When you have a meeting, or you send an email, or perhaps you are having a telephone conversation it is helpful if there is a clearly defined purpose.
It is really easy to fall into the trap of re-running the same management meeting every week. Those meetings spend too much time looking at what happened last week and very little about what is going to happen / what will be different this week.
It’s easy to send an email that can best be summarised as “for information only – no action required.” You have spent time creating and crafting it, then the recipient has to take time to read it – and will probably respond, so that you know they have read it, and you have to read their response.
It is easy to pick up the phone and have a nice conversation with a prospect, but all too easy to finish the call without moving the prospect closer to becoming a client. Yes, you have to build a relationship, but that doesn’t mean that each and every conversation should not have a purpose above and beyond building the relationship.
With your regular meetings, make sure that you have a 30/70 split so that at least 70% of the meeting is spent focused on the things you can change, not the history you cannot change.
Before you send that email, think about what you want the recipient to do, what action you want them to take. If there is no action required, is the email necessary?
Find a reason to call, something that adds value to your prospect. They will welcome it and you build a stronger relationship. Have a plan for when your prospect falls of the prospect list or converts to a client. You can spend a lot of time talking to people who will never become clients or customers.
Act with purpose – you will get a whole lot more done!
Over the last few weeks I have helped a number of clients get some more clarity over their business model and their strategy for the future.
This is such a fundamental area for business success. Without that clarity, you cannot determine what your organisation should look like in 3 or 4 years, you cannot determine where to allocate your resources or even how to approach your market.
We are all told we have to have an elevator pitch, so that when you are in the lift with your ideal prospect you can tell them what you do in the time it takes to travel between one floor and the next.
There’s a fundamental flaw in that thinking. Your prospect does not care what you do. Your prospect cares about the result you deliver for their business.
It really doesn’t matter that you write wonderful software, or that you sell the best engineered widgets. What matters is how that software helps your customer or client, what gain they get from deploying it and what pain you are taking away. It doesn’t matter that you manufacture the best widgets, what matters is that you help your customer produce his product that relies upon those widgets.
Take your current marketing information, from the elevator pitch through all your brochures, leaflets, proposals and your website and highlight every time you see the words “We or I” and change them to you. (It’s known as weeing all over the page when you have too many we’s)
Now look at those statements that have a “you” replacing the “we”
See if you can respond to the statement with “so what?”
See if you could put that statement on your competitor’s website and it would still be true.
You may find you have some work to do so that your customer or prospect cannot answer “so what?” and that may take you right back to the fundamental reason why your business exists!
Sometimes we get it wrong and when we do there isn’t much choice we have to go and apologise.
It might be that you jumped a little too hastily at somebody when they gave you some bad news, but if you don’t apologise the following day or even earlier if you can you create a sense of resentment and a real problem for the future
They say it takes a big man (or a big woman) to apologise but actually I think you just need to be honest. Say “I made a mistake” and move on.
You’ll have the respect of the other person – they will respect your openness and will tell everybody else. Your reputation won’t be damaged by that momentary slip of your attention or that unwarranted reaction. Your reputation will be enhanced by the recognition from your team that you are big enough to say
“Sorry guys I got that one wrong”
If you don’t admit the mistake the team know that you made a mistake they know that you reacted hastily and your reputation is diminished. The level of trust the team will give you is reduced and if you’re not careful the team will stop sharing with you and you will lose out.
There’s no protection or face saving in hiding from the facts.There’s no point pretending to the customer that everything will be fine, when you know the delivery will be late or the project will over run. They won’t thank you for avoiding the issue and giving them a nasty surprise.
In the same vein, if something has gone wrong with your department or your area of responsibility, tell the boss – sooner rather than later.
Honesty really is the best policy
It’s much easier to sell to an existing customer than it is to a new one, but many businesses don’t have a formal program to retain their customers.
When you measure all the effort that goes into winning a new customer, all the money and management time you spend acquiring those new customers, compare that to the amount of time, money and effort you devote to keeping your existing customers.
If there is no formal program or incentive, or if you are not measuring your customer retention, the chances are that no one is focused on it. What’s measured is managed.
If you compare that to the pay TV industry, businesses like Sky have separate departments devoted to customer retention. They don’t call them that – it would be a bit too obvious – but if you want to negotiate your contract and reduce your fees, tell Sky you are thinking of leaving and you will probably end up talking to the disconnection team. They have the authority to offer you special deals to keep your business!
Giving an existing customer a special deal is a great way of hanging on to them, but the special deal doesn’t have to be money!
You might offer early access to a new product or service (that’s a great way of testing something new as well, by the way) or perhaps you’ll invite them to join your dedicated knowledge area, where they can learn more about your business.
If you can foster a sense of community among your customers, that will help. People love to belong to a club.
Probably the most important part of keeping customers is communication. If you don’t keep your customer informed, you are saying that you don’t care about them. If all you do is transact with them, they will never be a fan or an advocate for your business.
Whatever else you do, communicate!