Until It's Me

As I continue to work through all of this stuff with my unique blend of sadistic enjoyment and complete loathing of varying parts of my job, I want to take a moment to comment on process.

Yesterday, I talked to a customer that stated that I wasn’t driving the sales process. I don’t know what to think about this. On my end, I don’t like being pushed or pressured or steered somewhere. I have a sense of what I want to do, where I want to go, and what I don’t know. I prefer for someone to give me my options and let me choose what I think is best for me. If I need to adjust, I can adjust later.

This is not how most people think. It seems that, by and large, people would prefer that I pet them on the head, explain that it will all be okay for $X and let them skip into the sunset while I write a proposal that they will subsequently pick apart several times in seven rounds of legal reviews until they get the $X discount or two week implementation time.

I don’t know what to do with things like this.

I also don’t know what to do with people that have zero respect for process. I would think that no one wants to be bothered with companies that don’t have a process for doing what they do. How do you guarantee consistent service and performance? You couldn’t possibly. However, when I communicate exactly what needs to be done in order for success to occur, here is the inevitable question: yeah, but can I just call you? In my case, we have a very specific helpdesk process. Aside from this, there are several things that have been agreed to as standard procedure for lead qualification. One of them being, “gather a requirements list where possible”. Fine. This helps me anyway because I then know what the person needs before I call them and can specifically address their questions.

I save time. I don’t waste their time. Questions get answered. YAY!!!…..

….except no. Not yay. Because I get things like this:

Please have a sales representative call me.

There isn’t even a number on the request. Just a request for a phone call. Thank goodness they left an email. I email them.

I saw your request for a call come in. Thank you for sending that. In order to make the most of that call and your time, please send me a list of requirements before our call that I can address.

Response? “Can I just call you?” This really wouldn’t be so bad except that my job is not a typical one where I can specialize and say things like, “I’m going to just qualify leads and pass the good ones on to x person”. Instead, I have a process like this:

  1. Qualify potential lead.
  2. Understand their scenario.
  3. Give them a demo of the thing we sell.
  4. Collect any information related to gaps.
  5. Write customization requests when appropriate.
  6. Realize they are then part of a larger process with a list of very specific requirements.
  7. Review those requirements and analyze gaps when appropriate.
  8. Write proposal.
  9. Possibly close deal.
  10. Pipeline.

In between that, however, are the clients we already have and the number of people calling just to ask for general information about the software. “Does it do this thing? Does it do that thing? What about this? What if I were trying to do this kind of complex thing from a mountain in Tibet? Would it work there? Does it also do this buzzword I don’t really know how to define?”

However, if I am unstructured in how I respond to everyone, no one gets answers and everyone is upset.

So I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t; if I don’t follow understandable processes, I get complaints. If I follow processes, I get complaints and then I get asked, “why are you guys so rigid about this?”

“Please use good business practices until it’s me. Then ignore them because I’m a special snowflake.”

How do people operate on this level of dysfunction?

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