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You might remember a few posts back how I shared that money complacency is a sure-fire biz killer.
Those business owners who coast along , sit on their thumbs and are oblivious to the subtle shifts and changes in their business are destined for a rude awakening somewhere along the line. Some get a clue before things hit crisis level (like the majority of your customers have abandoned ship or have decided to “re-think their business needs”) while other business owners unfortunately don’t have an inkling that the ship is sinking until the hypothetical poop has hit the fan.
Something similar happened to me back during my Working For The Man days (pre-WAHMdom days). I had been the queen of my industry for quite sometime and yes, it was before the economy hit the crapper. I prefer to call those lucrative days pre-recession the Fat and Happy Days of my selling career.
I was a Rock Star Sales Pro. Angels sang when I spoke, sunshine shone from my butt cheeks and people salivated for a chance to hang with my greatness……
Not really…but that did sound pretty darn good, didn’t it??
Unfortunately, I had become complacent. A little too comfortable. A little too….cocky. There’s nothing like a sharp rap in the teeth (in the form of losing a huge customer) to wake you up and make you take notice. I had left gaps in my relationships with my loyal customer base. I had ignored them, took them for granted and even got a little sloppy.
I had made it easy for the competition to slide right on in.
This was compounded by the fact that we were in the beginning of an economic downturn made me realize pretty quickly (after the crap hit the fan) that I needed a new game plan. I had been lazy and now the consequences of that laziness was forcing me to change.
Now, I could have crawled into the corner, pouted, sucked my thumb and said “oh well,” but instead I took notice. I think mainly because it dawned on me that my livelihood was in jeopardy and that was (in part) because I had not taken good care of my customers. So I kicked to crisis management mode. It was time to take my customer service habits to the next level. Time to evolve and grow.
It was at this point I realized, though I had a huge amount of customers that who had done business with me for a long time, most had never met me. They were people that I talked to on a regular basis, but they had no idea what I looked like. Many were like old friends, but friends that I only communicated with via email or phone calls. I lacked visibility with my customers and…well…out of sight, out of mind.
I was kinda like Bigfoot. People knew I was “out there,” but there were very few sightings!
Maintaining my customers via phone had been a great system, but as the months passed and the economy weakened, I saw many of them slipping away. I knew it was time to do something new, and something that would work to strengthen the relationship with them. It was time to start a face-to-face, eye-to-eye, “hey I genuinely appreciate your business” campaign. So this “inside salesperson” made plans to hit the road.
“Big deal”, you may be saying. Who cares if people don’t ever meet you?
It IS a big deal. I believe, especially now in an era where so much of business is online, it is more important than ever to solidify business connections with existing customers. Take care what you have so you don’t have to work twice as hard replacing them. I am not suggesting you hop the next plane to Abu Dhabi (or where ever your clients call home), but a Skype visit may be in order ASAP. There is something to be said for connecting a face to a name or a face to voice. It gives you an additional edge with that customer and it renews and increases trust. That’s something you can’t put a price tag on.
Long story short, that campaign worked wonders and I was able to turn things around over the course of a few months. My point is, if your customers/clients are paying for your good work and trust, solidifying that relationship with a face-to-face chat is an incredibly savvy business move for the health of your biz. That temporary Code Brown Moment of mine all those years ago gave me a new appreciation for my job and my customers. It gave me renewed ambition, drive and determination to never get complacent and comfortable again.
Even now, as my business continues to grow and evolve as a 100% online business, I know all of my customers. I Skype with them pretty consistently and never let myself forget that in a snap of a finger, they could take their business elsewhere.
How “solid” are you with your customers? I advise you to form a relationship building plan, and do it now.
P.S. And for the time your When Clients Screw You Over, Die or Just Plain Go Away there are ways to get through that as well!