A product is only as good as the company that offers it. Think of all those times you’ve loved a product, but refused to buy it ever again. Whether it’s snooty and indifferent sales people, a failure to deliver on what was promised, or a complete lack of after-sales support: a company can live or die on how it conducts itself rather than what it sells.
At VSN, we’ve always been aware of this. ‘Putting the customer first’ may be something of a cliché these days, but all too often – especially in the field of technology – mere lip service is paid to the concept. We don’t pay the idea of customer focus lip service, we live and breathe it.
Innovation and the development of products that truly meet the needs of customers is certainly the core of what we do, but that’s not enough. In the field of media solutions, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ product. So, regardless of how innovative our products are, if we don’t truly listen to the needs of our customers, then we’re already fighting a losing battle. The right product is only the right product when it’s put in the hands of the right customer, and supported throughout. Otherwise, it’s simply wrong, no matter how many bells and whistles it has.
With that in mind, we wanted to take you behind the scenes at the VSN offices, to discover how members of our team contribute to providing an exceptional customer experience. We’d like you to meet some of our key team members in three chapters, starting with…
Sales can get a bad rep. All too often, when you mention the dreaded ‘S’ word, people conjure up images of dodgy car salespeople; smarmy, smug, promising the world, pushy, arrogant. Nobody wants to have to deal with sales.
But that’s sales done wrong. To me, when sales is done well, it involves a process of open and honest dialogue, where listening and understanding is just as important within a two-way interaction. I don’t want to ‘con’ anybody into a purchase by telling them what they want to hear; I want to listen to what they need, and then use my knowledge, expertise, creativity and critical thinking to move them towards a solution that genuinely meets that need.
Leads come to us at varying stages of ‘qualification’, so the steps taken to find that right solution can vary greatly. Some have simply heard of the brand and are interested in what we have to offer, without any clear vision as to what they want or need. A combination of more ‘general’ product demos and asking the right questions can help to tease out elements that the potential client may not have been consciously aware of themselves, and start to lead us on a path of building a mutual understanding.
I often like these types of clients because it requires me to be really analytical; to take lots of undefined and ambiguous pieces of information to gain an idea of the context that this particular customer is working in, tie them together with what I know of the industry and our offerings, and synthesize this all together to build an idea for a solution. This plays to what I like to consider my strengths; being analytical, insightful and creative.
Other times, a client comes in with specific and carefully outlined needs. This in many ways makes things clearer; so long as I keep my ears open then it’s simply a case of matching what we have to the tick-box needs that the potential client is asking for. But it still needs to be a process of open dialogue, because sometimes clients come in with preconceptions about what they need (or what they can get) that are actually hindering them from reaching the optimal outcome. I have to discern what clients know they need, and what they think they need, but without ever being pushy or assuming I know best. Again, it comes back to honest dialogue, not two people talking at each other.
That means that sales is actually a pretty collaborative process; it’s essential to interact and work closely with other departments in order to move forward during the sales cycle. My experience is that the deeper the interaction and teamwork is during the sales phase, the more likely it is for the project to be awarded. And more than that, as the process progresses to project commission, I find that the more collaborative and open the sales process has been, the more smoothly everything else progresses. When sales is done well, then uncertainties and black holes are ironed out at the beginning, expectations are set, and everybody moves forward in the process on the same page. It’s incredibly rewarding.
In essence, the biggest challenge of my role – but something that I (humbly…) believe I’ve come to excel at – is finding a match between client expectations and VSN’s offerings. The challenge isn’t to ‘convince’ the client of anything, it’s to find a solution that is self-evidently the right thing for them. And it’s a challenge I relish every time.