April 30, 2007
A FEW YEARS AGO, Mel Gibson did a movie called What Women Want, where through one of those accidents that only happens in the movies, his chronic womanizing character suddenly was able to read the minds of every woman he encountered. While at first he saw it as a bonanza in continuing his philandering ways, the insight he gained eventually changed him, helping him to grow into a better human being.
Many business people have wished they had that ability to read minds and know whats going on inside the heads of their customers and prospects. What is it they really want? And of all the things they want, which are the most important? Well, you may not look like Mel Gibson (who among us does?), but today youre being granted that ability, as I will tell you what users want. I not only bring my own perspective as a user of communications equipment at AAA East Central, but also as president of JUST-US (Joint Users of Siemens Technologies).
As president of JUST-US, Ive had the opportunity to speak with many fellow users, which has given me a larger perspective on whats happening in the industry, including what they want from the channel. There probably arent a lot of surprises here, yet some of these needs are going unfulfilled. This means there is opportunity for you.
The No. 1 desire is for someone at our supplier to get back to us promptly when we call. Communications professionals are busy people by the nature of our jobs. And with all the new technologies, we get busier by the day. We dont call you because were bored or feel like chatting. We call because we have an immediate need. The channel partner who makes it a point to respond quickly to calls even if its with, I dont know but Ill find out and get right back to you definitely provides both comfort and value to us.
Going along with that is the ability to get information to us from the manufacturers. Most of the communications OEMs are large organizations, and large organizations tend to move slowly and put a lot of layers between their users and their top people. Our expectation is that you have a closer relationship to them because of the volume of work you do, and thus you have better access to the information we need. Help us either get the information or make the right connection to get it. Be an enabler not just of technology, but also of the relationship.
We realize that your purpose in life is to sell us equipment and services, but dont view us only as a sales target. Just as Mel Gibson learned about women, were real people with real needs. Look at what were doing and use your knowledge of what others are doing to provide us with guidance. In other words, give us more of an industry perspective than we might have right now. You dont have to name names, but you can tell us that three other companies of similar size just got a unified communications project approved by the CFO and heres how they did it. Right now, that kind of information is far more valuable to us than the technical specs of a piece of equipment or service that we can look up on the vendors Web site.
If you really want to know what were thinking, send someone to our user conferences. JUST-US has its annual conference June 3-6, in Orlando. Have someone there attending the sessions, walking the hallways and listening to the conversations. Youll learn so much about what our concerns and challenges are it will create a virtual blueprint for your sales efforts. All the major manufacturers have user groups. Its a great opportunity for you to see and hear first-hand where the gaps are and where the opportunities lie.
One last thing you can do for us: use your relationships with vendors to let them know what were thinking and what we really need. Again, with as monolithic as they can be, at times its difficult to know whether our voice is being heard, and if it is, whether the vendor cares. After all, each customer is simply one dot on the map. But you, as their channel partner, can be gathering multiple data points, and using your influence to show that a problem isnt an isolated incident tied to one customer, but a growing trend in the industry. User groups such as JUST-US provide that function too. But the more of us there are bringing these things to their attention, the more quickly vendors are likely to act on it.
The long and short of it is we need you to be our partners, advisers and advocates, not just a source of equipment and services. As Mel Gibson discovered, taking a little more time to get to know us and understand our unique needs will create a longer, happier and ultimately more satisfying relationship on both sides and a more profitable one as well.
Mike Gladish is president of JUST-US, the largest Siemens user group in the United States. He also is director of corporate technology at AAA East Central. He can be reached at [email protected].
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