OK, the big news over the weekend and today was the crushing letdown of Lehman Brothers. Lots of news outlets are carrying the story, bu the lesson for businesses, especially small and medium businesses, was i a small quote from one of the Lehman staffers to the Financial Times. He said:
“I’ve had people calling me from telephone boxes. In the old days you’d just pick up your Rolodex and you’d bugger off. Now everything in your life is with the company,” said a former employee.
The point is that technology has made one of business’ age-old problems simpler: getting a handle on customer lists.
Traditionally, sales people kept their Rolodex with a list of customers and Finance kept a customer list, and neither list matched because the sales person met with a user and the finance department met with a customer finance person. Now days even a very small business can keep a single list of customers, and larger small businesses (oxymoron intended, companies are still defined as small businesses up to 1500 people) and medium business use applications like SAP to run hings and maintain customer lists that mine sales opportunities.
Collecting and maintaining that customer data was difficult when sales people maintained their own Rolodex, and the value of the information often left with the sales person. But now the value of the information can and should be maintained in a central database that informs and tracks customer activity in a way that enhances customer service and company sales, along with securing the customer list in a way that aids customer retention.
The business owns the customer relationship. The sales person may own the face to face relationship, in fact the sales person is instrumental in creating and maintaining the business relationship, but the business owns the financial responsibility as well as the customer access.
Does your business own the customer relationship? Do your sales people have outside lists of your customers? Do you have a plan in place to centralize the information so you can ue it as a strategic sales advantage and in case there is a need to recover the informationwhen a sales person is unavailable for some reason?
You would be surprise at the number of companies that still do not own their complete cutomer lists and the tumult that transpires when a sales person goes missing.
Let us know how you address owning the customer list and share the strategies you use.