What is a CRM system?
Well, this is one definition:-
What is a CRM system?
Well, this is one definition:-
Much lip-service is paid to the power of networking, and if done right it is a very useful tool for the small business. It is not a quick route to a sale, or to gaining new clients, rather it is a slow-burner, that can bring a lot into your business, should you network well. Unfortunately, many view it as a chance to sell at people, rather than to build relationships.
So, how do you network well? Start by carefully choosing the events you go to: a newly self-employed physiotherapist is probably not going to fare too well at a BNI meeting, while a lawyer or a trades-person could use this particular group to their advantage with cross referrals with other professionals or other trades. The flip side of that is that the physio would do well at sports related events, and may do better to network with leisure centre owners who could refer their services to their customer base.
Secondly, always always remember that networking is about building relationships. It is not about selling. Do, by all means, identify the people in the room you’d like to speak to, but do just that. Find common ground, chat about your business and theirs. Make yourself memorable. They will come to you when they need your services, but you can’t force the situation. Think about it – advertising on the TV doesn’t make you need that product right now, but it makes that brand sit higher in your mind when you do next need it. Networking works in a very similar way – the more active you are on the “scene”, the higher up the list of providers of your service you are in your potential customers’ minds (and those potential customers aren’t just the people you’ve met at the networking events, but all their contacts too).
Networking is, in simple terms, meeting people. Some of them you’ll like and trust and want to recommend. Some you won’t. The same will go for them. Enjoy it, be the best ambassador for your business that you can be and follow up on any good contacts you make. And keep networking – it doesn’t work if you only go once!
Customer service is one of those terms that gets bandied about, and seems to be redefined from time to time, but at the core, it is simply about treating your customer how you would like to be treated. The old adage that the customer is always right works very well in theory, but from time to time anyone in a customer facing role will face a scenario where the customer is simply wrong!
So, how can you provide good customer service, regardless of your customer base? Well, a good starting point is always to under promise and over deliver – if you say you’ll email somebody in the next hour and they haven’t heard from you in 65 minutes time, they’ll be starting to form the opinion that you are disorganised and ultimately that your business is untrustworthy. Tell them, instead, that you’ll email by the end of the day, but click on send within 30 minutes and along with the words you’ve actually sent, the underlying message of “we get things done” accompanies your missive.
On the phone, an answer is a great start! Sounds simple, but how many times have you either called somewhere and got an answerphone (or worse just that continuous ringing) or alternatively waited on hold for hours of your precious time? Of course not every small business can have a full time receptionist to field their calls, but most can use a call answering service to handle any overflow calls, thus ensuring customers speak to a human straight away.
Face to face, a smile goes a long way. In many many years of customer facing roles (and as a consumer, too), I have noticed how difficult it is for people to retain a high level of anger at a situation if faced with a friendly, compassionate, smiling person. I have witnessed, similarly, situations that didn’t need to escalate get out of hand simply because the “customer service agent” (for want of a better term) didn’t engage with the customer, and as such antagonised an already emotionally charged situation.
Don’t forget that your customers, whoever they may be, are human too, and treating them correctly is really just basic decency. Maybe we should call them “human decency agents”?
The Easter break is drawing to an end. I hope it’s been enjoyable and relaxing with or without some warmth and sunshine! Tomorrow the daily grind begins again. Telephone ringing off the hook, inbox overflowing-I’m not painting the greatest picture here!
I think we all deserve a little respite in this crazy world that we live in. I know I do! We provide telephone call answering services and client management as an outsourced provider. We also ask for help from other providers such as credit management, business consultant and PR. We do this because we do not have the time or the skills to do everything ourself.
There’s the expression ‘no man is an island’. So true and this applies equally to businesses, in particular SMEs.
No one is an expert in everything and it would be very dull if we were. Be kind to yourself.
Why does outsourcing work and what is meant by outsourcing?
You have your brilliant business idea and you are very excited about starting your business so that you can either provide a service or sell a product. So with huge energy and passion you leap into self-employment after possibly attending courses on starting a business. Brilliant! The course will have touched upon marketing, sales, and finance, perhaps a business plan and you’re off. Or are you?
The reality of running a business is quite different to the theory. All of a sudden the entrepreneur realises that they have to have several skill-sets such as networking skills (help, where do I start with that), web design, logo design, SEO, social media, sales, marketing, book keeping, admin, client management.
Help! I just want to sell ‘the next big thing’.
This is the time when outsourcing should be considered. There’s a brilliant book called The E Myth by Michael Gerber that explains this much better than I can here. It’s about doing what you do best and not being a ‘technician’. Working with other experts in their field to help you with the tasks that either are specialist or are taking up your time.
For example, if your hourly rate is £50 and an hourly rate to do your social media is £25, it would be better economically to pay a social media expert to do this for you; it would also improve your time-management as an expert would more than likely be able to do it much quicker too.
So, to sum up, outsourcing is an investment and not a cost to your business. It frees up the entrepreneur to do what they do best and isn’t that the ultimate goal?
Do you always arrive on time, before time or are you perpetually late and one of those people that enjoy making a grand entrance?
I am admittedly pedantic almost about punctuality and always arrive before the agreed time; I tend to panic a little if I think I’m going to be even a couple of minutes late. For me, to be late would be disrespectful to the person that I was meeting and I also like to compose myself a little before any meeting. On the other side of the coin, a friend of mine always arrives late without fail and definitely enjoys the ‘grand entrance’ into the restaurant or bar and I find this so darned irritating!
With the boundless methods of communication that we have nowadays, shouldn’t it be easier to be punctual, or at least make contact to say that you are going to be late?
Perhaps I am just ‘old school’, but I do see punctuality as a discipline and how it reflects on you as a person. When someone breezes in late without even an apology, I tend to view that negatively as their view to how my time is valued – particularly if it is a business meeting.
May be we all need to be a little more careful with other peoples’ feelings and lose some of the ‘it’s all about me’ syndrome – actually, that makes me want to vomit. The world doesn’t revolve around us and our ego – really it doesn’t.
That person that you have just arrived 10 minutes late to meet may have had to cancel something else to meet you on time, as they rated your appointment as being important to them. You may have just made them feel completely unimportant and irrelevant.
Would I do it all again? Not on your life is how I am feeling currently, but as with anything, when it’s all resolved, feelings will change.
To cut a long story short, I sold a property 4 weeks ago and became homeless, living in hotels, B & B and friends’ spare rooms, as my purchase fell through. No matter I thought, I have the funds in place so all I have to do is look for a property that is empty and with no onward chain and hey presto, I will be moving in within a week or so……this isn’t exactly what happened though.
Yes, I found an empty property that was currently being refurbished and I paid almost the top end of the price range to reflect the refurbishment. So far, so simple. That was until the solicitor became involved and the process almost ground to a halt, but through much nagging from me, we finally reached completion; hurrah! Armed with the keys, I entered the refurbished house – oh dear. One persons idea of refurbished is clearly not another. Kitchen half painted, holes in the walls where fireplaces formally stood, great gaps and holes in the floorboards, no floor coverings at all, bath panel missing and it went on and on and on. So, having paid for this work to be done, I will now have to pay again for this to be rectified….or will I.
Being in the fortunate position of having a business coach who is also a litigation solicitor is proving to be very helpful. This morning, he spoke to the agent to say ‘we want an action plan of how this will be rectified within 24 hours to prevent any legal proceedings’. Wow! I would have whined and whinged and ended up precisely nowhere and would have muttered about incompetence for the next year or so. Let’s hope that this matter will be resolved now.
So, would I do it all again….it’s turned my brain to mush, given me endless sleepless nights, made me feel like an itinerant and not to mention, cost me a small fortune. I probably will but would I do it better next time? Hell yes!