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“Hello, I have a customer for you wanting to spend money, please contact me.”

Paul Hutton, Communications Manager - ITS (UK)

Paul Hutton, Communications Manager – ITS (UK)

Paul Hutton, Communications Manager for ITS (UK) suggests the easiest way to grow your business may be to simply answer your enquiries.

When I’m not handling communications for ITS, editing a magazine, or pointing microphones at people for my podcasts, I do some consultancy and business development work with different companies. This is a hangover from my days running traffic information operations where I was involved in the development of various ITS solutions.

I mention this because I think it makes me a better journalist.  Working at the “sharp end”, I believe, helps me get to grips with the real issues and cut through the rubbish some people like to spout. I liken it to a former sportsman who becomes a commentator or pundit, therefore having a view that an average fan doesn’t. Although, of course, that doesn’t always work given some of the halfwits that are allowed to talk about football.

But I digress.

The reason I bring this up is because part of my time is spent advising and working with a small American start-up software company. And through this, I have been introduced to a whole new type of operation I’d not previously come across; firms who can’t be bothered to take on new business.

Now, reading the papers and watching the business channels on TV, you’d think every company was close to falling apart and always needs new income streams. But it doesn’t seem to be the case.

As I say, the company I work with in this specific situation is a software application, but because of what they do, many people make the assumption that they have a hardware solution and contact asking for equipment to be delivered.

My idea was therefore to find a hardware supplier to partner with. There are many tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment required and my client business could either buy from a company and bump up the price a bit before selling it on, or alternatively introduce a company to the customer and receive a finder’s fee.

So far so good. In theory.

But then I started getting in touch with suppliers. Firstly I emailed because it’s simple for me and they can get back at their convenience. I would’ve thought an email saying, “Hello, I have a customer for you wanting to spend money, please contact me?” would have had people leaping for their phones. But no. I didn’t get a single call back.

So I looked up some businesses.  On its website, one had a number in London which was only ten digits long so I couldn’t call them on that. I called one of their regional offices and firstly told them they may want to fix their London number and was told, “Well, no-one else has complained”. I then was told all their sales people were very busy but someone would call me back if they had time. Nobody did.

Other companies promised call backs but never did.

Maybe it’s me? Maybe, judging by an email or my tone on the phone they didn’t like me. But maybe it’s just that they couldn’t be bothered.

I write this because if it’s happened to me in this case, how often is it happening elsewhere? And are you sure it’s not happening in your company?

Sales people are always looking for qualified leads, that’s people who actually are ready to buy. That’s why they advertise. People want to be phoned up by somebody in buying mode, rather than the much less successful pro-active cold calling, when the person at the other end is likely to not be interested.

Well I was certainly in buying mode, but couldn’t get anywhere.

My guess is if the firms’ management knew what was going on, they’d be furious. So my question is, do you know in your business that every opportunity is being followed up?  Do you know what effect the money you spend on marketing and advertising is having? Do you know that every sales lead is being chased with gusto?

Before you moan at your marketing people, or complain that advertising isn’t giving the benefit you expected, make sure that there isn’t a breakdown within your organisation that’s to blame for disappointing sales.

Oh, and check the phone number on your website…. ◆