When I launched VOOT in 2007 I did so with one thing in mind. (OK, 2 things, I will go into the second one in a minute)
I left my former employer because I found that I could no longer advocate the way they did business. They had moved to what they called a 'hunter-farmer' approach to selling. I, as the hunter, would be charged with the responsibility of attracting clients to the network. After 3 months on board my relationship with that client would end, and they would be passed to a 'farmer', someone who would then be charged with milking as much from the client as they could in a relatively long term relationship.
I didn't like that approach. My philosophy to Sales in general has always worked around sharing a long term - and mutually beneficial - relationship. A win-win relationship. I have never asked a customer to sign any contract that I wouldn't sign myself. And I have never believed in the 'hard-sell'. Give the client the options, ensure they have the very best advice in order to make an informed decision - then stand back and let the magic happen.
It doesn't always bring fast results. Often, and where a client has chosen for price to be the only denominator, it doesn't work. Not immediately anyway. Many times in the past a potential client has chosen to go elsewhere. I don't mind that. (Try telling that to your Sales Manager...)
I'm in this for the long term. If a client goes elsewhere rather than choose VOOT, they go with my blessing. Sometimes it can take me 2 - even 4 - years to win a client. We don't lose many once they are on board. And I'm pretty sure thats down to our approach to customer service. Or 'farming' as my old employer called it.
In order to benchmark our customer service, I ask myself one question.
"If I saw my client in the pub - would they want to buy me a beer?"
Not 'would they accept a beer from me?' - or even worse, 'would I need to hide if my client came in?' (You'd be surprised how many salespeople that would happen to - especially in telecoms!!)
If the answer to that question is yes, then I am delivering a mutually beneficial service. People will generally 'buy you a beer' if they feel they owe you one. My customers don't owe me one at all - they are giving me their custom, which is more than enough. On top of that many of those clients refer me to their own business contacts - the ultimate thank you. And demonstration of trust.
So, onto the 'Miracle'. Following today's networking breakfast I gave a client of mine a lift home. On the journey she told me that in her last contact with Dan he had actually recommended to her to obtain a SIM card for her tablet from a competitor, a national internet based supplier. She had a pretty specific requirement - something that we could have provided - but not at the price she could get this product for online. We obviously make nothing from that sale. Not financially anyway. What Dan did however is ensure that the customer now knows she can trust the advice she is given by VOOT.
You may have seen the film 'Miracle on 34th Street'. In it, the department store Santa tells shoppers where they can buy products if they aren't available in the store, sometimes even pointing out where they are cheaper. One of the shoppers tells the store manager how impressed she is with that approach - and how the Santa has made a 'Coles customer out of her for life - any store who puts the needs of the consumer first at Christmas time deserves her loyalty'.
Without realising it - Dan had become the Kris Kringle of the telecoms industry - albeit momentarily. Now, as Dan is my son, I could be accused of being biased, but I'm immensely proud that working in the business, the VOOT philosophy is clearly rubbing off and Dan will go far. Hopefully, not to the North Pole...
Dan is 18. People forget that, he has such a mature, friendly and helpful approach to clients new and old. Hopefully one day he will want to take the reins and allow me to grow old gracefully, hopefully somewhere much warmer than England... If he does - I already feel confident that he will continue to grow the business using the values we try and live every day.
Take a bow my son.
PS: I've just realised I haven't told you about the 2nd thing I had in mind when I set up VOOT. Well - obviously - I hoped that delivering on our philosophy I could prove its possible to earn some wages from approaching customer service in an old fashioned way. (The juries still out on that one!!)
I'm going to post a video here - of Miracle on 34th Street. Its not the clip I wanted - where Santa sends the shoppers elsewhere - because try as I might I couldn't find it on Youtube. But we found this spoof trailer quite funny...