I expect you've probably had the call. You know the one. It comes at 8pm, on a Tuesday night when you're just sitting down to eat your fish finger sandwiches.
When you hurriedly pick up, there'll be a short pause before a crackly, monotone voice on the other end of the line posits the question: "Madam, this is an urgent matter, are you aware that you're owed £3000 in mis-sold PPI?".
An urgent matter indeed Mr. Call Centre Agent. I was not aware of this fact, and neither, I assume, were the other 56 million people in this country who have received your urgent call.
Now, I'm sure that some of these really were in need of these services. Hundreds of millions of pounds have already been paid out to the victims of exploitative banking practices.
However, there is a new menace on the move, and he's on the other end of your phone line, trying to convince you that you've been mis-sold PPI.
Yes, an unscrupulous salesperson is not an entirely new thing. For years, the sales industry has been brandished with a negative image and the notion that a salesperson will do absolutely anything they can, no matter how dishonest, to get you to sign on the dotted line.
Mr. Call Centre Agent and his PPI service - designed to cajole naïve customers into paying a private company an extortionate amount, despite it being perfectly straightforward to claim
yourself, to submit a (frequently false) claim in order to receive compensation - does very little to assuage this image. The company that the caller represents will push and push to get you to sign up for their service. They don't care if it's something you need, or if it's even possible to achieve the results they promise. I've never taken out a loan. There is no chance I'm owed any PPI repayment. But these companies don't care about the client's needs; they just want to seal the deal.
This is where some organisations seem to have got it all wrong. Although the PPI story is an extreme example, it's often the case that, in the relentless endeavour to make a sale,
organisations forget one of the key rules of effective selling: the customer comes first. Now, this may be a particularly archaic concept, but it still rings true. A good salesperson does not simply approach a potential customer and spew out a diatribe about their company and offering. They know that this is unlikely to get them anything other than the dial tone.
Instead, good salespeople listen to their customer; they identify what it is their customer needs, and they conceive of ways in which their offering can address the issues the customer is having. And a really good salesperson? Well, they'll only put forward their company's products or services if they actually do fit with what the customer needs.
The original retailers of PPI insurance, UK banks, have certainly learnt a painful lesson about the risks of exploiting naivety to sell something the client doesn't want or need. My fingers are crossed that, in a delicious twist of irony, the same might happen to the crafty claims agencies. Don't let the same happen to your business. Find out what your clients want and sell them what they need. Oh, and one more thing: DON'T call me while I'm eating my fish finger sandwiches.