Do you get most of your customer feedback from your outside sales team? For most distributor leaders it’s the primary source of daily customer feedback, but it might be time to balance it with feedback from your VP’s of First Impressions.
It’s a term my boss used when I first got into distribution 20 years ago. I’ll admit, when I first heard it I found it confusing. I mean, who’s ever heard of a VP of First Impressions? It seemed like something out of a Dale Carnegie course.
As a branch-based distributor serving primarily electrical contractors, my boss defined the VP’s of First Impressions as the customer facing associates who had the most contact with customers: delivery drivers, the counter personnel, and the inside sales teams. The first daily impression most of our customers had with us was with these employees.
He didn’t include the outside sales team. His logic was that on a good day an outside sales person could make 3 to 4 quality calls. They were vital to the business, but often the feedback they delivered to the leaders was primarily about pricing, supplier alignment, and sales issues.
A driver usually makes 7-10 daily deliveries. The counter team interacts with 30-40 customers in person, and the inside sales team handles dozens of phone calls and emails. The daily feedback they get from customers is often about your service and upcoming opportunities, and it balances the daily feedback your outside team provides.
My boss would meet with the counter, warehouse, delivery and inside teams and ask these questions:
- What are you hearing from our customers?
- What is the competition doing better than we are?
- How can I help you?
He would then thank each of them for what they did every day for the company as a VP of First Impressions. This process applies a couple of Dale Carnegie’s steps anyone can use to create a great first impression-
- Ask Questions: Be genuinely interested in other people.By asking “How can I help you?” the team gave him valuable feedback on services we should be offering to customers.
- Give Thanks: Give honest and sincere appreciation-He told each person their role as a VP of First impressions was critical to the company’s success. He thanked them personally for what they did every day to make the company better. Sometimes the associate laughed and looked somewhat confused at being called a VP, but everyone appreciated it.
If you are already getting great feedback from your own VP’s of First impressions, keep it up.
If not, it might be time to get reconnected. There is important feedback from your frontline VP’s of First Impressions that might unlock some profit potential in your distribution business.
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