How Not to Be a Jerk in a B2B World
- B2B Success
- B2B Success
by: Nicole Nelson
I already know. You are probably thinking “I don’t need to read this blog because I’m not a jerk.” I believe you. I don’t think I am either but that is the reason I am writing this. In this busy, often impersonal, business-oriented world we navigate in, sometimes we forget important principles that make things more pleasant for everyone. Maybe we even forgo manners for efficiency. This isn’t a blog that is going to say frilly open statements like “Be nice.” It’s simply going to remind you of a few ways to encourage positive communication in B2B relationships for the benefit of everyone.
I can hear your sighs as you think about your inbox….. We all are bombarded with email these days. But there simply are emails we need to read. Let me explain why I put this point first.
In the business world, emails now dominate communication. Available to read at your convenience, emails are the messaging channel for many important processes and requirements.
For example, at Time To Hire, we have created a careful system for our customers designed around email. Everything required that one should expect and how to proceed is in our emails—the answers. In fact, like many businesses, we have revised our messaging continually based on customer feedback. We have done this to make the most of everyone’s time and make sure we create realistic expectations.
What we find is that some people don’t read these emails. What happens next? They assume the wrong things, miss deadlines, get confused, or ask multiple questions that we have already provided the answer to. We are happy to answer these questions but were you to evaluate the overall efficiency, stopping for a few minutes to read the emails would save everyone a large amount of time. And this is true for many businesses and processes. We are working hard to give you what you need. But you have to read the emails.
Reading emails, taking time to understand, and being mindful is one way to be courteous.
You asked for something and didn’t get it. That person obviously ignored you, is a jerk, and didn’t care…..right? Actually, probably not. So often, when we assume something without asking questions, we immediately fall into a negative pattern of conflict and hostility. But if we can ask questions without assuming an intention, we are much more likely to have a more positive experience.
Here’s an example:
— “I told you to update the information on my account and you didn’t do it. Your service is horrible.”
— “I had asked for an update to my information and I see it is still the same. I just wanted to check in and see if you needed anything else?”
In the second example, there is still an opportunity and invitation for a respectful conversation. It also does not assume ill intent. Sometimes honest mistakes happen. Maybe there is another reason that things didn’t go as planned. It’s a great time to treat others how you would expect to be treated.
This includes listening and allowing the other person to explain themselves. Try giving them the benefit of the doubt and thanking them for explaining.
Many people you will deal with on the phone did not create the policies for the business they work for. Keep in mind that they are doing the best they can to be a good employee.
Ask nicely to speak with a manager if you have to but keep things polite. The results are almost always more rewarding.
We all want more for our dollar, right? Or maybe we want something for free. But turn that equation around and think about how much you yourself work to profit. While there are some businesses that grossly take advantage of customers, most startups are operating in a very competitive market and can’t afford to do that. Businesses are weighing expenses with their profit, doing everything they can to survive.
What if we take to heart that when we engage with another business, we are not only representing ourselves but we are also in a way thanking them for the hard work involved in what they do?
If we hold this principal close when evaluating vendors and bids, we will be able to choose businesses to work with that feel the same. Ask questions to make sure you trust the businesses you work with when web prospecting. Read reviews. Do homework and enter into the business relationship with trust. This may ensure you feel you are getting what you are paying for down the road.
We all know what it feels like to get off the phone with a business vendor and feel like we may explode. “Have they lost their minds?” “I hate these people!” It’s easy to feel irritated in a world full of busy exhausted people.
But what if you took a moment to really think about, in a constructive way, what would have made the interaction or service go well for you? While we may feel it will not make a difference, neither will your anger. And in reality, customer feedback is very important to many businesses. Businesses are more likely to listen when feedback is honest and thoughtful. And if there is one employee that is the main issue, feedback is how they often find out.
Here’s a contrast of approaches:
— “Dear Jim- I can’t believe how horrible your repair service is. I couldn’t get a response from anyone when I had an issue due to the repair and by the time I did, I had already wasted countless hours screening other contractors. I will never use you again and am going to write this all in public reviews.”
— “Dear Jim- I am disappointed in your service and hope you can hear me out. I got a repair done in my business and had an issue with it afterward. It was very difficult to get ahold of Bob, the contractor that did the repair, and when I called and left messages with you, no one replied. Can you please address this because were it to be taken care of quickly, I would have left a five star rating. I would appreciate a follow up.”
In the second example, Jim may feel more inclined to hear what the issue was and call back. None of us generally enjoy conflict and by inviting a discussion, there is more opportunity for a reasonable resolution.
When the mountain of emails and tasks pile up, it’s easy to plow through them with superhuman tunnel vision. But are you catching important details? Did you read the email chain to understand what has transpired? Can you remember the person’s name? Maybe you need to delegate some tasks.
Not only is it a compliment to your employees if you entrust them with new tasks, it is also wise for your stress level. By handing over some of the responsibilities with the necessary objectives, these tasks may be accomplished with more care and patience.
If you can’t delegate, try prioritizing the tasks, turning off notifications that may distract you, and moving through each thing mindfully.
In general, rushing through things leads to more mistakes and misunderstandings.
In the age of the internet, leaving a negative review often gives us instantaneous gratification. We feel like we have an outlet when we feel swindled or frustrated. But it is just as important to do this if we are satisfied with a service as well. In fact, online review ratings are becoming more and more important for business reputation.
Make a habit out of publicly saying nice things about the businesses you work with. They may in turn, do the same for you and your business.
Sometimes we work with a vendor or client and they are flat out awful. They treat us with unkindness, low ethical standards, and try to milk our retainer or trust for every last drop. We know we are not going to continue to work with them. We also know that this could get nasty.
Don’t be baited into arguments. Stand by your principals and state the facts.
Create a bullet point list of your issues. Attach emails that reveal your issues with their service. Offer facts and let them know you have enough evidence to prove you did not get what you asked for. Explain politely what you feel is a fair resolution- a refund, free service, a discount, or whatever else applies to the situation. Ask them for an answer by a certain time.
Remember, this is business, and while it may feel personal, by keeping communication professional, it actually makes the resolution kinder and easier to navigate.
In the end we are all challenged by other people. But by acting reasonably, mindfully, and taking time to gather facts, we are ultimately contributing to a better business world. And we’re far less likely to be a jerk!