sale worth $1 million because my customer became tired of waiting and decided to go with another company. I was disappointed because we paid twice as much for another product that has half the functionality.
I am not sure what is going on. These salespeople aren’t young so I can’t blame it on them being Millennials. Maybe the salespeople are spread too thin.
I have heard some of my regular salespeople state that their territories keep increasing in size. When someone leaves the company they do not hire a new person, they just split up the territory among those who are left. If the salespeople are able to accommodate the customers in the new territory that is great, however, I have feeling that many struggle.
I think that may be what the problem is with the couple of examples I have cited here. I think they are trying hard to do a good job. They are trying to please everyone, however, they are spread so thin that the details of their work suffer. I do not know the solution. We all have hectic lives. Everyone is going a thousand miles an hour trying to get things done. I always felt that a good salesperson delivers what you asked for, and a great anticipates your needs. When people are stretched too thin those details get lost and have a negative impact on customer service.