There are internal and customer-facing work processes where many companies commonly stumble. As we wrap up 2022 I’d like to share some changes in approach and attitude that can yield many business benefits, often without investment in software or hardware.
How do I know? I have been a manager and a business owner just like you. I didn’t read this stuff in a book. I have lived it. At one the previous companies I founded, we launched the first software-as-a-service platform for customer communications and delivered the mailing through an independent network of printers as well as to clients in-house production facilities. I’ve also worked on more than a hundred major customer communications redesigns (I’ve actually lost count) and supported many through implementation. I’ve also consulted for print services providers, OEMs and software providers. I’ve worked with sales, marketing, compliance, R&D and development teams. Sometimes all on the same project.
So, based on my experience, let me kick off this series with a pretty simply piece of advice: stop giving stuff away. You are not Oprah. Guess what, even Oprah is not giving stuff away. Oprah is being paid by other people to give their stuff away. Oprah is the marketing channel that someone else is using.
Your sales people would like you to think that when they give stuff away that is just the cost of doing business. It’s not. If you owned a bar instead of a printing or marketing company, would you let the bartender offer free drinks so that they get better tips? When sales people are allowed to give away your services for free in order to land a big print deal, they are lining their pockets at your expense. Yes, sometimes there is a reason to give a little to the customer, but you want to be very strategic about how that is done.
Minimize the freebies
If you don’t value the services you offer, neither will your customers. You need to establish a price for every service, even if you ultimately discount it or offer something for free as part of a larger package. By putting a value on everything you offer, you can help to ensure that you get acknowledgement of, and credit for, any discounts you provide. By the way, that acknowledgement belongs to the company – not to the sales person. It didn’t come out of their pocket after all.
When you do give something away, think about how to get the most leverage. For example:
- Don’t give everything away up front. Consider making the “freebie” contingent on some other action. Pay us for the design work and we will give you a credit towards development. Pay for up front development and we will give you an annual credit for each year of the production contract.
- Don’t let the sales person do the giving. You want the customer feel that they got something special and the sales person had to ask for it.
- Do give your customer service teams, and even project managers, some budget to keep existing clients happy. A budget, or a bucket of hours, for small fixes or upgrades can make it easier to ask for money to make the next big change. It also empowers your service team and may help you retain talent.
- Always do the paperwork! Get a signed change request even when, or especially when, the service is being given away. Add up the value of those freebies when you meet with clients.
While lazy salespeople will always go for the discount first, that approach starts a downward spiral because customers don’t value what they don’t pay for unless they have to work for the discount. When discounts are handled well, the sales people win too. Stay tuned for the next installment where we’ll talk about working with your sales team (instead of for them!)