I always try to act professionally at my job – I really do. It is never good to burn your bridges with anyone as you never know where you will end up – or where they will end up. On occasion the bridge must be burned, however. I think that is a normal part of doing business in a competitive marketplace. In other words, you can’t let someone stomp on you forever, or have endless meetings with you with the illusion that they are going to buy goods or services from you.
This happened to me a few weeks ago. A certain customer who we have been trying to sell goods to for at least a decade called me looking for pricing yet again. I have tried to sell things to this company, my outside sales staff have had several meetings over the years with them, all for naught. And when I say naught, I mean that this company has bought virtually zero from me. So the other day they called yet again for pricing and wanted me to put together yet another package for them and I finally became a little bit unprofessional and laid the cards out on the table.
I said to this person that we have tried for years and years to gain their business, with the most recent sit down happening about six months ago and as usual, nothing happened on their end after we followed up several times. No explanations, no purchases. So I just quoted this person a super high price and left it at that. The owner of the company then called me up, and reamed me out up one side and down the other. I was going to blow up, but caught myself, told him that I was sorry that things didn’t work out between us, and hung up the phone. Bridge burned. But what does he expect? I think he was mad because he was taking my pricing and giving it to my competitors, or using my packages of goods, services and pricing to pimp his suppliers. What pissed me off is that he was mad at me for simply telling him the truth – that we have tried our very best, and it is obviously not good enough for him. So he calls me and cusses me up one side and down the other. Where is the connection with that? Perhaps I didn’t need him as a customer anyway.
I almost totally burned another bridge yesterday. I buy literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of merchandise from a vendor, and needed a $20 favor. I was given the runaround by a customer service rep, and sent back an email to her explaining that I knew she was in the right by denying the favor, but I needed this $20 favor to help me out, and that if she needed clarification to call my TSM (Territory Sales Manager). She flamed me and copied half of her company! You want to talk about someone who was pissed off? I literally had to step outside and take a walk for about five minutes to cool down.
My first reaction was to reply to all and flame her in the biggest way she has ever been flamed, but I stopped there. I simply forwarded the email thread to my TSM and told him to take care of it. He will. That was a pretty big step for me as a businessman and a person. This customer service rep will get hers though, in the end. My feelings on being flamed over $20 will be known to my TSM, and his boss verbally at our next sit down. I will bring the email thread with me and highlight the best parts and show them how professionally I acted and in return for hundreds of thousands of dollars of business I get treated like a bum on the side of the road begging for quarters.
There will be no email thread of me flaming these guys over dinner and of me flaming this customer service rep – just the record of her flaming me. I think that is a much more professional way to handle this.
Too bad for her that she burned her bridge with me.
Cross posted at LITGM.