Communication Breakdown - Part Two
Guest Contributor: Deb KolarasDeb's Posts
- Deb's SiteLast month I gave you some ideas on keeping the verbal lines of communications open with your customers. As promised, this time I'll be covering some ideas on staying in touch in writing, a lost form of communication for some businesses. Whether electronic or paper, written communication is still one of the best ways to reach out and stay in touch with your customers. How you do so will determine many things, among them, the quality of the relationship you maintain with your customers.
We're All Human
The basis for solid business communication is the understanding that a critical element in the process is the human being. In her book, The Voice of Authority, Dianna Booher reminds us that, "New technology appears and disappears from the scene. The one constant is human interaction." When you add this important aspect to your communications, you create a more concrete bond with the customer. Relate to them as a person and you become more real to them, rather than just another company trying to win their business. This doesn't mean you drop all the professionalism and get so informal as to confuse your customer - it simply means adding a caring, human tone to your correspondence, one that an every day text message might miss.
Personalizing your written business communications has been shown to really add to the bottom line. InformationWeek conducted a study of 375 business managers and IT managers; of those that personalize all communications with their customers, 39% report a significant increase in their e-business revenue. There are similar studies in the paper world, but the reality is if you can reach the customer on a more personal level, they respond. And personalization isn't just about using someone's name; mailed letters, handwritten thank you's, even a brief note attached to an article you found - these are all smart ways of staying in touch with your customer in a more meaningful way and building a relationship centered on the customer and their needs.
While electronic communication might be one of the easier ways to stay in touch with your customers, it can also spell disaster if you do so too infrequently or not frequently enough. A key consideration needs to be the relevancy of your correspondence - are you keeping the customer at the center of your offer or are you bragging about your company? The latter will likely end you up in the trash. Electronic newsletters and offers must be something your customer can use and should be sent at least quarterly to stay top of mind with them. These pieces need to be concise and mindful that your customer is running a small business; they might not have much time to read a long piece. Provide links for them to get more information and always give them a way to opt out of your mailing. If you're having a sale, make it easy for them to order and leave out the gimmicks - that goes double for rebates. Small businesses don't want to sift through the ins and outs of an offer. What's the best way to determine how often to send offers or information electronically? Ask your customer!
Communicating with your customer is the building block for establishing a lasting relationship with them. Be there throughout the sales cycle and long past, keeping them up to date and aware of changes, great deals and ideas that will help them continue to thrive. Doing this makes you a resource for them and creates a repeat customer for you.
Labels: Deb Kolaras
Recognizing a Rock Star
Guest Contributor: Mark NissleyMark's Posts
- Mark's SiteIn a comment posted to my last entry, a reader noted that so many "stories are the same". That is so very true, even with rock stars- one more boy from south central LA; one more girl from Topeka, Kansas; one more aged star launching a comeback tour. There isn't story we haven't heard before. I often wonder how many iTunes tracks can actually be sold from singer-songwriters singing soft, halting guitar ballads about love and loneliness. Apparently, the answer is a staggering amount.
There are two very similar reasons. First, people want to hear it. They have an emotional connection to it. They like to hear something that reminds them of their youth, their passion, or their softer side. It reminds them of a part of themselves. Second, there will always be young males and females making the music, because there will always be youth, heartache, and beauty. People will sing about. And because everyone experiences those things, at least some of us will listen to it. See reason number one.
Small business has the same connection with most Americans. It is the American way. Everyone either has done it or would like to do it one day, if only... It is about taking risk, seeking independence, and taking care of your life. When they tell their story to the average American, they get quiet looks of admiration and respect. They are accustomed to this position in life, despite where it has actually gotten them on the totem pole. They have fought the good fight or are still fighting it.
A small business owner may have a similar story to the one you heard yesterday. The fact is that their story has subtle differences from the other. Those differences indicate the most important struggles that the business owner overcame. Despite the similarity of today's story to yesterday's story, that story is very real. It impacted the business owner in dynamic ways and changed who they are. Listen carefully: it IS who they are. A story like that has soul, funk, a bass line and a harmony. It might sound like last year's hit, but it is this year's hit, and more importantly, it is your potential customer's hit. Until you recognize and revere that story, the story of a rock-star, small-business owner, you will never be truly effective at selling to small business. You'll just get lucky sometimes.
If you want to build a relationship with a small business owner, take the time to hear their story. They always love to tell it. If they don't offer it, look around, it is probably on the walls of the small front office. Ask questions about pictures and awards you see. Be impressed. You should be. And then ask the big Hollywood question, "What gave you the idea for this business? How did you get started? Could you tell me how you got this GREAT idea?" Then sit down and let them tell you a story. When they are done, recognize their accomplishments (that they are, indeed, a rock star) and note how impressed you are that they got to this point.
If you have the time in your sales cycle, spend your entire first call listening to the story. Then say "Whoops! Look at the time! I have to go! Mind if I come back next week?" Without even pitching your pitch. I guarantee that when you return next week, they will look at you with more open eyes. They may even ask to hear your story!
Labels: Mark Nissley
Connecting Your Way to Small Business Sales
Guest Contributor: Albert LukAlbert's Posts
- Albert's Site
In the last two posts on the effectiveness of referral marketing and on building a small business referral network, I made mention that referral marketing is the most effective strategy to selling to small business and that building a referral network is more of a function of personalities than job titles. Today, I wanted to provide some brief comments on finding the "right" connectors into the small business world.
At the risk of embarrassing the host of this blog, and to reiterate last month's post, Evan Carmichael is a Connector to the small business world. However, Evan is not a member of the Big Three (defined last month as an accountant, lawyer and banker). Evan is a connector because of his personality and not something he puts on his resume.
I met Evan through cosmic accident; as I recall, he was on an advisory board for an organization I was a member of which had taken my annual membership dues and not provided me any service. Evan was the poor soul who fielded my complaint. In a round about way, bad customer service was the impetus for our initial meeting.
As my brief story indicates, finding Connectors is more of happen-stance than by design. There are no databases of Connectors (and one would be leery of anyone who advertised to their world they were connected). You cannot buy a list of Connectors in North America. You cannot join a group of Connectors (they probably know each another anyway so forming a group would be redundant). Instead, you will most likely meet them through some other contact rather than finding them yourself. They are Connectors after all- eventually, they will know someone who knows someone that knows you. As Woody Allen says, 90% of life is just showing up.
Most good salespeople I know end up meeting a Connector because they socialize a lot. In order words, Connectors are found more by chance than strategy. If this conclusion is not extremely analytical, it is because the basis of human interaction is by nature emotional and good people end up finding other good people by circumstance and accident rather than by some strategic and conscious decision.
We tend to downplay the human aspect of business but, in a world where choice has become nearly unlimited, it is this facet which truly binds people together in commercial enterprise. For example, Warren Buffet could donate his multi-billionaire empire to hundred of charitable foundations but chose Bill Gates'. It is not because Gates knows how to sell software. Instead, Buffet and Gates are bridge partners, share common world-views and are friends.
To continue this thread of un-analytical thinking, Connectors help "nice people" get ahead. Thus even if one were, by strategy, end up meeting a Connector, it is not conclusive that a Connector would be your champion to the small business world. I am by no means a Connector but I will champion someone who I feel is a good human being and will make a difference. I am sure most of you would do the same. With a Connector, such championing would be increased a hundred times what I could remotely provide.
At the end of the day, Connectors help you for the same reason that a client buys from you: you articulate a client problem you can solve and you are a trusting individual. Thus, connecting your way to small business sales comes down to the fundamental basis of why anyone would want to buy from you in the first place: will you help your clients in an honest and trusting manner? Can you build a long-lasting and trusting relationship?
If you can, the Connectors will find you. They are Connectors after all.
Labels: Albert Luk