Snowblowers & Sales
Last year was my first winter living on the New Hampshire beach. Commuting to Boston for work and to Vermont on the weekends to snowboard proved not to be such a big deal, and I had this stupid belief that living on the ocean would not produce as much snow. My brain kept tossing around phrases like "Gulf Stream" which I then very nicely translated into "less snow". In reality, the beach yielded just as much snow as the 120 inches we received in Vermont. The key difference (I learned the hard way) was that Vermont possesses one very important component that's missing in the tight confines of a NH beach, and that's plenty of space to plow and dump the stuff. I also quickly learned that even in The Live Free or Die State, there are zoning laws about when, where and at what volume one can actually move snow. In Vermont, snow is snow, and the only law is just dump it anywhere...and quickly...because there's more coming tomorrow.
With the 10 foot NH snowpiles of the Winter of '11 still fresh in my mind, I was lured into my favorite store, Home Depot, this past weekend by an email shouting out those critical marketing words, "FREE", as in delivery of what is now my new, shiny, bright orange Ariens 24 inch, 2 stage, electric start snowblower.
And one of the best parts of buying this was the actual purchase process at Home Depot. Perfect customer service demonstrated by both Al and Wally. Solid technical knowledge. They also knew that this was Consumer Reports' #1 rated snowblower. Free delivery? "Not a problem. What time would be convenient for you tomorrow?" Walked me to the cashier, stayed right there to make sure that there was no problem. Delivered within 15 minutes of when they said they would, and they actually stored it in the right place in the garage. Just as perfect as my other favorite customer experiences that I receive all the time at my local Staples and Apple stores.
Each time that something very positive like this happens in a consumer purchase, I ask myself, "Do we resonate that same level of service where we make the customer feel like a "trusted partner" rather than just another "client"? I wish that the answer was "absolutely" and "of course", but in reality, I know there's room for improvement. Just the terminology, "client" bothers me, which is why we always refer to our customers as just that..."customers" and "partners".
So, a couple of thoughts I took away from my snowblower experience this past weekend and will apply to our 2012 planning and budgeting processes.
1. We need to define a much more specific plan for both customer support and service, but, more importantly, we need an Customer Success model where we actually engage our customers more following thier initial experience. How are our customers going to actually adopt and internalize our business planning and sales management processes and become very successful? How can we provide the right balance of customer intimacy and yet not smother them with too much attention and unnecessary costs? How can we be more like Home Depot, Staples and Apple rather than McKinsey?
2. Winta's coming, whether we like it or not, just like the 2012 business planning cycle that's lighting up right now. The toughest quarter is staring us in the face while we try to balance our time betwen the intensity of closing more short term business with taking time out from the craziness to think through new ideas, new strategies like improved customer engagement for 2012. Something usually comes up short, and typically, unfortunately, it's the longer term planning, which is why it's critical right now to get out in front of 2012 and engage all of our managers early in the process.
As I drove to Rochester late at night two weeks ago, two inches of snow was pushed up on the median strip from one of those freak temperature inversion storms. Just enough of a slap on the forehead to remind me to purchase that snowblower and dive into our 2012 planning process in earnest.
Good Selling during these last few days of Q3 !
Derby Management, Box 171322, Boston MA 02117