Sherlock Holmes gets it!

I watched an episode of Sherlock recently, ‘The Sign of Three’, and I must confess I was beginning to think that maybe I could be doing something better with my time.  But, the last ten minutes, or so, saved the day; because it made me think about business.

So, what’s Sherlock Holmes got to do with any business?  Well, he’s a pretty good detective, and in business we should always be looking for clues, such as to business trends, customer delight and staff morale – to name just three.

And something that caught my attention was when Sherlock was ‘helping’ Mary with the seating plan for her wedding.  She asked Sherlock if this particular person should sit at the top table and Sherlock said no.  When Mary asked why Sherlock replied, ‘Because he hates you and barely thinks about you.’ She replied, “Really?”  Sherlock then explained, “…Second Class post, cheap card, bought at a petrol station…”

The thing is this is also the case with many businesses.  They use 80gsm paper, manila envelopes or cheap off-white, thin card, Second Class stamps, leaflets printed on their inkjet (often crooked), and much, much more; everything for as little money as possible.  Now I’m not saying that you should throw your money away.  But, when talking to clients and prospect customers, what does cheap stuff say about you?  And, more importantly, what does it say you think about them (your client)?

As Sherlock says, do you barely think about them?

Little things can make a bid difference to the success of your business so make sure you get them right.

99 Red Balloons

I’ve just listened to one of my favourite songs from the ‘80s, ’99 Red Balloons’ by Nena and it reminded me of a presentation I attended some years ago by BNI Executive Director Andrew Hall. If you ever get the chance to hear Andrew talk I highly recommend it as he tells the most amazing stories which are all linked to business success. And it is one of those stories that I want to relay to you now. Although Andrew tells it much better than I will, I think it is so powerful but at the same time so easy to implement.

The story is about selling and comes from the time that Andrew used to sell balloons in Battersea Park.

At the time Andrew had a team of fourteen sellers and what made him unusual was that he trained his team in how to sell a balloon. He didn’t just give each member of the team a bunch of balloons and say ‘go sell’. He did a far better job than that, and this is what he did. It really is what makes the difference between doing an okay job and a brilliant one. And it’s so simple.

It goes something like this. When someone approached the seller, Andrew’s seller would say “Would you like one?”, and that’s where most normal sellers would stop. And in most cases this seller would get a ‘No’ or a shake of the head. But Andrew’s sellers were well trained, and before the person approaching them had time to speak, they added the ‘killer’ line, “Which one would you like?”

They had been presented with a simple choice, would they like the red balloon or the blue balloon? The result? Hundreds of balloons sold.

So, how does this story help you?

The answer is simple. Most people when selling ask the prospect if they would like to buy whatever it is that they are selling. Therefore it is easy for the prospect to say ‘No’. But, if instead, you can provide your prospect with a choice then your conversion will increase.

It can be as simple as asking, “Will you be paying cash or would you like me to invoice you?” Either way they are giving you their order.

If you can find your ‘Which one would you like?’ offering your sales will climb.

And, should you need any help then please do contact me.

£100 Bar Tab

Collecting the details of your clients and prospective clients, and keeping in touch with them, is essential to your future success.

And I really like this simple little card that I picked up at my local just last week.

It offers the chance of a £100 Bar Tab. Now that has to be worth my name and address. But there are also another couple of nice things offered.  A small gift when you sign-up and the promise of a little treat on your birthday.  Well at least I know I’ll have one present to look forward to!  But they also have a clever promise, a guarantee, especially useful for those worried about handing over their details to companies.  They will “… NEVER, EVER, EVER rent, sell or share your information”.  That’s a nice reassuring touch.

Their fishbowl was already pretty full with completed cards when I dropped in and there was even a pot of pens conveniently close by.  Not one pen mind you – about thirty.  Another bit of good thinking.

So, what simple mechanism can you put in place in your business to collect data and ensure yourself a brighter future?

Their phone went dead!

I rang a prospective new supplier today – at 9.37am. After ringing for ages the phone suddenly went dead. Maybe they weren’t open yet, I thought. I rang again, this time at 10.52am. Again the phone rang and rang and rang. Again it suddenly went dead. Did I try a third time? No!

That company lost what could have been a huge amount of business for them. Why? Well, for any number of reasons. Their phone is left unattended for hours. When it’s not answered it just goes dead; not even a boring answerphone message. At least with an answerphone message I would have known the business still existed. There’s lack of customer care. Lack of organisation. Lack of thought. I could go on. What’s certain is that nothing is saying we really value your business.

So do you know what happens when someone calls your business? Is the phone always answered? How many times does it ring before it’s answered? What is said when it is answered? A bored ‘Hello’ or a helpful ‘How can I help you?’

You could be spending a great deal of money on advertising only for it to be wasted by how your phone is being (or not being) answered.

Why not run a little test? Ring your office the moment it opens, then again half-way through the morning, again just before lunch, during lunch, just after lunch, half-way through the afternoon and lastly just as you are about to close (but not all on the same day). You might be surprised at the results.

I know of a company where the receptionist wore headphones; no one heard the phone ring and no one knew she often didn’t answer it when it did.

In my business the aim is to answer the phone within three rings (by the office staff). Should the phone ring more than three times then the person nearest a phone picks it up. It doesn’t matter who that member of staff is as they have all been trained on the best way to answer a call.

Glasses on the bar!

It amazes me how many businesses seem to go out of their way to lose business and customers. And I fell prey to this just last weekend.

Now, okay, the pub I was in had been busy. But no business can afford to throw away business – ever. Well, not if they want to be Super Successful. Or, maybe, even just stay in business.

This is what happened. Things were becoming calmer after a hectic lunchtime and two of the bar staff started to clear the tables of empty glasses; something that really should have happened as part of the service. Soon the bar top was covered in an assortment of dirty glasses. Now to my mind it would have been better for one member of staff to collect the glasses and the other to take them off to the kitchen. As the whole bar looked a right mess.

But, things were far worse than that. No one was served for over five minutes! And there was a fair number of us; in fact the bar staff had to work their way through us to get to the bar. This was when three locals had decided they had had enough. There was another pub up the road. A couple that had only just arrived followed them out of the door. And I was only getting some extra drinks or I would have left as well.

The thing that got me was that these two members of staff could see us all waiting but didn’t think to stop doing a job that could wait and instead do a job that would make them a profit. Now I certainly won’t be going to that pub again; maybe I never would have done as we were only passing by. But the three local people certainly gave the impression that they wouldn’t be back as it seemed this was pretty much normal service.

Business is tough at anytime, and is certainly hard at the moment, so you just can’t afford to throw away business that is already in your hands. Now I’m sure that you are thinking that you would never stack a bar high with dirty glasses when you had customers waiting, but are you absolutely sure that you aren’t doing anything similar in your own business? Might just be worth a look and you never know you just might see an increase in your profits if you were to find something.

Thank You ……….

Most well-mannered people say Thank You.

However, I have to admit that I, almost, dislike intensely people who don’t say ‘Thank You’. I don’t know if they are half-asleep or just plain rude.
I’ve held a door open for someone and they just walk through as if it’s their right, without even a flick of the eyes in acknowledgement. Many a time I’ve given them a sarcastic ‘Thank You’ in passing but most often it doesn’t even register.

Then of course there are car drivers. You’ve pulled in to let them pass, or stopped to allow them into a stream of traffic, and you get nothing in return.

Surely it’s a common courtesy, just well-mannered, to say thank you?

But enough of my ranting, because I’m actually writing about those people who do say ‘Thank You’ – which in my experience is the majority of people.

‘Thank You’, ‘Thanks’, ‘Cheers’ are all nice to hear but often are ‘lost’ because it’s a semi-automatic response from a naturally polite person and you are expecting it.

Here’s a simple example – you give someone a tube of Smarties and they say thank you. Nothing wrong with that, it’s polite. The moment passes without much further thought.

But how much better would it be if instead the person said, ‘Thank you, I love Smarties’? How much better would you feel? You had got them a gift they really liked.

Think back over the last few times that someone has thanked you for something. I bet you remember, and feel better about, the times that you received more than a plain thank you.

In business, and your personal life, you will see a big improvement in your relationships if you thank people with more than just a bare ‘Thank You’.

And it’s so easy to do.

When a delivery is made, rather than saying ‘Thank you’, say ‘Thank you for delivery so quickly’ or ‘Thank you for stacking the boxes for me.’

If someone gives you a referral, try saying, ‘Thank you, that’s just the sort of work I love.’

As often as possible add something to your thank you. Imagine how you would feel if someone took the time to thank you specially. Well that’s exactly how they will feel.

It’s only a small thing but I promise it will make a massive difference to your relationships.

And thank you for taking the time to read this blog.

Who will get to the phone first?!

Communication today is easier than it’s ever been and yet it is still the biggest area where all too many businesses fail; big time. And it is costing those businesses a great deal of future business and, more importantly, profit!

If you are dealing with a customer and they are waiting on something, and it doesn’t matter what that something is, you must contact them before they contact you. If your customer makes contact first you risk damaging your relationship with them and the amount of future business you get from them and the people they know. And don’t think that providing a great service or product makes up for bad communication because it doesn’t. Great service or product is a given.

This week I’ve come across two examples of bad communication from businesses that will affect their future business.

First is a case of a business returning to put right a small problem with some work they had done. Nothing major at all; maybe thirty minutes work and no real cost. But despite promising to return do the work it took a great deal of chasing by phone and email to actually get the company to turn up. The customer was just left not knowing if the work would be done or not and started to look elsewhere to get it done.

The second case was just a matter of being kept up-to-date with a situation. Again nothing major in itself, but the customer was asking for updates and not getting any. A simple “there’s no new information at the moment” would have been so much better than having a customer think that they had been forgotten.

As I say, both of these cases will cost the businesses concerned future business. In one case all possible future work, as the job had a problem and it took a great deal of effort to get it put right. The person concerned not only won’t be using them again, but, worse still, they won’t refer them to anybody else.

In the other example the person concerned now has a doubt in their mind. They will use the business again but they will be more cautious next time and, until they are completely happy again with the service, they won’t refer them.

Both these businesses have lost potential business through poor communication. And, in today’s world of phone, text and email that is just crazy!

So, who should you have got in touch with? Make that call before whoever it is can call you. Do you have a procedure in place for customer communication? What are your rules for ‘Follow Up’?

Better communication will improve your sales in the long term; all you need to do is make that call!