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The customer is king – but this doesn’t give you the right to be mean

Seriously – what is it with some people? I really don’t understand why suppliers and vendors have to be treated poorly, like some vermin or at the very least an unpleasant specimen that you don’t really want to interact with.  Is it really so horrible that a person tries to help you purchase a product or service that might be of benefit to you?

OK – I understand this is a bit of a harsh beginning, so let me explain. In the past couple of weeks I have been stepping in the shoes of our sales staff. Reason? I like the interaction with our clients and potential students (usually) and it keeps me grounded. I hear first hand what is on  people’s minds and how they experience my company, our services, team members and the overall learning experience. I don’t always use my CEO title / signature when I do this, just to see how people respond to my team.

What I never anticipated was the fact that people are not always nice. And I don’t mean that they are swearing or bullying, but some people don’t seem to treat you like a human being… and that is something I never expected.

The thing is: most of my communication with other people is via email – this is easy and convenient because we have students in 150 countries, and timezones don’t always help with phone conversations. And often I do these emails at hours in the day when most people are not at work anymore.

So when a person asked for pricing or more information in relation to one of our educational programs, I responded to this request by email. And then …. deadly silence… no reply, no acknowledgement, no thank you… nothing. So I reach out again – to ask what other questions might still be un-answered or where my reply missed the boat in any way… again: ZILCH, NADA… The email address didn’t bounce so I assume the person still works at that address.

Until 2 weeks later, when I receive a BCC / undisclosed email from an assistant telling that “the committee will make a decision next week”… what the?! what committee? I was under the impression that I was just having a chat with a person… And does that mean that the email I sent was sufficient? I am still waiting for a reply to continue what I thought was a one-on-one discussion. 

So I reach out to the initial person again to ask what I missed… that was a week ago – still no reply.

Yes – c’mon.. burn me down for doing everything wrong in the Sales 1-0-1 manual, but I wasn’t doing a massive sales pitch – it was a conversation between 2 people… well, at least it was until the person stopped communicating. Is it really that much to ask for a reply? Why leave the other person ‘hanging’?? 

I get it – you don’t want to be bombarded with multiple pitches and sales chats.. but just say so. It’s a small effort to be honest at the start of the conversation:

“hey – I am checking out 3 companies and really not serious at this stage, just checking what we can get for our budget as the end of the Financial year is coming closer”


“I am only interested in companies who can supply ITIL AND Enterprise Architecture training, just checking if you’re the company to speak with”


“I heard about The Art of Service from ‘such and such’ who did a course with you and gave a great reference – what can you do for me?”


“Thanks for the email, but we are really looking for a local provider who can deliver in-house classroom courses”

See? it’s not difficult.. it’s a normal human conversation where all expectations are clearly managed.. and when a supplier asks for more details, or feedback on the initial communication – it probably means they want to know what is happening with the conversation! And how you would like to continue to communicate, phone / email / frequency. It’s about setting expectations and being part of a two-way conversation. Nothing sinister, just a person wanting to know where they stand, that’s all. 

Professional courtesy – is that too much to ask for?


(OK – now that I’ve got that off my chest… rant over!)