I was trying to strengthen my personal bond with some top Asia-Pacific distributors. Through many conversations I learned that while they felt my company produced leading products, they each felt undervalued by the company and prior regional sales manager.
I knew I had to do something fast to turn this around as they were actively evaluating replacement products.
Our European office was making plans for an upcoming Distributor Conference so I gave them a call. I asked if I could invite three key Asia-Pacific distributors to the conference and if they could participate in some meaningful way. Our European team loved the idea and my clients were stunned when I called with the invitation.
Now On To The Helicopter Ride....
I told my group that we had to keep this quiet, as I would no doubt get in trouble for taking our biggest Asia-Pacific distributors on a helicopter joyride to the Matterhorn. While it seemed fantastic to me, I knew there could be repercussions from my company. I told each of them why I couldn’t expense the flight and they had to pay their own way, and most importantly they couldn’t tell any of our European colleagues about our excursion.
The flight couldn’t have gone better. We were in a bubble helicopter with a pilot who actually flew in one of the James Bond movies… and you guessed it, he laid the helicopter on its side while descending the Matterhorn, just like in the move… Talk about a bonding experience.
Oh, my clients had so much fun they couldn’t wait to tell everyone what I had arranged for them to do that afternoon… and yes I did get a reprimand from the CEO.
3 Things Learned From The Flight…
1. Relationship Building: In order to build a brand promise that your customers can count on you must first have a good client relationship.
While my Asia-Pacific distributors felt our brand was strong, our company and previous sales manager treated them so poorly they were looking to drop our products entirely.
2. Personal Bond is Crucial, especially when selling internationally: Many societies stress personal relationships in business. When firms operate globally, close ties are useful for overcoming time, distance, language, and cultural barriers.
By inviting our Asia-Pacific distributors to participate in the European Conference they understood the company and I valued them. This coupled with that helicopter ride was the foundation for my establishing a strong and lasting bond.
3. Sometimes You Need to Take Risks: While I knew there could be repercussions from taking our biggest Asian-Pacific distributors on a helicopter joyride of the Matterhorn, I also knew I had to take a risk if I were to breakthrough and start building a personal relationship.
Risk Payoff… I didn’t loose one distributor and the Asia-Pacific region grew to an 85% market share. Oh, and the CEO sent me another letter... this time congratulating me on turning this region around.