Credit guru Thea Dudley has spent more than 30 years in LBM credit management. Now she's here to answer your credit and collection questions. Got a question for her mailbag? Contact Thea at firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a sales rep who likes to "help" me with customers. If there is a concern or issue with the account that I am working on, he repeats things to the customer from internal discussions that were not for the customer’s ears. He makes promises and commitments that I didn't agree to and then I am left with the mess. What do I do with this guy?
Signed: Not loving it in Nantucket
Dear Not Loving It:
I am sure you have a few ideas of what you can do with him, but before you get your shovel, let's talk practical options. I had a dog that used to bark at squirrels nonstop. No amount of training, yelling or coaxing made her stop. A shock collar took care of that. Every time she barked, ZAP! No more barking. But HR frowned on that idea when I suggested it as a training tool at work. (They are such buzz kills).
Still, the concept is the same: Every time the sales rep exhibits bad behavior you have to deliver the equivalent of a zapping. I am assuming you have had a conversation with said rep and explained to him the error of his ways and what that causes. If you have not, now is the time. If you have done that, have you involved his manager? Have you discussed it separately with the manager and then had a "group chat?"
Explain clearly and with no sugar on it that if the behavior with the sensitive information continues, you will no longer share any information on the accounts, thus eliminating him from the process. You have to draw attention to the situation and the consequences. It has to apply every time for every little infraction: No bad behavior left behind.
This is a learning and training opportunity. The sales manager needs to be aware. If he/she is not supportive, then go up the ladder another rung. Ruffle feathers, because this is serious. The credit department houses a lot of sensitive information. You should be able to have an internal conversation without fear that you will have to defend it to the customer.
Most sales reps who have this behavior do so because they want to please the customer and believe that over-sharing will endear them or give them something to talk about. If you can't get the rep to stop and his manager is not able to rein in the behavior, then use it to your advantage.
Spoon-feed him what you do want the customers to know, in the manner you would like them to hear it. Leave out specifics like anything on financials, credit reports, or totally negative stuff. Package the information in a highly palatable form that, when repeated, sounds reasonable and advantageous that cannot be misconstrued.
Try something like: "They have always been such good communicators, I am concerned that I not heard from them lately and have left a few messages. I just want to make sure they are OK."
Yes, it sounds lame, and I can imagine the scoffing face you are making right now. However, what your rep hears is concern and caring—both of which you are. He then goes back and mentions it. You most likely will get a call with some reason they have not reached out.
Think of it as dealing with your kids. If they think they are in trouble, they avoid you. You can still have a tough conversation but it is how you frame it that matters.
Lastly, understand that some people are just over-sharers. No amount of coaching, mentioning, threatening,:or cajoling is going to change that. So act accordingly. Don't share. Flat-out tell them why you are not taking them into your confidence. You don't have to be hurtful or mean about it, just matter of fact.
And for the record, I never used a shock collar on my dog. The kids, maybe, but never the dog.