Saturday, October 3, 2009

Five Surefire Ways to Lose a Higher Ed Client

There are lots of ways that consultants, printers and other vendors can lose a client (or a prospective one). Many are understandable–differences in philosophy, budget changes, etc. Other reasons for losing a client should be obvious. Here are the top five gaffes that companies have made in trying to get—or keep—my institution's business:
  • #5: Botch the first project. While all companies should give their all to every client, no project is more important than the first one. Screw that one up, and you won't get repeat business.
  • #4: Unnecessary gifts. It's one thing to give a branded set of pens or notepads to a client; it's another thing to offer them a $100 gift card. Most institutions have policies against it, and you're putting the recipient in the annoying and awkward position of sending it back. Let your work speak for itself, and if it can't, don't expect me or my colleagues to discard ethics and standards because of a gift.
  • #3: Insist that the client is wrong. An owner of a printing company once made an unauthorized change on press that altered the design from the approved proof. When I complained to the rep, she relayed my frustrations to the owner, who then—not once, but twice—tried to "improve" the situation by telling me I was wrong despite all documented evidence to the contrary. The owner's attempt at saving his ego (in addition to other errors on the same project) ultimately cost the company a client of six years.
  • #2: Go behind the decision maker's back to their boss. I've seen both advertising reps and high-priced consultants make this mistake. They don't get the answers they want from their main liaison, so they go over their head without consultation. Do these people not realize that the supervisor will immediately speak to their employee who has the everyday responsibility for working with that vendor? (Just to be clear—I'm not referring to specific project problems or unprofessional conduct—I'm referring to appeals for more business.)
  • #1: Try to start an incident. The incident that inspired this post happened yesterday. A vendor who violated #5 a few years ago sent a letter to one of our student environmentalists, telling her that my institution should be using environmentally responsible printers and papers (even though we already do—just not with that vendor). Thankfully, I was able to clear the record with the student, but I'm still shocked that any sales rep could possibly think that they could try to use political pressure to gain business.

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