Don’t turn your customers off…
In a tough market, the last thing we want to do is make it harder to get referrals. While sales people and business owners go to “get more referral” seminars in droves, these seminars focus upon how to ask for referrals and/or how to add value to the transaction to get more referrals. These are all good topics, however, what they don’t focus upon is how difficult we sometimes make it to get referrals because we turn our clients “off.”
This is not to say we don’t do a good job to bring the transaction to closing. It is to say that we do certain things within the process that prevent our clients from becoming an advocate for our business. As we know, we need strong advocates if we want referrals.
The next question is, what do we do to turn our clients off? The most important thing is communication. We are not talking about just returning calls but actually implementing a practice of proactive communication. What is proactive communication? It is a set policy that guides the process. Here are a few facets of proactive communication…
- First, you want to make clear what you will be communicating in the process and when you will be communicating this information. That way you have set expectations. If clients are expecting you to call every day and you wind up calling once per week, you have not met expectations. If you tell them up-front that you will be calling once per week, then you have met expectations.
- Let them know how to best get a response from you. If you don’t return emails quickly, then let them know the best way to get in touch with you is by phone. Of course, it could be the opposite. If you leave all avenues of communication open (including them calling AND emailing because they are not aware of the “right” way), then responses will be that much more difficult.
- Most importantly, you must let them know as soon as there is a problem. Many practitioners think it is best to solve problems before the client hears about them; but if the problem does not go away and it comes as a surprise at the end of the process, the damage can be extraordinary. Let them know there is an issue and you are working to resolve it. Let them know the worst case that could happen if the issue can’t be resolved.
- Finally, you need to make sure you let them know what the process is supposed to look like from beginning to end. If they are not ready for the closing of the transaction, then what could be a smooth closing could become rocky. There is nothing worse for a client than not knowing what is supposed to happen next.
In addition to your ability to communicate, your ability to listen is just as important. You must make it clear from the beginning of the process that you will listen to their concerns and opinions. Nothing is worse for a client than a service provider who completely discounts their opinion. Instead of saying we should not do that, try asking the reason for their suggestion. If you think there are other considerations, present them. Try to give the client options instead of saying no. The relationship should have an atmosphere of partnership, not dictatorship, regardless of your experience level compared to theirs.
Do not push recommendations for other service providers upon them. Yes, you should always make recommendations. You are an expert and you should refer them to experts. Some of them will follow your suggestions and some will not. If they say they have a friend who will do the other work, let them know you are open to working with them. Talk to the friend as they could actually become another referral source. If it appears that the person cannot really service your client’s needs, then you should both come to that conclusion.
Be a professional in every sense of the word. Some feel that professionalism comes from degrees or experience. Those attributes are important, but it is also important how you carry yourself during the process. If there is a problem, do you lose your cool or do you become a leader? That is what a client is looking for, a leader of the process. How well do you lead?
From our experience, the lack of referrals we obtain from our clients can be attributed just as much from the way we conduct ourselves within the process as compared to how we ask after the process is over. We are not saying that sales seminars are not important, but if you do not take care of your clients, nothing you do afterwards will help.