10 years ago if I mentioned to a potential client that I was a customer of their company, they were much more likely to respond to my voice mail or email. For example, I was having difficulty reaching a Director at Alaska Airlines in that she wouldn’t answer my calls or return my messages (why would she? Her job description doesn’t include returning calls of Sales Guys); then I mentioned in an email that I was an MVP of her airline – she returned my email that day. So I did that for awhile, and it worked, except for a regional Pharmacy (who I have not gone to since). I went to a new role for several years where I didn’t call on places where I was a custtomer.
The past two years I’ve returned to a role where I have the opportunity to mention people I am a customer. I’ve mentioned I am a policy holder to Symetra (true), that my office makes field trips to donate to the local blood bank (true), and so on – only one person has returned my message when I’ve mentioned that. To me, that is a sign of the times – people are too busy and too disposable too care, to give a courtesy return call to someone giving their business to them. In the 2000s US, we are all out for ourselves (with some exceptions, of course) and not playing in this thing called life as a team. It is too bad. It is also a missed opportunity for companies…
A couple of years ago, I reached a CTO at a rapidly growing start-up company. He listened to my brief introduction for a moment, then asked if my company was a customer of his company. “No,” I said. “Listen, I’m interested, but we try only to do business with companies that do business with us.” He was sincere and respectful, and honestly I loved it. He told me if we became a customer of his company, to call him back. What was the first thing I did? I marched down the hall to my boss and asked if we could consider taking a look at this CTO’s solutions. Brilliant.
When companies and/or managers don’t respond to a sales guy who is also a customer, it is a missed opportunity. It also has cost a few companies my business. And, most importantly, a sign that our country has (temporarily?) lost its soul.
This didn’t happen overnight. It started in the 80s, when offshoring and layoffs and union-busting and tax breaks that fueled income disparity began. Then post 9/11, when companies became incredibly automated and efficient with fewer workers, it continued. We are all disposable in 2010s USA. So of course a VP won’t care that I am a customer of their company, when they don’t know if they will have a job next month due to profit-fueled layoffs and when the bloated company alread has 10s of millions of customersf.