Update your little black book
To help account managers keep track of dozens of calls a day, CDW developed software to capture details about each call and each customer. Another feature ranks contacts within a company by power and influence to help navigate the network behind IT purchases.
No cheesy pickup lines
Forget selling ice to an Eskimo. You don't earn customers' trust by selling them things they don't need. Better just to ask, "What can I do to make your job easier?" It's a question that never gets old.
Avoid blind dates
CDW interacts with customers primarily over the phone, but its intranet site for customers displays photos of account managers. Next to each picture is a green or red indicator showing who's in the office and who's out.
Don't be afraid to say the three most difficult words
They are, of course, "I don't know." CDW's account managers can't possibly know everything about their 80,000 products. But there's no need to panic or bluff. They call in an expert: one of the manufacturer-certified specialists the company has added in recent years.
It's all about give and take
If a customer shares something personal, such as an unwavering passion for the Cubs, take it as a sign of trust and reciprocate. It makes business less impersonal. Remember CDW founder Michael Krasny's motto: People do business with people they like.
A version of this article appeared in the January 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.