By Stephen Day
Communication is essential for business startups.
People are so darn interesting. Every person and every business has a unique story and I want to know it. Now that may sound strange. But I really do want to know about the people and the businesses I encounter. Why? Because each one of us comes from different places, cultures, experiences. So many people, so many stories.
I am a very curious man. I think I will cheat myself if I do not get to know someone else’s story. So I work at this. But it never feels like work at all.
Let’s talk about why communication skills matter in business. Let’s suppose you are an entrepreneur launching a new venture. We will disperse with the traditional entrepreneurial talk that always states the obvious….find a niche product or service, do a business plan, and search for capital. You have heard that all before.
What we will discuss in the next series of blogs is how your communication skills can help you attract new customers, great employees, suppliers, creditors and investors.
This article will address only customers. I will discuss parties in later blogs.
Customers Come First
There is nothing more important that finding customers right away. I do not mean prospects; I mean CUSTOMERS. I do not care if you refer to them as clients, or patients, or guests, they are ALL CUSTOMERS. It is important to remember that you serve them; they do not serve you. Regardless of whether you are selling products, hotel rooms, or medical professional services, NOTHING HAPPENS UNTIL YOU MAKE A SALE. NOTHING!
At Day Capital Partners, we review many startups. One of the first things we consider is the management team. Does the team have any sales experience? If not, are they willing to beat the bushes and let the world know about their product? Quite often, we see the CEO or team coming from a research position or a mid-level management position with a large corporation. They never had to ask for a sale, as that was a given within their company. Many have never even been on a sales call with their old company’s sales force. Having accounting or management skills is important but it is no guarantee of a success if they cannot acquire customers.
If the CEO or founder is uncomfortable with selling, then he should never start a business.
We do encounter many people who cannot ask for an appointment or close a deal. Usually I find that they do not have the strong belief that what they offer will genuinely help other people. If that is the case, why did they start a business? When the startup CEO relies upon another person to bring in the deals, then there is little chance that the company will succeed. That CEO probably should find another, stronger leader to replace him and act in some other capacity for his business.
Remember, because they are your customer today does not mean they will continue to be tomorrow. It is really up to you to keep them thinking positive thoughts about you and your business. If you do not seem grateful, they will move on to your competition. If you do not state your appreciation of their support and business, they will be susceptible to the next good sales person to enter their door. To keep them happy requires good communication.
Here is an example of how things go wrong. I recently asked for my physician to call me. The medical secretary attempted to schedule me for an office visit but I told her that I wanted my doctor to call me. When he did, late in the day, he was clearly exasperated that he had to actually call a patient. I reminded him that I was not just a patient; I was a customer….and one who had brought other customers to him. I pay him; he does not pay me. Instead of engaging in a very quick conversation about a concern of mine, he showed impatience at needing to deal with me in a non-traditional manner by actually meeting my needs instead of his. The loyalty that I had felt for this physician evaporated in the few minutes of that call. Instead of learning to communicate with his patients via the phone, he demonstrated to me that my needs were not important.
Think about your customers. Do you or your staff convey the same attitude as my physician? I hope not.
Sadly, I have dozens of stories like this. I pay great attention to how businesses treat both new and existing customers. We all should work to improve our relationships and it all starts with good and regular communication.
Here are some tips to help in communication with customers:
- Develop a pro-active Client Relationship Management (CRM) system to stay in touch with all your current and potential customers.
- Develop a newsletter that can reach all of your existing and future customers. Feature articles about your customers as well.
- Learn who your customers are. Learn about the company, and then learn about the individuals. Remember, companies do not buy from companies. Individuals buy from individuals. You may think that your big customer is a Fortune 50 company, but it is really the employee or officer of that company with whom you connected. Nurture that relationship and any others within the company you meet.
- Use social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc) to promote your company, its products, and especially its employees. Customers love to see photos of your employees, and learn more of their personal interests. If your accountant loves to ride motorcycles and your HR manager is involved with a charity, feature them at various times. You will be reminding your customers why they want to buy from you. Praise your employees to your customers.
- Pay personal visits with the customers and with potential customers. Call your competitors’ customers and ask them why they buy from them and not you. You might discover some rather surprising answers.
- In all your communications, engage with everyone with a natural curiosity. People can tell when you are not genuinely interested. Do not take yourself too seriously. Let the customers see the human side of you.
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