How Not to Sell a Window

We need to replace our picture window, so I’m told.

My wife, Thelma, is an Architectural Designer. Whatever she says goes when it comes to house repairs and needs. My opinion, while sometimes solicited so I don’t feel left out, isn’t really relevant, and that’s fine with me. So, when my wife started getting quotes, I didn’t even answer the phone.

On one call, I couldn’t help overhearing one side of the conversation, and wish I’d heard what the window guy said exactly. It went something like this:

Window Guy: I understand you’re looking for new windows from the form you filled out at the Home Show last week.

Thelma: Actually only one, in our dining area.

Window Guy: Well we’d like to come out and quote it for you.

Thelma: Ok – when? We want to do it soon.

Window Guy: We’d need to find a time when your husband will be there too.

Thelma (not missing how that sounded): I actually make the decisions on this. I do architectural design, and do this a lot. We don’t need him there.

Window Guy: It’s our policy to have both homeowners present. We can’t do it without him too.

Thelma (with a raised brow and just a hint of sarcasm) : Ok – thank you. I guess we won’t use your windows then.

Who would have thought Window Guy or his script would provide a teaching moment? What Trust Principles were ignored, and what was the result?

From the book Trust-Based Selling, the four principles that drive Trust-based Selling are:

1. A focus on the customer for the customer’s sake, not just the
seller’s sake.

Let’s see. Window Guy has the person on the phone who requested the quote, who’s experienced in the field, and who has clearly identified herself as both the technical and the economic buyer. His script–if that’s what it was–focused on whose needs?

2. A style of selling that is consistently collaborative.

Thelma was pretty clear that she was ready to collaborate. So the customer collaborates, but Window Guy can’t get out of his own way and off his own agenda.

3. A perspective centered on the medium to long term.

She’s an Architectural Designer, and probably helps clients decide about windows. I bet if she were a happy customer if she’d be a great referral source–for Window Guy! But on the other hand, if she’s unhappy, would she ever refer Window Guy? Or would she perhaps even suggest others if the name came up?

4. A habit of being transparent in all your dealings with the customer.

Thelma was transparent. She said exactly why I didn’t need to be there. Window Guy? He never shared why it was relevant for me to be present. Maybe they have experience with customers that evidenced a need to answer both homeowners questions at the same time. But he didn’t share that, or any other reason, and even if there was a reason, it should have been one that complied with Trust Principle #1 above. But he never got there, because he wasn’t listening, or there was no place in his script to allow for a dialog.

The result? First, Window Guy didn’t get to bid because I won’t be there. Second, we don’t have to deal with that company.

Maybe in Window Guy’s world that’s a win-win. Not in mine.

SubText Messaging

Recently I had a conversation with a friend. He asked me what I thought about a marketing piece he sent me the day before. After our conversation,which was tedious, we analyzed it. Here is part of the conversation we had, and the same part of the one we didn’t have:

Sam: What did you think of that piece I sent you yesterday?

Subtext: I’m looking for your big picture thoughts

Me: I liked it

Subtext: Uh. Oh. He wanted me to give him comments.

Sam: Well – what did you like about it?

Subtext: Please give me a little more – your big picture comments.

Me: I didn’t read it that carefully – I did think it looked good

Subtext: I feel really badly. He looked at something for me and gave me exactly what I asked for. I should have done more.

Me: [getting defensive] – I didn’t realize you wanted me to provide comments – I can do that. Isn’t it out already?

Subtext: I really would like to fix this – and I still feel badly – maybe he’ll give me another opportunity to make it right.

Sam: Yeah – it’s out already. Never mind.

Subtext: All I wanted was a couple of thoughts, and he’s trying to make a whole project out of it.

After another couple of minutes of this conversation that went nowhere, we stepped back and I asked what he really was asking. I asked him for the subtext. And I told him mine.

We quickly reached an understanding, and avoided further misunderstanding. He didn’t care that I hadn’t really read it. He just wanted a little more of the big picture comments.

I had felt badly that I hadn’t read it and given him deeper comments, and he didn’t even want them.

How much easier it would be if all our conversations were the subtext, rather than the text. If we were simply transparent and said what
we really meant.

When I do role plays in workshops I facilitate, I often will stop the action and ask: "What do you really want to say?" That gets to the subtext.

Instead of texting each other, maybe we should start subtexting.

On the Road – To Trust

Sometimes, little things add up to big trust.  I had to travel recently for a client, and I asked Joel, my travel agent, to provide me with flight and price information, which he promptly did.  However, when I learned that I could book my flight with my client’s travel agent for a lower price due to their airline contracts, I decided to book with them. 

Shortly later, plans changed.  Another client asked me to visit in a different city the following day, which required another leg to my journey before returning home.  I called Joel again because I needed to change my itinerary. 

Even though I had not booked the initial flight with his agency, Joel greeted my travel issue as if it was his own.  Though he could not make changes to another agent’s booking, he advised me how to deal with the change, without charge and without being miffed that I’d booked elsewhere after he’d gathered information for me.  He was focused on me, the client, and on our long-term relationship.  He checked his ego at the door.  

The result for Joel – I booked the next leg with him, of course.  And, I would recommend his services to anyone who asks.

Do You Trust the Tech Support Folks?

What is it about tech support?

We want to trust that they will solve our problem. But wanting isn’t getting.

I had lots of time-on-hold to think about this recently – that is – what bolsters trust and what detracts from it? Here are my recent experiences.

1. My computer died in my sleep. It was under warranty. I called the tech support line. When I tested the computer with the agent on the line, the video card ignited in flames!

The agent stayed calm and made sure I was safe, genuinely caring about me and my home. Then he cared about my hard drive – assuring me that it was likely to be safe as well.

Then he addressed the issue – and decided to replace my computer, rather than just the parts. He described the exchange process, and said it could take one to three weeks, but might come even sooner. It arrived in 3 business days.

2. My PDA Calendar was deleting my entries. I called my cellular carrier. I slogged through one automated system and two phone agents–repeating my identification and other security data, in addition to my issue each time. Most of the conversation was scripted apologies about my woes, repetition of what I just said, and thanks for using their service and calling them. Having exhausted the service available, the last agent rightly granted me access to the manufacturer.

At that point, my experience changed. The first person asked about my problem and for my phone number in case we disconnected. Then I was transferred to a person that already had that information on the screen and who didn’t ask me to repeat either my identification information or my issue. He assured me he would stay with me until we resolved the problem – which is what I really wanted – instead of a disingenuous apology. We agreed to break at one point, at my request. He kept his word and called me back right on time, using the number that was logged earlier. And we resolved my problem.

Net net: for my computer problem, I trusted my phone agent, and through him, his company, and will buy from them again. I trust my PDA manufacturer, and will buy another when I’m ready. I’m not so sure about trusting my cellphone service carrier, and may change next time around.

What engendered trust:

• Skipping the unnecessary script and focusing on the problem
• Genuinely caring about me, wanting to help and reassuring me every step of the way
• Being transparent about process
• Keeping promises, showing reliability
• An agent recognizing that he can’t help, and referring me to one who can, as quickly as possible.

What detracted from trust:

• Canned apologies, fake empathy, and useless thank-yous designed to meet some behaviorally observable criteria judged by “management” to serve as a proxy for genuine trustworthiness;
• Asking me for the same information over and over and over…making me doubt either their intent or their competence, or both;
• Multiple transfers without results.

That’s just me. What makes you trust tech or customer service — and what makes you cringe and wonder whether anyone really cares?