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BRAND PERCEPTION

Brand Perception, Supplier Experience and Accepting ‘No’

What does brand perception have to do with saying and hearing no?

There’s a lot of dialogue about feeling empowered to say no. I’m a huge advocate for it. Learning to set boundaries is a positive thing in business. It improves the quality of the service you’re able to deliver and the quality of the experience your client receives. That is to say, it influences your brand perception.

There is also a lot of value in learning to accept ‘no’ too.

On that basis, a lot of energy and focus goes into the customer experience to create positive parameters and boundaries. In effect this is about how we say ‘no’ to our clients without upsetting the apple cart or negatively impacting brand perception.

But what about other relationships and how we respond to no. Because our broader network can have a significant impact on brand perception and business health too. When it comes to your suppliers, having a reputation for being difficult or unpleasant to work with can have a damaging affect, just as much as a negative Google review can.

I’d like to share a collection of short stories about Two Fingers Terry, Gaslight Gary and Condescending Colin. Names changed to protect their egos.

There is also a lot of value in learning to accept ‘no’ too.

On that basis, a lot of energy and focus goes into the customer experience to create positive parameters and boundaries. In effect this is about how we say ‘no’ to our clients without upsetting the apple cart or negatively impacting brand perception.

But what about other relationships and how we respond to no. Because our broader network can have a significant impact on brand perception and business health too. When it comes to your suppliers, having a reputation for being difficult or unpleasant to work with can have a damaging affect, just as much as a negative Google review can.

I’d like to share a collection of short stories about Two Fingers Terry, Gaslight Gary and Condescending Colin. Names changed to protect their egos.

Two Fingers Terry and the Silent Treatment

Two Fingers Terry had a great experience with a company he had used in the past. So much so that when another project in the same broad field came up, he went back to that same company for a repeat. But on this occasion, the service wasn’t something the company in question was able to offer, not even a little bit. They were grateful for Terry’s patronage. They felt good about the fact that he thought well enough of them to come back. So, they responded promptly, thanked him, and politely declined.

Ghosted.

Terry didn’t respond to this politely worded ‘no’ email. He was silent. You can read what you want into that. Some might say it was a virtual two fingers from Terry directed at that politely worded email. An email that had the audacity to tell him no.

Condescending Colin and Why He Couldn’t Let it Go

Before Instagram, Facebook and even MySpace before them, it was easy to lose touch. You went to school with a whole raft of people. Some you liked, some not so much. You could easily ‘lose touch’ with the latter, and the world quickly moved on.

Then social media arrived. Now every Tom, Dick and Harry from high school is popping up where there was once a distant memory. Well, that’s where this story picks up. Colin and his past acquaintance went to school together. They hadn’t spoken for more than 20 years, until Colin reached out on Facebook.

You see Colin had been doing some research. He had established that his long-lost classmate could be of some use to him.

As it turns out, Colin was starting a business and could use a little help with a quick logo. Having explained to Colin that the services available to him were more strategic and less ‘quick logo’, our friendly Facebooker shared a few pleasantries and left it there.

Oh no, no, no. Colin wasn’t going to take no for an answer. Surely the lucky if long forgotten pal was grateful for his attempt to ‘support their little business’, said Condescending Colin, aghast?

Colin wasn’t giving up without several attempts at persuasion, coercion and diminishing what he had chosen not to hear. It required 3 ‘nos’ before he reluctantly accepted that his patronage was neither needed nor welcome.

Gaslight Gary and the Power Play

And finally, Mr Gary Gaslight. Alarm bells first went off when he commissioned a professional service but claimed he didn’t actually need it. In denial much Gary? And even if he did need it, he would probably do a much better job himself if he had the time or the inclination.

He then got very red faced and shouty when the same business stayed firm on their 50% deposit policy.

‘Do we have a trust issue!’, said Gary. Umm it’s nothing personal, ‘Gary’.

After another chat in which Gary started making unreasonable requests, it was decided by the recipient of said unreasonable requests, that this probably wasn’t a good fit. Gary was offered a full refund. He was also given a polite but firm explanation in the form of a BIFF. Brief, informative, friendly and final. Nothing personal or offensive, just a ‘this is best for both of us’, delivered in a professional and inoffensive way.

Oh no. That wasn’t going to happen. Not on Gary’s watch. He got straight on the phone at 7pm on a Friday night. He wanted an explanation, he wanted to turn this around and get the power back. Straight to voicemail. Boundaries.

He did get his moment during business hours on the following Monday morning. The thrust of the conversation was that this was silly, an overreaction. But he did acknowledge that if he’d offended anyone it wasn’t his intention. He has been completely misunderstood. In fact, everyone was probably just reading too much into it right, being oversensitive. ‘Let’s just give it one more try’, says Gary. ‘It’s silly to not go ahead over something so trivial.’ Blatant attempt to take back control.

Supplier Experience is a Business Opportunity

Needless to say, none of the above business relationships ended well and the business relationship and brand perception of was damaged, perhaps both ways. Largely because there’s no conscious policy with how no from a supplier is interpreted or responded to.

As I’ve said, your suppliers are just as important to your brand reputation as your customers. So why is this opportunity for strengthening brand perception often overlooked? We put a great deal of time into mapping and perfecting the customer journey. Rightly so. But if you haven’t put any thought into the supper experience, maybe it’s time to ask yourself why?

How much time is invested in consciously creating positive and collaborative supplier relationships?

…Graciously accept when they say no or set boundaries?

…Saying thank you when they do something for you?

…Being responsive and respectful of their time?

To illustrate the point… on the flip side I was recently looking for an accountant and decided to support a female business owner. I spoke to several and of course couldn’t work with them all. For the ones that I said no to, every single one was accepting, understanding and supportive. They all continue to cheer on my business through socials. I didn’t say yes on that occasion. But I will continue to say yes in lots of other ways.

Interesting. Important. Opportune.

Brand Perception and the Influence of Your Network

This isn’t just about suppliers. The way you behave within your network is an essential professional practice. Whether they’re a supplier, prospect, employee, affiliate, client or other.

Here’s some food for thought.

How can you develop a positive mindset where you not only accept ‘no’ in your business, you also turn it into a yes, a positive? You find a way to come out of it with a positive relationship and brand perception. I see this an opportunity, a competitive advantage. How you deliver ‘no’ and how you handle hearing ‘no’ is a choice. Because no isn’t the end. It doesn’t have to mean there can’t be other referrals or collaborations in the future.

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