Every day I am inundated with phone calls and emails from companies offering me the greatest solution IT has ever known. To be honest, I have almost stopped answering my phone when I don’t recognize the number, primarily because it’s a bit embarrassing when the sales person on the line is offering me a solution to a problem that, as a small business IT manager, I could only dream of. They immediately begin rattling off technical buzz words which I am sure are meant to impress me into thinking that they know what they are talking about, but I have to say, most of the time, they leave me thinking they have absolutely no idea what I through on a daily basis. Did they even bother to research my industry? Most electrical contractors the size of the company I work for don’t even have an IT person. It always tickles me a little when some poor guy, who I know just recently graduated with his MBA, wants to reach out and talk business on my level. Yeah man, let’s talk white papers and return on investment. Even better let’s use words like deduplication and virtualization! I love talking about stuff like that (sarcasm font needed here). I don’t want to name names but you big time companies out there with all your solutions have no idea what small business IT needs. So let me give you a few pointers and maybe, just maybe that burned out IT manager might start answering your calls.
Building a Relationship Still Matters
One of the biggest frustrations I had early on in my stint as an IT manager was with a major online computer sales outlet. There I had “a guy”. I liked this guy. This guy listened to me and to what I had to say. He called me about once a week and genuinely built a relationship with me. He knew that I didn’t have a budget. He knew there was no such thing as a 3 year rotation on desktop rollouts. For you big time CIO’s reading this article, I will wait a second for you to pick yourself up off the floor. I know that had to be hard on you. Anyway, he understood we couldn’t do 20 thousand dollars a year in desktops. Then, out of the blue, my “guy” writes me a note introducing me to a new “guy” and he goes riding off into the sunset never to be heard from again. This next guy is pretty cool. He seemed to catch on pretty quickly but his calls were less frequent and when he did call, there was more a focus on some new promotion that they had going. Most of the time the promotions were well out of the scope of reality. It was long at all before he’s introducing me to another “guy” to manage my account. I quickly realized that this company charged a premium price for all these “guys”. I am sure for the enterprise customer, these “guys” come in real handy, but to me they were just added cost. I could go online and find exactly what I needed at a much cheaper price. You see, the relationship was gone. Understand something, small business people are all about “people”. We live and die by relationships. We have to be mindful of what we say and add value to our services to compete with the big boys. You big companies with your sales forces and constant promotions and moving around employees to squeeze out new numbers need to understand that frustrates the customer on the other end.
Don’t get me wrong, the online retailers aren’t the only ones who don’t get relationships. The telecom industry is completely out of touch with small business. We use a cloud based IP telephone system and quite frankly, because of the relationship I have with their people, have found them to be very helpful. About twice a year, I will get someone from the big telco companies call on me. These guys are really sharp. They come in all fancy dressed and sharp tongued and just immediately tear down the company I am currently using. In about a 30 minute conversation they are ready to get back to their office and whip me out a quote that they know will just dazzle me. They call the next day beside themselves that I haven’t signed the contract over to them. Seriously??? Do they honestly think I trust them? Am I confident that they will handle the transition to their service with care? Hey you guys realize we’ve used your customer service from our homes, you know the ones with endless phone prompts that may or may not get you where you need to be? Am I going to turn the life blood of my business over to you after a 30 minute conversation? No! As for cell phone companies, they disgust me so bad I am not sure I even want to go there. I am not sure they even have decent enterprise solutions, much less small business.