By: Scot Duke
Why do you believe in what you believe?
I am not talking about your Religious beliefs. I am talking about the belief people have in something that will work, or not work.
Let’s take business practices you believe are successfully to doing business. Or, the procedures you take in doing business because you believe it will work.
Granted, there are some really sound business practices business people should follow that are more than a belief and are more proven to work, or not.
But, there are some proven business practices that could be improved.
Let me ask you a question EVERY business person should ask themselves when it comes time to improve your business’ bottomline.
What is the one thing you do that is successful in doing business?
Usually the answer will consist of several things you do to secure business because you believe you need these several things to be successful. See, you have a belief that needs improving…
Why? Well, ‘Why’ is the question you should ask yourself more than any other question. For, to understand ‘Why’ something is done builds your belief in that ‘something’.
If the answer to ‘Why’ is something you did not know, then you learned something. So, learning the answer to ‘Why’ is the first step to believing in something.
Lets get back to the original question of the one thing you do that successfully brings in business, improves your business or, even better, elevates your business’ image.
If you answered the questions with something like ‘the most important thing I do to successfully do business is to get to know my customers better’ then you have either read my book on How To Play Business Golf, or you have figured out the most important thing you need to do in business.
Now, ask yourself, ‘does knowing your customers better really make your business successful?’. The answer is simple, ‘Absolutely’. If you believe that it is the most important part of you doing business and you believe you are going to continue to make an effort everyday to talk and visit with at least one customer a day, then you have established a belief.
Now, let me answer the question ‘Why’.
Getting to know your customers is more than sending them an invoice with ‘Thank You, Have a nice day’ written on the bill, or mailing out Holiday Cards once a year.
Getting to know your customers is taking the time to personally visiting with them at least three times a year; to get to know them as a person, not as a client. Even in the legal and medical professions, there is a need to learn more about the client than their legal or medical problems.
As is the case in every business, getting to know your customer is getting to know the problem before it happens.
What you learn when visiting with a customer is their likes and dislikes. This is very important information you will need in order to do business with them. It also provides you knowledge of a problem before it gets out of hand.
Knowing your customer allows you to prepare your business to keep your customer, or to compete in the market for your customer.
Also, the time spent with your customer allows the customer to get to know you. This really pays off, especially when it comes time for your customer to decide who to do business.
On the same note, when your customer gets to know you they are more than likely going to refer their friends to you. When you let your customer know that your intentions are to get to know them better so you can better serve them they are going to pass that on to their contacts.
So, the direct answer to the question ‘Why do I need to get to know my customers’ is this..
The more you know about your customer the more you know how to do business with them. And the more you know what your customer thinks of you, and your business, the more you are prepared to improve your business.
And the best answer to the ‘Why’ is, If you are doing well with this customer he is going to let his contacts know how you do business, which brings you more business.
Now, let me take this a step further. From taking the time to visit with customers to learn what they think about your product or services you have eliminated the time you would have had to take to do damage control on the way your business would have been running. So, you get to use your time more effectively building solid business relationships instead of spending even more time constantly making apologies for the way your business is going.
Having already solved problems before they happen will open up more time to think of things to do to improve your business.
So, now, the answer to ‘Why’ has developed your belief in something.
Now lets take the other side of the coin on the answer to the original question, ‘what is the one thing you do to successfully do business’?
There are many of you who work for someone or have a position in a company that has nothing to do with customer contact. Being from that environment I can truthfully say that companies who do not support these operational employees in providing them an opportunity to periodically get on the frontline with the customers are very, very short sighted and are missing out on some great opportunities to increase their business and corporate image.
If your business has 100 employees, you have 100 business representatives. No matter if they are the stockmen in the warehouse or receptionist in the front office, they are your business. When someone asks them who they work for, they are telling that person they are working for your business. This instantly makes them one of your company’s representatives. The businesses that take advantage of this are the businesses who know how to be successful.
Every business that has employees should encourage each of them to take part in building relationships with customers.
Why do I believe it can be done? Well, that is because I know it can be done.
Many years ago, when I was stuck off in a sea of cubical, typical to corporate
America workplace, I received a call from one of the company’s many disgruntled customers. How he got my office number is still a mystery, but I suspect that someone I knew personally provided him with the information. And, why he was calling me was simple, he could not get a live person on the 800# that all large companies are providing their customers to call to air their concerns.
What this very upset gentleman wanted was to talk to someone. Just anyone in the company to talk to him and hear what his concerns where. The gentleman had little expectation that anything was going to be done to fix the problem he was having, he just wanted to air his concerns in hopes that someone would understand his situation and fix the problem so more customers are not miss-communicated to…
Now, my job then was to process reports and coordinate with internal departments to make sure they got the information they needed to do their job. Usually this responsibility would take about 10 hours each day to get the work processed. So, needless to say, I did not have the time to take to talk to a customer about his problems.
But, after an hour and half of listening to the customer’s concerns I found it very disturbing what he had been told by the company’s representatives who are responsible for making customer contact. Being a good corporate citizen I needed to address his issues so other customer would not had to go through what he had to go through.
After completing the conversation with the gentleman I compiled my notes and looked for the root problem that was causing the gentleman’s concerns. What it boiled down to was there was not relationship built with the gentleman when he contacted the company to do business.
There was nobody interested in knowing that the gentleman was handicapped and was taking care of his ailing mother. Nobody even wanted to know if the services he wanted to purchase would help his situation…nobody wanted to know his likes and dislikes…
Knowing how this corporation worked I knew that getting a change made would take a long time and would not meet this customer’s needs right away. And I also knew letting my superiors know what had taken place would just be half heartily taken seriously.
I was more than likely going to be asked ‘Why’ I talked to the gentleman. It was not my job to talk to customers!, or ‘Why’ did I not hang-up on the gentleman?, or ‘Why’ did I not forward him on to someone in Customer Service?
Knowing then how powerful getting to know a customer’s needs where, I did what I thought was correct and called the customer’s sales rep and explained what took place. The sales rep was totally shocked and committed to contacting the gentleman.
What I believed to be a situation where nothing would get done to save a customer turned out to the contrary. A few days later I received a call from the gentleman thanking me for taking action and he reported that the sales rep did call and the situation is on its way to being taken care of…
So, as you see, I had a belief in one thing would happen, which after asking why does it have to be that way, changed my belief in that it didn’t have to happen that way…a prime example of how w belief can be changed or improved.
If you are one of the many, many business people from very large companies, who answer the question with ‘there is no way I can take the time to talk to any of my company’s customers’ then you probably are spending all of your time in damage control or fixing problems instead of keeping the business under control You are not getting to a point where you are seeing the problems before they occur.
Lets take a look at this problem, because if you are having this problem of not having any time, or feeling that ‘talking to a customer’ as not being important, than you have build a belief that needs to be changes.
How do you go about getting this belief changed? Ask the questions ‘Why’.
Why is it you do not have the time to take to pick up the phone and call a customer?
Is it because you are sitting in a cubical shuffling paper doing the work of what use to take five people and have a duty that does not require any customer contact?
Is it because you are in the warehouse filling customers orders and are jumping through all kinds of hoops to get the orders filled on the schedule?
Or, is it you are actually talking to customers, but what they have to say is confirming a problem they have with your business you believe you cannot change?
See, in a way, I have asked ‘Why’ in an attempt to better understand your belief. And what I learned is that your belief is based on something that should have been done from the very beginning…getting to know your customers better.
OK, so you do own a business, or you are part of a company that needs to change its belief in how to successfully do business. How do you go about making the change?
First, when you start asking ‘How’ questions, you are taking steps to making the change in a belief. Asking a customer the ‘How’ question is the fastest way to finding out How to change your belief in being successful.
But, before you make the changes need to get to visiting with customers and asking them questions, lets talk about what needs to be done to prepare for those visits.
No matter if you are a one person business or you own or work for a company with 100 or more employees, the first thing that has to happen is in your acceptance of CHANGE. Yes, change is hard for some people to do.
Change means you will have to stop what you are currently doing and move towards doing something different. Change means you have to take some time to retool the way you do business. Change means your employees are going to have to learn something new, or learn to do something different.
What you have to understand is that change causes friction. Anytime someone has to stop what they were told to believe was the things to do to get their job done you are going to get friction. Just like when you push the brakes on your car to hard, your tires are going to screech against the pavement.
The same thing is going to happen with you and your employees. So, ‘How’ do you deal with it?
To deal with change is to expect un-acceptance of the change. If the change you have to make is that everyone in the company is going to take one day a month and take a customer out to get to know them, expect that someone is not going to be un-comfortable with this.
Think out what it is you want to change and how you want to change it. Then sleep on the changes. If they feel as good or better when you wake up the next day, then you can expect that the rejection to the change by your employees to be minimum.
The most important thing is to believe in what you are changing to will be successful. If your employees see your confidences in your words and actions they will follow. If not, then you may need to find a few new employees who are willing to make the change and believe in what your company believes in.
So, now that you have prepared for the change let’s talk about some of the changes you should make.
The direction of the changes you need to make in your SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) should stay consistent with all of your company’s policies. If your goal is have each person in your company make a call on a customer one day each month, then there needs to be a well written and though out policy you promote as part of your SOP.
Being an operations manager, I know that if you have 100 employees you are going to have 100 days of lost productivity, and you are going to have as many as three employees out visiting with customers each day. This not counting the employees who call in sick, of are on vacation.
Overcoming these logistics is why you have to plan your change. Maybe you make your policy to each employee take a customer out each quarter. This would spread out the time away from doing their jobs.
You then start asking the What if questions.
What if you do not have 100 customers for your 100 employees to call on? Then make it where employees take one day each quarter to go to a Networking Function to make new contacts for your sales force. Or, ask your employees to find a potential customer amongst their personal friends and take them out for the day to let them know what your business is all about.
I am sure you are now seeing how much more your business has already grown by doing this. If nothing else, the word is going to get around that you allow your employees to take one day each quarter to spend with customers or potential customers. When it comes time to grow your business you are not going to have any trouble finding qualified employees.
OK, so you have done all of your homework and you have walked out a number of scenarios of how you want the change to work and you have developed an even stronger belief. It is now time to schedule the change.
This might be the toughest part of the change. Anytime you ask a ‘WHEN’ question, you are asking one of the hardest questions of all.
You are going to have to face it. There is no good time to make a change. Some would thing that the first of the year is good. If that feels good then do it. If you want to wait until the summer, then do it then. Whenever you chose, make it part of your belief that it is the thing to do.
Not we get to the decision making questions. ..the ‘What’ questions.
What can I do to make the change more comfortable?
The best thing to do is organize something special. Use your imagination. Make it fun. Most importantly, present the message that gives your employees confidence that the change is for the better…
OK, you have made the announcement and the change is in place. Now ‘What’..
What are some events, functions or activities your employees are encouraged to do to purposely allow enough time during a day to find out the most they can about a customer’s likes and dislikes.
Well, have you heard about Business Golf? Yes, I have asked a Have question. A question starting with the word ‘Have’ is one of the most powerful questions that can be asked. That is because any question that starts off with the word ‘Have’ is providing you a solution, or something that could improve your belief.
Business Golf is more than just playing golf. If is playing golf with the sole purpose of building the most solid of all business relationships.
Now that you have made the change in your business to get to know your customers needs, Business Golf is a perfect business tool that offers your employees the opportunity to know your customers.
Business Golf also can be used to get to know potential customers as well. A very real simple solution to a real big problem.
So, let’s recap.
I have discussed why people believe in what they believe and how sometimes beliefs need to be improved upon. I talked about the WHY, How, What , When and Have questions in learning how to change, or improve, a belief. And I told you about Business Golf and why you should use it to enhance your belief in your business.
Now, it is all up to you.