I have a wonderful koi pond in my backyard where I can sit with a nice drink, cigar and book on the weekends and enjoy. There is nothing better than reading and listening to the sound of the waterfalls for weekend relaxing.
Recently, I discovered a small leak in the pond, which required the work of a service technician. I called 9 pond/landscaping firms in the area – two returned my call. Two called for an appointment and one showed up.
Two weeks later I needed my roof gutters cleaned. Once again I called 8 to 9 organizations. Only 1 returned the call.
There are two issues with my anecdote, 1) obviously small business is better than most predict since 18 vendors never returned a call and 2) lack of follow-up and follow through will kill your business.
I get approached every day with questions from sales professionals and entrepreneurs about aiding their businesses and practices. Each will ask me if I can help them. I always say it depends on three things 1) their passion 2) their focus and 3) their unrelenting desire to service clients. With that each asks me why their business/practice is failing and here are my reasons:
- Confident is one thing is business cockiness is another. When you believe you have too much business and fail to look down, business will fail.
- You suck at follow up. Voice mail and email were developed for a very simple reason – ease of follow –up. Failure to return calls and email forms is not only poor business procedure it is stupid.
- Time Dementia – Some appointments take longer than others. With 30 years of business I too have been caught in lengthy conversations. However many years ago this wonderful device called the cell phone was invented so that communication can be relayed when tardy.
- Call Returns – Calls should be returned within a reasonable timeframe. I use a 90-minute rule, others a few hours. After a day expect a call from your competitor thanking them for the new client.
- Language Lack - owHow Did you ever receive a proposal for services in the mail without a cover letter? Since I might cut a check for a few thousand dollars a simple note of thanks for the opportunity might be helpful.
- Rules of Etiquette – I expect to be greeted by last name initially and expect an explanation of services to be rendered. Do not speak in terms of acronyms and Martian language uncommon to me. And if you do not like the previous work there is little reason to speak of prior vendors just show me the value you can provide.
- Show up – When I hire you I hire you not a team of subordinates. If that is the case then communicate but do not expect me to read minds.
The problem with small business is not the amount of new possible business – its arrogance. Anyone can begin a business. There is a low barrier of entry, but not everyone can stay. It takes quite a bit of marketing to remain visible in very competitive markets; it also takes the ability to ask for the order. Yet most important is the consistent and relentless ability to be service oriented. After all the failure to follow up differentiates you from everyone else.
© 2011. Drew Stevens PhD. All rights reserved.