Who is the most important person
in your company? Hint: It’s not the founder. It’s not the chief engineer. It’s
not your hottest sales rep. It’s not your genius CFO. Nope. The most important
person in your company is… the person who answers the phone.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a
little. But the person who makes first contact with potential customers – or
vendors – is really important. Here’s
a personal anecdote to explain why.
I often reach out to
manufacturing consultants. My job, after all, is to provide (as I phrase it to
myself) information and inspiration to manufacturing companies that are trying
to compete in a tough global economy.
Consultants have a lot of
In fact, they have a huge
advantage in that department because they deal with dozens of different
companies and, over time, they see the same problems again and again. And they
know what works to fix them. Whenever I interview a consultant, I’m almost
certain to get a couple of tips I can pass on to my readers that have real,
From the consultant’s point of
view, being mentioned in a blog like this is worth the time it takes to do an
interview. It’s great PR, it boosts their company’s credibility and, who knows,
it could even lead to a deal.
Recently, I called a consulting
firm specializing in 6 Sigma, lean manufacturing and theory of constraints to
see if I could set up an interview. The response I expected, and almost always
get, was something like, “The person you need to talk to is so-and-so. Let
me see if they’re available.” The response I actually got was, “If
you have any information, you can e-mail it to us and we’ll evaluate it.”
It reminded me a little of my
early days when I had occasion to look for a job. When they say, “Send us
a resume and we’ll keep you in mind,” you know you’ve struck out. But,
since I was genuinely interested in what this particular firm had to offer –
I’m not going to embarrass anyone by naming them – I pressed on.
“You know, this is really a
great PR opportunity for your company. AllBusiness has 2.5 million visitors
“If you have any
information, you can e-mail it to us and we’ll evaluate it.”
Guess what I did. Right. I called
the next firm on my list.
The lesson: If you want to be
successful on the service end of your business, whether you’re a consulting
group, a manufacturing company or a sales organization, you need good decision-making
from the person who makes initial contact with all your potential customers and
vendors. In other words, you need a top-notch “operator.” Anybody who calls up your company should end the conversation feeling
that the person they talked to tried to help them. Even vendors you don’t
really want to talk to deserve courteous treatment. Selfishly speaking, you
never know when you might need them.
The days of rigid systems for
dealing with people outside the four walls of your company are over. Winning in
today’s economy means being open to input, relationships and ideas. If the
person in your company who answers the phone projects that image, give them a