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Big Three CEOs Send Wrong Message. What About You?

I read an article today about the Big 3 Automaker CEOs flying their jets into D.C. to plead for public funds.  What a bad message to be sending Congress, their employees (I’ll stay out of the union discussion at this point) and the American people. 

As a pilot, airplane owner, and salesperson, I can justify the use of a private airplane as well as anyone. 

But the message these execs sent was all wrong.  I don’t care about their importance, or their hourly pay rates versus travel inefficiencies at Detroit and Dulles airports.  They should have flown commercial.  Period.

My question for you is this:  Are you and your company sending the right messages to your customers and clients during these challenging economic times?  Here are some considerations:

  • Are you careful with your clients’ money?  Our policy at ESR is to save our clients money wherever possible.  I’ve recently taken trips where we saved clients many hundreds and more by forgoing a direct flight, where I’ve rarely done that in the past.  That’s a strong message to send to the client. (We indicate their savings on our invoice.)  Saving them money when it’s possible is the right thing to do.

  • Are you sensitive to perceptions that your customers may have about how you and your team spend your own company’s money?  Think about the message you send your client by staying at the Hyatt when you visit. Is it positive (that you’re successful) or negative (your client is struggling to pay their bills and you’re oblivious to that)?  Think twice about what your customer will think if you take them out for an expensive meal.  It could be the only one they will have had for a while.  It could also been seen as totally inappropriate, especially if the purpose is to tell them about a price increase.

  • If there have been layoffs at your company or a hiring freeze, do your salespeople behave like money just isn’t an issue for them?  They’ll need to tone that down a lot if they want the continued respect and support it took years to earn.

Messages don’t just come from marketing.


2 Responses

  1. Interesting point about the perception of saving client’s money Dave.

    I once ran a global project for a client who had an expense freeze for their staff and were making them fly economy across the Atlantic. Our expenses were fixed so there was no impact to the client whatever we spent, and my budget could have easily covered business class – but my team and I chose to go economy to show “solidarity”.

    However, being a very frequent flyer, I and my team got the red-carpet treatment and were escorted in to the business class lounge. One of the client’s team saw this and misinterpreted it as us flying business class – and it hurt their perception of us when this incorrect perception was fed back to the client’s leadership.

    So to some degree – perception is reality when it comes to helping the client out expense-wise.


  2. Dave: your points are well made. However, I think that a great deal of this depends on exactly who you are selling to. Some customers will respond favorably to clear signs that your are reducing their expenses. Others will treat this as a sign that you are in financial trouble and are cutting back on expenses (and perhaps cutting back on service). At the end of the day, I think that you need to make (or not make) adjustments on a customer-by-customer basis. This is another case where one-size-does-not-fit-all…!

    – Dr. Jim Anderson
    The Accidental Negotiator Blog
    “Learn The Secrets of Side-By-Side Negotiating To Get The Most Value Out Of Every Negotiation”

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