SBM #60 Be Visible for More Sales

Be Visible

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Be visible is really nothing more than the opportunity to get in front of the customer in some meaningful way. Unfortunately, it is proving far more difficult to do so. B to C or B to B businesses are equally challenged in getting through to their customers, because there are just many more roadblocks.

In the time before voicemail, a phone call to a customer’s home resulted in one of three outcomes; no answer, a busy signal or someone actually answered, pretty predictable outcomes. Along comes voicemail and call display, so now people could just ignore the call. Voicemail was supposed to be a tool to communicate information in one’s absence, however it morphed into a call screening tool when call display arrived on the scene.

The voicemail call display duo

Calls to a business customer pretty much followed the same path, however businesses usually had an additional layer of screening in place, namely the receptionist. As telephony automation increased, direct dial to customers was initially more productive, however with the advent of the voicemail call display duo, making contact quickly became more difficult.

Email on the other hand,quickly replaced the telephone as a primary communication device between business and customer. And why not? It was an easy way to send your thoughts or proposals to a client at any time of the day and unlike voicemail, you retained a written copy. Although this did create a challenge for some individuals to up their writing skills as, until this point, even the smallest companies had admin personnel who edited and finalized the final correspondence.

A response was expected

The initial upside to email was that it was a novelty and individuals promptly responded to any item that hit their inboxes. Maybe it was the novelty of this wonderful, empowering communication tool, but times have changed. Once upon a time, proper etiquette wouldn’t allow you to ignore personally addressed correspondence, but today it’s common practice. No, it didn’t matter, if the former was hand written and sent via a postal service and the latter sent digitally. In both cases someone took the time to compose the communication and therefore a response was expected

The problem today is mostly driven by the bombardment of unnecessary CYA’s or cover your ass, cc’s, bcc’s emails and let’s not forget the biggest culprit of them all, spam! It’s overloading peoples inboxes.

Average office worker receives 121 emails per day

It’s no wonder, when it is estimated that the average office worker receives 121 emails per day and sends out 40 per day. At that rate, they would easily fall a month behind within 10 days if they had to reply to every one they received.

With every technological advancement, we drift farther and farther apart from our customers. Social media and SMS are all being layered on and hyped as customer connectors, but they’re not. Just imagine what will happen when AI (Artificial Intelligence) goes mainstream? We’ll never have to talk, correspond or meet again. It’ll all be done for us. I am hopeful that the combination of Alternative and Virtual Reality might right the ship, but I won’t hold my breath.

Maybe I’m old school, but I’ve always pushed for a face to face meetings. No matter how far I had to travel or how inconvenient it was, getting in front of new or existing clients was a major sales and marketing tactic for me. Nothing beats face to face customer interaction. It allows you to see the customers reaction to your comments, thoughts or proposal. It gives you the opportunity to be in the moment to correct any misunderstandings or expand on key points. You can’t do that effectively via email.

Stickiness

The other added benefit of to be visible, was stickiness. It’s a term I have used for years in support of my need to get in front of clients. This approach is directly responsible for more than a few million dollars of revenue that I generated.

In a nutshell, stickiness is the art of being visible within client’s businesses. I’m not suggesting setting up a desk in your clients premises, although not a bad idea if the client is big enough! Being visible within a client requires effort and patience. Effort, because with all the built in screens I mentioned earlier, it’s a challenge to get a client to respond to your requests. Patience, because with everyone running flat out, meetings are now scheduled weeks in advance and not days.

The payoff though, is the more frequent you are in a clients place of business, the more people will come to recognize you. The more they see you, the greater the odds that you’ll have the opportunity to talk with them. Of course, the more you talk with them, the more you have a chance to let them know what you do.

Opportunities to be visible

A typical scenario, for me was to arrange a meeting with a client and as time went on, I got to know or at least recognize other people in the business. As we made our way to the meeting room or the person’s office, I’d make a point of saying hi to anyone I knew. It was more of an opportunity for me to let them know I was in the building.

Over time this little acknowledgement led to someone telling me to stop by when my meeting was over as they either had a question or wanted to talk with me about something and that something was usually a potential opportunity. My estimate is that this happened 50% of the time. Again, the size of your clients will impact these numbers but don’t underestimate the potential of even in the smallest of companies.

Another opportunity to be visible is upon completion of a project. Make an appointment with the customer to review the engagement. Too often, I see owners just send off the summary report and an invoice and that’s the end of it. What a missed opportunity! This is exactly when you need to be visible. Generally speaking, the client is happy with the results and are open to other suggestions you may have.

On those occasions when it’s just physically impossible to be visible on a client’s premises, there are other ways to stay front and center. For instance, the client has asked for a quote. Far too many owners email the quote and hope for the best. Instead, once the email has been sent, call them to let them know you sent it, especially with the number of emails that end up in the junk folder. Alternatively, finish your cover email with a statement, such as “I’ll call you tomorrow to discuss”. Then make sure you call.

Looking for ways to be visible to your customers pays greater dividends to the small business owner than most of their social media activity.

I’m Greg Weatherdon and this has been your Small Business Minute.

You may also enjoy The Fear Of Decisions

Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 2018

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SBM #59 Quit Digging!

Quit Digging

Read Time: 3:58 minutes

I often get approached by entrepreneurs who are facing significant challenges in their businesses. By significant I mean – They’ve dug themselves into a hole so deep that they’re going to go out of business if something doesn’t change! So, my first piece of advice courtesy of Will Rogers , the American humourist is, “When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging!

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been the person called upon to help fix a situation. For the less urgent ones, I’m more of a troubleshooter, as I usually had some time to assess the problem or problems and then sketch out a game plan.

On the other hand, when I’m approached by an owner with an urgent challenge, I usually take on the role of a firefighter. This is because the situation is critical and there is no time for naval gazing and strategizing. It’s a time for action. It’s more akin to a scorched earth approach, whereby nothing is sacred.

Got the t-shirt

It has been my experience, that in these situations to do anything less is not an option and speed is of the essence. These situations are usually long in the making but typically ignored until they become a full blown crisis. To an outside observer, you would wonder how it could have gotten so bad? But until you are in the thick of it, you’ll never really understand how these things happen. Been there, done that and I’ve got the t-shirt!

Of course, we’ve all read those inspirational books or articles that tell you to stick to it and persevere no matter how hard it is. Or, that suffering is the price you pay to be an entrepreneur. So, I want to tell you that there’s a limit to how much misery, you must put up with.

Unfortunately, when many of us are faced with business destroying crises, we tend to develop a bit of tunnel vision that limits our ability to see all the options available. Couple that with our desire to succeed, plus a little pride and ego, we don’t even consider any of the negative options that can effectively gut your company and your dream.

Strangely enough, when talking with these clients many already know what they “should” do. They just can’t bring themselves to do it, preferring to carry on hoping and praying that the situation will improve. Regrettably, it rarely does.

5 Survival Tips

If survival is your goal, then you must make the hard calls. The first of which is to reduce all your expenses, regardless of how uncomfortable you are. We’re talking survival here. The following list can get you thinking of some of the drastic measures you must take:

1. Move your business. Relocate to your residence or some other free or less expensive space.
2. Cut staff. Payroll is usually the largest expense a company has. Not a fun exercise but a necessary one.
3. Cut all non-core expenses. I mean everything. Nothing is sacred. Cell phone, copiers, coffee service, cleaning services. No more client lunches. Absolutely everything gets scrutinized.
4. Dump unprofitable clients. If you don’t know who they are, figure it out immediately. Deal only with those clients that are profitable now and pay promptly.
5. Streamline your product or service offerings to those items that are profitable. With reduced staffing, you probably won’t be able to support more than a couple of core services. So, do the stuff that makes you money.

Yes, I can state categorically, this is an painful and humbling process. But if you think the business and your sanity is worth saving then you have absolutely no choice. Once completed though, it’ll feel like a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders.

Quit Digging

Many who have gone through this and survived have felt rejuvenated. It’s like they’re in start-up mode all over again and what they discover is that this is their happy place.

So, if you ever find yourself in a hole, quit digging!

I’m Greg Weatherdon and this has been your Small Business Minute.

You may also enjoy The Fear Of Decisions

Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 2018

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SBM #58 You Might Want to Check

You Might Want to Check

We all spend time, money and other resources making sure we put forth the right professional imagine. Many people limit their definition of image to how we look, dress and speak and for the most part that would have been acceptable once upon a time. But not anymore.

In our connected digital world, the tools we use to do business number in the many. What was once a Yellow Pages ad has been replaced by a website and a variety of social media business pages. Where a human being answered the phone, auto attendants and voicemail now do the job. All in all, these are wonderful tools that have increased awareness and productivity and reduced operating costs in the average business.

We need to check

Unfortunately, because they do their jobs so efficiently and require little maintenance we often forget to check in on them to see how they’re doing. Because of this neglect, these tools may not be projecting your company, staff or yourself in the best light.

How often have you called someone and got their voicemail that states that they are away from the office between two specific dates? A common experience that we’ve all come across. Sadly, though the dates of their absence are months old. Similarly, you receive an email out of office notice, generated by an auto responder, that is weeks old! Lastly, you go to a website that clearly has not been updated in years. What message do these oversights send to their customers or business partners? That details aren’t important?

We already know

Why does this happen? There’s a pretty simple explanation. We don’t phone or email ourselves. Nor do we ever go to our own website. Why would we? We already know what we do. We already know which products or service we sell. We know where we are located and our phone number. So, we have no reason to check any of these things. But that’s exactly why they need to be checked regularly, because no one is.

So, here’s 7 things that need to be checked regularly:

  1. Call your office main line and listen to the message. Does the message project the company imagine? Remember it was probably recorded a long time ago and possibly by an employee that is no longer there. This is one of your first point of contact with potential customers. Does it convey a welcoming and professional tone? If you cringe a little or think it can be better, then fix it now.
  2. Next call each person’s extension. What does their personal message sound like? Is it clear? Is it what you’d like your customers to hear? Remember not everyone is comfortable recording a voicemail message. If it’s not to your liking, help them change it by writing a script for them and getting them to relax and smile while recording it.
  3. Call everyone’s cell phone and listen to their messages. If you’re paying for the phones and include these numbers on business cards, then you have a right to check and enhance.
  4. Send everyone in your company an email, including yourself. Don’t forget to include your company’s generic address such as info@ and sales@. Do you get an auto-attendant response? If not should you? If so, is it valid? Is it current?
  5. Visit your website. First check to see if the contact information is current and accurate. Then move on to content. Is the information still current? Does it look cluttered? A very high percentage of prospective customers, will check your website prior to initiating contact so it behooves you to make sure the information isn’t dated. Does the site have to be an award winner? No, but it must at least contain current information.
  6. Have you got a Google Business page? Is the information valid or current? Have you moved locations? Is your business hours and contact information accurate?
  7. Are your social media pages such as Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ and so on contain the right data? Also consider that if you haven’t posted anything in months on these pages you may want to reengage or otherwise suspend them. Customers want to see timely information on these sites. That’s why they’re called Social Media not Static Media.

So, take a moment right now and put your customer hat on check your own voicemails, emails and the website. Do they sound, look and feel right? If not, fix it now because it’s probably costing you money.

I’m Greg Weatherdon and this has been your Small Business Minute.

Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 2017

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