Taking the boss with us to see the customer has so many potential downsides doesn’t it?
What I have found is that in many cases either to impress the customer, or us or just to show they can, they will voluntarily give away profits or upset the customer.
Years ago I took my boss with me when we were about to secure a three-year contract with a major food and beverage catering chain in the UK. I had completed a profit study and knew the limitations of what we could and could not offer.
After about 25 minutes into the meeting, my boss offered way more than the profit study allowed and in my view far too soon into the meeting. We won the contract, but at what price to our bottom line and my relationship with the client?
I have also seen the other side of the coin where the boss has negotiated in such a manner that we lost the business and/or the relationship. This was another boss who wanted to prove what a smart negotiator he was and therefore de facto what a poor one I was!
Don’t get me wrong. Taking the boss to meet the customer can have many benefits. But it has to be set up properly, the objectives of the meeting clearly understood by him and us, and what roles we are both going to play
What needs to be clearly understood by the boss is that YOU own the relationship. YOU have to go back in many times and see this customer and pick up any broken or fallen pieces. It is unlikely he will see them again for some time. So more often than not he should be playing a “support” role to show how important the customer is to our company.
If planned properly, bringing the boss can have some real upsides, but we need to choose when in the cycle of the customer relationship or the stage of negotiation that is. The roles and the objectives of the meeting need to be discussed and agreed upon and if there are more people attending with us both, they need to be briefed as well.
Taking the boss as a strategy should be carefully thought through and applied on a limited basis! So what ARE the pros and cons of taking the boss?
An accompanied meeting can:
- Make the customer feel special and important
- Assure the client that we have the boss’s ear
- Demonstrate that you are important to the company
- Can establish a rapport to further cement the relationship
- Help them understand the issues you and the customer discuss and deal with.
- Expose the boss to the issues we are having with difficult customers
The downside can be that they:
- Take over the meeting, thereby undermining us
- Totally ignore us and our input
- Promise more than can be delivered
- Are arrogant and upset our contact
- Agree to things not previously agreed upon
- Expose him to a possibly difficult situation where he may be forced to make a decision he rather would not