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Death of a Small Business

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Scared Door OpeningThe six silent killers of sales successBy Julie Escobar, Director of Corporate Marketing

I thought I’d cast a darker than usual spell over this month’s article for two reasons: One, many sales and service professionals are feeling more tricked than treated these days; and two, to share what can happen to your business if you let any of these “silent killers” creep into your organization!

Don’t be afraid; just be aware of these top customer service mistakes that can be deadly to your bottom line:

1. Inaccessibility: One of the top customer complaints of all time is, “They never called me back.” In customer speak, that translates into, “They don’t care about me, and they don’t want (or deserve) my business.” Consider these tips, and be sure you consistently:

o Answer phone calls and emails within six hours, and always within 24 hours.

o Use automated systems to keep up with web and direct mail inquiries.

o Make yourself available; do NOT launch a marketing campaign and then leave town, attend a four-day workshop or head for the slopes. You laugh, but I wouldn’t mention it if I hadn’t witnessed it myself more than once. Ours is an “instant gratification” society. People don’t like to wait, so don’t make them!

2. Talking more than listening: I’m not sure who said it first (although I remember my mother sharing it a time or two), but this classic line really does put this point in perspective: “You were given two ears and one mouth in that proportion for a reason! Listen more than you talk.” Listening allows you to hear objections, get a real feel for the comfort and motivation level of your customers and effectively answer their questions and meet their needs. Listening attentively also makes the client feel important, connected and cared about. Remember this: They don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

3. Dishonesty: Lies–big, small and every size in-between–have a funny way of sneaking up on you and biting you on the bottom line. Now more than ever, consumers are looking to work with professionals they can trust implicitly. When the economy gets tighter, each financial decision becomes bigger, and they need an advocate more than someone who will just tell them what they want to hear. Step up the integrity, say what you mean and mean what you say; it will mean the world to both your customers and your longevity in this business.

4. Forgetting that manners matter: It might seem to some that as generations pass and our world becomes more and more chaotic, it’s fine to let manners slide or common courtesies wane. For sales professionals at the top of the ladder however–, patience, civility and good old fashioned manners such as “please” and “thank you” as well as shaking hands, making eye contact, opening doors and being respectful are not just tools of the trade, they are marks of true character. The golden rule remains a life lesson that is truly “golden.” Top professionals wouldn’t even consider:

o Keeping a client on hold.

o Talking on a cell phone in the presence of a customer unless negotiating on their behalf or handling a real emergency.

o Using profanity or any disrespectful language in front of a client.

5. Quitting too soon: Sometimes “no” just means “not right now.” Too many business owners stop reaching out to customers because they’re tired of sending “stuff.” Consider the words of direct response guru Dan Kennedy, “Everyone shows up once. The ones who win keep showing up over and over again.” He’s right; it’s not about us, it’s about them. So hang in there for the long haul. Give your customers as much time, attention and patience as they need not only to be your customer right now, but also to be your customer for life. Every one of them could be worth tens of thousands to you over the course of your career in business and referrals.

6. Failure to get to know your customers and allow them to get to know you: Ours is a people business–and a busy one, at that! We all forget from time to time, and the more clients you have, the easier it is to not truly connect if you don’t have a system in place to methodically get to know everyone who will be the lifeblood of your business both today and for years to come. Create a database on your computer, or download our free BusinessBASE? and begin to fill in the details about your VIPs–birthdays, employment, children’s names, hobbies, important events, etc. Contact everyone in some way every 30 days, and not just with sales or referral calls. “How’s the golf game?” “When is your daughter’s play?” “I saw this article and thought of you.” “Do you have any questions?” All of these are great communication strategies and a great way for you to get to know your customers and allow them to get to know you.

Statistics tell us that businesses spend six times more to gain a new customer than they do to retain their current ones. That’s truer today than it’s ever been. Think back to the “old days” when you bought a Ford because your father bought a Ford and his father bought a Ford. You used your bank because it was your parents’ bank or one insurance company because it was your family’s agent. That type of brand loyalty has all but disappeared.

With changing times come changing challenges, and those who realize that extraordinary customer service, relationship marketing and perseverance are the “tricks” of the trade will appreciate the “treats” this business provides for years to come–never even pausing to consider laying their career to rest.

Need help building a customer base and staying “alive” in today’s sometimes spooky economy? Visit http://www.oppknockspostcards.com today or call 1.800.287.5710. We’re here to help you discover the powerful tools, systems and resources you need to scare up new business each and every month!