Editorial: The New Con Game
Apr 1, 2004 12:00 PM,
By Mark Johnson
The phrase con game is slang for confidence game. I’m not sure when it originated, but the general idea was that as a perpetrator you gained the confidence of some unsuspecting person, and then when he or she least expected it, you tricked that person out of something (usually money).
Our con game, the New Con Game, is not really a game at all, and trickery and deception are most definitely not a part of this. But gaining and maintaining customer confidence is. The keystone of business relationships is confidence and trust. Confidence means that as an integrator, you are up-to-date, knowledgeable, and fully trained on the products and services that you sell. Trust that as a consultant, you are providing value in specifying products that are practical and appropriate for the given application.
I think many will agree that it is easier to maintain existing customers than get new ones. I am reminded of a TV commercial from a major airline. The storyline was that a company had just lost one of its best customers. The owner had assembled the sales force and was assigning them all to personal visits to their remaining customers to deal with their customers one-on-one and let them know they cared.
It’s ironic that the airline didn’t heed its own advice to a degree, and it is now in Chapter 11. But then perhaps the point is driven home a bit harder. It’s important these days that given the constant shift in the winds of technology, someone needs to be the “pro from Dover,” and your customers are looking to you for that — someone who can be relied upon for solid information and advice that can help them make informed decisions, submit realistic budgets, and wind up with useable installations.
Some of the most successful business relationships I’ve had were when the customers knew I would take care of them. I’ve experienced it at a personal level (where I dealt with customers or clients on-on-one) and at a corporate level (where the company as a whole provided products and support). The by-product (or maybe I should say buy-product) of that was often purchases of additional equipment from the customer or referrals to new customers.
The bottom line is simple: if you don’t take care of your customers, they will find someone else to take care of them. While this may seem “Like, duh!” to many, it’s easy to get swept along in the rapid advancements of products, practices, and procedures and forget that the people who use these products frequently need our help in doing so. Those who make the effort to educate and support — in short, gain the confidence and trust of — their customer base will ultimately be the ones who prosper.
As always, I appreciate your comments and thoughts. You can send letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you have a topic for our industry forum, “Line Out,” you can submit that to me at email@example.com.