A Rather Unusual Approach When Visiting Customers
Editor’s note: The following article originally appeared in Credit Today, the leading publication for the credit professional, a CMA Partner. Click here for Special CMA Member $10 Trial!
On his visits to customer organizations, experienced international credit exec and now consultant Eddy Sumar (ERS Consulting Services) makes it a point to meet as many people as he can — everyone from the receptionist to the president.
“The receptionist, for example, will be my first contact anytime I call that customer,” he explains. “I want her to remember me, so she can facilitate my connection to the right person.”
Sumar also recommends spending time with everyone in the accounts payable process: the person who receives and processes the invoice, the person who signs the check, the person who authorizes release of the check, and so on. “You want to make all of them feel important,” he emphasizes.
As a former accounts payable person himself, Sumar understands what payables people experience. “I always remember wondering why salespeople visited the purchasing people, gave them gifts, and took them to lunch, but never paid attention to us,” he recalls. Sumar feels credit execs should makes it a point to give small gifts of introduction and appreciation to payables people, such as pens or key chains with your company logo, or to take them out to lunch. He has received a number of calls from these people thanking him for these gestures, he says.
More important than the appreciation he receives, however, are the results.
Three Big Benefits
Sumar has also found that personal visits can clear up misunderstandings that might have occurred over the phone. Once, for example, he had the opportunity to visit a customer whose payables person had been very difficult to deal with in the past. “When I visited, we seemed to hit it off almost immediately,” he reports. Following that, she did not default on even one payment, he related.
Another benefit: Many customers, when they are experiencing cash-flow problems, will be much more prone to initiate contact with you if you have taken the time to visit and discuss your problems before they become serious, allowing you to work out appropriate arrangements.
An unexpected benefit is also improved relationships with the sales department. “When salespeople see the value you can provide to an account, it often pays dividends,” he says. “Once, for example, a customer was so impressed with some of the things I was saying that he asked if I’d conduct a seminar for his employees. When the salesperson heard about this, it really strengthened our relationship.” Whether or not you take all the steps Sumar does, it always makes sense to think strategically about how to get the most out of your customer visits – and not to forget anyone involved in the payment process. They’re ALL important.
This article originally appeared in Credit Today, the leading publication for the credit professional.
Click here for Special CMA Member $10 Trial!