November 30, 2012
Listening skills “can make or break” your small business.
By Maureen McCabe, Marketing Consultant
Sick people spread germs. Students and workers are encouraged to stay at home to rest and get well. Self-employed people like me “try and do it all” — and sometimes not well. This week was an example of why I should have “closed” the office and consumed multiple bowls of soup.
When things go wrong, we tend to analyze the situation to the nth degree. These heartfelt sales communication tips are hopefully helpful, and can be used whether you are healthy or not!
On a personal level, November hasn’t been a great month physically. I hit my neck and shoulder on the bathroom doorknob while trying to stand up after a fall. I got an ear infection, which turned into a sore throat and laryngitis with a dry cough! Ten days later, I sound as bad as I still feel.
You’re probably wondering why I felt it was important to share. It helps me to rationalize, at least in part, why I was impatient and pre-judged someone who called. Here’s what happened.
I picked up the phone with a crackled voice trying to sound friendly, “McCabe Marketing, Maureen speaking – how may I help you?” The caller indicated that he was with a printing company. My immediate thought, oh no, not another one! I assumed he was a sales rep calling to request that I engage his company’s services and recommend him to my customers.
If that had been the case, he would have been the third printer rep who called — within just three days! Unfortunately, I did not listen to him and explained in great detail when he acknowledged that he had clicked(*) on my Google Ad that it “costs me money.” I have written blogs that highlighted this subject, one for students looking for a job and another for business development people.
He was polite and listened without interruption, and then advised that he had been calling to potentially hire me. I barely had time to apologize before he hung up – justifiably so! I was fortunate that his number was on my call display. I left a message in the generic mailbox that evening with a rambling apology.
(*) An aside, unlike traditional advertising where you pay a flat-rate, the advertiser pays for every click on the ad. Earlier this month, I had written a blog with 7 lucky sales tips for two reasons — to educate business owners and sales reps about how to attract customers.
Please don’t get me wrong, I like Google AdWords and love small business owners and start-up entrepreneurs looking for marketing expertise to see my ad, click through to my website, and contact me. I’m happy to pay Google each month based on the number of clicks.
TIP 1: Inadequate listening skills
As a small business owner looking to increase sales — we’re all extremely busy, pulled in multiple directions, and sometimes we cut to the chase. In other words, we need to learn how to consistently listen without interrupting.
TIP 2: Judgmental errors
It’s human nature to make assumptions. Some of us jump to conclusions — rightly or wrongly. Avoid making snap judgments expecting we know enough of the story or their problem.
TIP 3: Poor manners
Every person should be consistently treated with the utmost respect regardless of how we may feel. NOTE: I apologize to anyone if they found me “short” this week.
When someone initially contacts McCabe Marketing which may be by phone or email, I want to understand how and where they found me. Where possible to learn the “keywords” they used to search for my type of business. In this case, I had made an error on a number of fronts… but the following is an important tip.
TIP 4: Timely response to inquiries
Did you know that approximately 90% of the people use the internet for research?
Many of us have learned the hard way that it’s not necessarily prudent to respond immediately to every inquiry. As business owners, I believe we are more responsive than most people because we know the cost to acquire and retain a customer – we feel it directly in the pocket book.
To respond in a few hours or even the next day is often a better approach for a variety of reasons. It gives you the time to research and assess the situation. If it’s an initial inquiry, perhaps by “Googling” the company or person’s name you can learn more. Above all, choose a time to return the prospective customer’s inquiry when you have the time, ideally for a long (but not too long) conversation as they want to hire you immediately!
NOTE: some people like to type a reply to “get things off their chest” so to speak. But before you do, press the “forward” button to avoid sending it – in error! This was a useful tip that I learned early in my career at IBM from another employee.
Regardless of your health, a good night’s sleep puts everything into perspective. Set guidelines for yourself as to when you will make calls and respond to emails. Be sharp, alert, and professional whenever you communicate.
In conclusion, had I closed the business who knows if the caller would have left a voicemail message that I could return. Now that I blogged about yet another learning experience, I can go to sleep and rest over the weekend.
Check out my other blogs related to marketing for small business:
Small Business Social Media Tips: Claim Your Name!
Choosing the Right Social Media Platform for Your Small Business
How to find more customers & great sales leads. Seven “lucky” success tips you need to know!
Small business online marketing video is a “peep show” to your brand. Learn how to create a video.
Like what you've read? Please share this article, here: