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Are You Giving Your Customers a Direct Line to the Competition?

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Imagine a scenario where you buy your competitor’s phone number.

Your competitor would instantly get a new phone number and would update their contact information as fast as possible, but customers using the “old” number (either saved in their cell phones or printed in old phone books and on business cards) would be calling your phones instead. Think of the possibilities!

What if this happened in reverse? What if the competition got your phone number? This example is a bit exaggerated, but in some cases, it isn’t too far from the truth.

Cell Phones and Salespeople

A recent survey conducted by the Center for Food and Agricultural Business at Purdue University, in partnership with CropLife and Ag1Source, took a look at the components of the compensation packages that agricultural retailers offer their salespeople. One of the questions from this survey gives a hint as to how you might be giving away your company’s phone number.

According to the survey, 51 percent of agricultural retailers reported paying a portion of their salespeople’s personal cell phone plans. It can be assumed that the other 49 percent of survey respondents are either having salespeople use their personal cell phones, offering them a work cell phone, or relying on landlines.

On the surface, a company contributing to an employee’s personal cell phone plan seems like a classic win-win scenario. It’s beneficial for the employees, who only have one cell phone to keep track of, and whose personal cell phone bill gets cheaper. It is also likely beneficial for employers from a cost and management standpoint.

When you look more closely, however, this creates a very difficult situation for employers to deal with when a salesperson leaves the company.

Here's why: when farmers and ranchers pull out their cell phones to price fertilizer or feed, they're probably going to call their salesperson, right?

If a salesperson leaves the company and has been using a personal cell phone for business relationships (whether or not the company contributed to the cell phone plan), then customers will keep calling the organization’s former employee.

This will probably result in one of two outcomes: 1.) the customer wasted their time and didn’t find what they were looking for, or 2.) they just called the competitor. Neither is good for the original organization’s relationship with the customer. One is just plain horrible.

The Sales Relationship

Previous center research has found that agricultural producers, on average, agree with the following statement: “My relationship with salespeople is more important than the relationship I have with the company they represent.”

This speaks volumes to the value a salesperson brings to a customer’s buying experience. It also speaks to the challenges a company will face if (or when) a salesperson leaves the organization, especially if they switch to a competitor. Will the farmer switch their business to follow the salesperson? Maybe.

The relationship between the salesperson and the farmer customer is already strong. Throwing personal cell phones into the mix just makes the connection stronger.

Food for Thought

Your company’s cell phone policy is probably not going to make or break your organization. It is, however, important to think about how some organizational policies might play out in the future. Even when these policies appear beneficial to both parties, make sure you aren’t putting your company in a difficult situation down the road. 

Check out our upcoming programs and exceed your professional development goals! Position yourself to excel in your career by attending one of our professional development workshops. Each educational program focuses on different business topics and concepts related to the agribusiness industry you serve, including: marketing, sales, finance, talent management and strategy. Not sure which one is right for you? Let's chat!

ARA Management Academy

January 28-30, 2020

Sharpen management, leadership and decision-making capabilities by engaging in faculty-led presentations, interactive exercises and small-group discussion with your peers.

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