I Don’t Know When Your Order Will Ship!

How many times have you either heard that, OR you had to give that message to one of your customers?

It goes without saying, this is a weird time in our economy. Labor shortages, supply chain problems and on and on. As salespeople we are often the “tip of the spear.” We get the calls, the complaints, the frustration, and for some reason customers think we can perform miracles. Materials are being allocated and in many cases new orders are not being accepted. 

Then, we are told there will be price increases on products we can’t ship anyway. What is a salesperson to do?  Well, it’s kind of like the Five Stages of Grief.

  1. Denial. Most of us are past this stage. It’s been going on too long for anyone to honestly think labor shortages and material shortages are not a significant problem. Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be a solution in the immediate future.  This problem is here to stay for a while.
  2. Pain & Guilt. We really want to fix this. We want to please our customers. We like them and they like us. Could I have done something to lessen this pain?  We want this to go away, we feel bad and powerless.
  3. Anger. You want to blame someone – anyone. You didn’t bring this on. Someone or something is to blame and should pay!
  4. Frustration. You want to avoid taking calls or responding to messages. You’d like to just stick your head in the sand and hope this goes away.  You don’t have the answers they want to hear.
  5. Acceptance. Get here as soon as possible.  It’s a state of mind.  You ARE powerless to fix it, you can’t change it and someday you’ll look back telling a young salesperson how bad it was and of course you will exaggerate. You are not alone in this situation. We are all facing similar issues.

What to do, what to do? Here’s the answer. Be straightforward and honest. You and your team are doing the best you can under the circumstances. Do some brainstorming and explore any and all possible solutions.  At the end of the day we are all in the same situation. Most reasonable customers will understand that. Offer weekly updates if that will help.  Encourage, rather than discourage, regular communication. If you have alternatives, offer them no matter how far out they may be. Customers will appreciate honesty and creativity. 

Don’t try to sugar coat it and don’t offer what you can’t deliver.

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