(Sometimes) It Isn’t Only About the Money (Issue 529)

In which we are reminded that our clients make decisions to change based on a broader set of factors than cost savings and that, sometimes, cost savings isn’t even first on the list.

I answered the ringing phone at 5:15 pm.  Every sales rep’s dream, right?  Get to the senior executive after 5:00, when the gatekeeper is gone? The sales rep at the other end of the line, Jamie, sounded a little startled to hear my voice.

Jamie: “Mr. Miller?”

Me: “Yes.”

Jamie: “Um…er… This is Jamie Enders at Vital Communications. I’ve been speaking with your assistant, Carla.”

Me: “Yes, I’m aware of your conversations.”

Jamie: “Oh, good. Well, I’d like to come in to meet with you for 20 minutes to show you how we can save you money on your phone bill.” [This meant: “I haven’t been able to convince Carla and I’m hoping I can persuade you.”]

Me: “Well, I appreciate your efforts, and I’m aware that you may be able to save us money, but I really don’t want to take time to meet with you. I’d prefer you continue to work with Carla on this.” [Meaning: “You have NO idea what 20 minutes means in my day and I don’t want to focus them on you and your offer.”]

Jamie: “But we really can save you money relative to your current phone bill. I’m talking about just 20 minutes of your time.”

Me: “I understand and this is just way down on my priority list at this point and I’d prefer that you continue to work with Carla.” [Which meant:  Are you kidding me?  Please, go away!”]

Sound familiar? Very frustrating.  VERY frustrating.   We’ve all been there.

Solving this dilemma requires a bit of a rewind. Jamie was coming at this as a straight money saving play – “we can save you money.”  She had asked for a copy of our current statement, asked about the services we use from our existing vendor, run her analysis, and showed a notable savings if we switched.

No problem with that. It’s a good value proposition… and not dramatic enough to warrant my full attention. Time is a much bigger issue for me, many days, than $5 a day in phone costs.

By moving beyond “head to head cost savings” to a broader approach in her conversations with Carla, she could have discovered that:

(1) While it’s true  I am looking for ways to reduce our overhead expenses and that saving $1,200 over the course of the year might be enough to attract my attention,

(2) I am tightly focused  running other issues in  my business, and

(3) I prize stability in support systems –  I am concerned that changing phone providers might cause service disruptions or sound quality problems or some other unintended consequences that would soak up a bunch of my time.

In other words, it’s not just about the money with me.

So…had Jamie broadened her earlier conversations with Carla, even prompting Carla to ask me some questions,  her pitch to me (when she got lucky enough to reach me directly on the phone) could have been something like:

“Mr. Miller, I am glad to connect with you. (Thank you.) I’ve been speaking with Carla about your phone service. (Yes, I’ve heard.) I know you are extremely busy, that you want to reduce expenses wherever you can, and that you are concerned about disruption, sound quality, and unintended consequences if you change providers. (Yes, that’s all true.) We can save you about $1,200 over the next 12 months. (Really?) No disruptions to your current service, you won’t notice any change. You’ll have equally good service with a lower cost with 5 minutes of your time to sign the papers. (OK.)

And, then, a critical question: “I have heard Carla’s concerns. What do YOU need to know in order to be comfortable making the change?”

So, rather than asking for 20 minutes of my time, Jamie would have demonstrated that she (with Carla) had done her homework –  that she understood the issues and positioned the solution to show that, while the money cost savings could be good, it wasn’t ONLY about the money.

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