How not to win friends and influence people

We all deal with third-party suppliers, some good, some bad, some indifferent. It is part of our ecosphere, part of who we are, part of what we do. We all need one another, we rely on one another and we ultimately create wealth for one another.

And despite my years of experience, despite my wizened looks, I can sometimes be amazed.

Anyone in a corporate role will be the recipient of invites to dinners, lunches, events. It is part of the same ecosystem. We want to get you into a room and talk to you, so we need something to entice you there. There are weeks when I could go without providing a meal for myself if I wanted, but I don’t. I don’t because I have better things to do and because I won’t morally take something without a genuine interest or purpose. I’m sure many of you are the same.

A recent invite came in and it wasn’t appropriate to me, so I passed it on to the relevant member of my team. The next thing I know, I receive a letter from the supplier asking for feedback as they hadn’t heard from the team member that had attended the lunch and assumed they had left, they enclosed two letters that they had sent previously. The team member hadn’t left and I passed the letter to them.

The simple truth is that we receive call after call, letter after letter, email after email each day from suppliers. And whilst we try to respond to everyone, it takes time. If you have a lot on, if you take holidays, sometimes these things can take a little longer than you’d like. It isn’t a sign of disrespect, but a reality of modern business.

The team member in question sent an email to explain and to say that she wasn’t too pleased that the supplier had gone over her head. She explained that she was interested in the service, but that she didn’t like the pushy way in which she was being sold to. Fair enough.

End of story? No….nowhere near………

The company in question is called Syndicate Training, you can find their website here.

Now I must say, I haven’t used their services. They may be great, they may be fantastic, I just don’t know. Nor have I been able to find anyone who could provide me with any insight. So all I can comment on is my interaction with them.

The response was somewhat incredible. The email was copied to me and included the following,

It is the view of Syndicate Members that on March 13th you were able to leave the office from 11.30 – 3.00 to attend a Gordon Ramsay lunch and that requesting your feedback either by email or a quick telephone call is not pressurising you. It is very important that professionals in HR lead from the front in matters concerning professional etiquette. I don’t think it was an unrealistic expectation for us to expect either a thank you note for the lunch or a quick call with your feedback.

And

Please find attached a typical email response from a very busy HR Director representing her company in a professional and positive manner.

(with actual attached email – not just the text)

The immediate reaction was to ignore and put down to experience. There are people out there that don’t have the same business ethos as we do and perhaps that is fine. Maybe we are too soft. But then again, as a manager, as a leader, I felt compelled to support my team member, I wrote the following back:

Thanks for your email. I’m not really sure that it’s helpful going back and forth in this way as I am sure you, like I, have more important things to be doing. That said, I do feel that I need to mention a couple of things.

[Team Member] is one of the most professional and conscientious individuals that I have worked with throughout my entire career which is why when you wrote to me, I passed the letter straight to her. If I’m honest, I find your comments about etiquette unbecoming and unnecessary and would like to think that these are said in the heat of the moment rather than being reflective of your normal business interaction.

It may be that you come across people that will use your invitations just as the basis for a “free meal”, but I can assure you that we are far too busy to do that. As [Team Member] has explained, she was very pushed for time internally and then through annual leave, but had a genuine interest in your offering.

It is important to me that we work with organisation that culturally fit with ours and with people that I trust and respect. We each have choices about the way in which we run our business and the tone that we want to set. On that basis, I can’t see our organisations working together either now or in the future.

Kind regards,

Neil

So I accept the last paragraph was a little pointed, but I like to think that the overall tone was fair.

The response from the owner and Director was as follows,

Good Afternoon Mr. Morrison

Syndicate Training is a Membership based organisation with a lengthy application process which has not and will not be offering a Membership to your organisation. We would however like to offer [Team Member] a free time management course from our Open Course Brochure to be utilised anytime over the next 12 months as a way of apology for assuming she had left the business.

Kind regards

Laurie Bell – Director

Go make of that what you will.

So what do I make of Syndicate Training? Well I really don’t know. They offer courses on a range of subjects, including Customer Service – Handling Customers Professionally, Emotional Intelligence Demystified, Influencing and Persuading – A Competitive Edge and, of course, Interpersonal Skills for Business. All of these seem like really relevant courses to many, many businesses…….

A lot of things don’t make sense to me, if you are so selective why hold lunches to attract new business when you have never spoken to the invitee, if you aren’t interested then why push so hard for feedback and of course, why would you communicate with a potential customer who has expressed interest in your services in this way?

I’m sure that they are a highly reputable company that offer a fantastic service. I’m sure that this is a blip. I’m sure that this is just me being unreasonable. I’m also sure that I will never, as long as I live and breathe, be working with Syndicate Training.

Other than that, the whole thing has completely befuddled me. As for you guys, well, I’ll leave you to make up your own minds up.

UPDATE: 28 September 2012

Guess what we received this week……is this Ms. Bell trying to make friends???

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