Answer The Question

I’ve recently tasked myself with a small piece of admin. I want to move one of my business strands towards a separate standalone endeavour. As such I pursued the seemingly simple step of setting up some serviced office capability as a stage one.

I have a soft spot for Regus. They claim to have invented the service office industry. Certainly in terms of modularising and growing it they are right to be proud. Despite over-ambition causing financial hiccups a few years ago, they continue to progress today.

I also provided a sales knowledge management solution to them for a couple of years a while back, and met some terrific people. (Unfortunately, ownership changes saw nearly all of them subsequently move on.)

So I submitted an enquiry through their website in the territory in question. Even if I do say so myself, my enquiry was unambiguously specific about one key element of the potential solution.

Response One

My first email received featured a couple of sentences along the lines of look at the attached pdf and presentation slide. They were fairly amateur, certainly not of the calibre I remember from my own dealings inside the company, and crucially failed to answer my specific query. My non-standard request had generated a generic response. I was quite ashamed on behalf of salespeople everywhere. More shockingly, I was put out that no questions emerged trying to delve in to the nitty gritty of why I was after what I was asking about.

Response Two

I politely re-enquired, re-stating my original stipulations. This time back, I did get a more detailed description of the general service, yet my core issue remained unresolved. I replied surmising that as the specific requirement I needed was not referred to in the response, then they obviously did not offer it, therefore we were not in a position to do business.

Response Three

Surprisingly, I received an instant reply. I was amazed it started, “I am sorry Jason, I am not sure if I understand you”. Then went on to nail precisely my real issue in a question of just thirteen words. Impressive. Shame it took so long to get there.

Response Four

Would you believe it. On answering my follow-up, they may just be able to do what I want after all. Although by now the price seemed to rise substantially, which may preclude my take-up. I asked for a fuller pricing and set-up guide.

Response Five

“Will do!” Just two words.  So I waited. And waited. I’m still waiting.

Undercurrent One – Terms

Interestingly, two themes were omnipresent throughout the response. Firstly, the payment terms were regularly described in minute detail, and an offer to draw up a sample agreement was made. Incredible. Who is coaching or managing this person? They should be shot. I feel that rather than get into specifics of price, most solution sale pitches should leave details of costings until the end, and in the main until the punter asks about them seriously (getting techie about the price is always a wonderful buying signal). In this case, the first pdf sent listed the prices, so why re-affirm them? Why not submit a range that’d likely apply and suggest that we could understand the full prices when we’ve established the exact nature of the fit/requirement?

Undercurrent Two – Contact

I was also repeatedly asked to provide my contact phone number so I could be called to discuss further. The email footer had the salesrep’s personal contact details. My preferred conversation was over email so I may not be disrupted, not telephone. It’s fine to ask at the outset for permission to call me, but after that..? Throughout, the emphasis was never on what I really wanted. It was never about ‘me’ as a potential customer. It was about the rep. What they wanted to do. What they needed to be seen to be doing. What they are most probably measured on in terms of activity. Way wrong.

This is what we’re up against.

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