Volume 17, Issue 6- November/December 2013

By Donna Wells

The Key to Success

I recently read an article in the New York Times about communication and how it has changed as a result of social media. The story suggests that today’s generation of 20- and 30-year-olds choose social media as their preferred choice of communication over having an “old-fashioned” face-to-face conversation. I agree. I have a niece and nephew in their teen years who prefer to text me rather than pick up the phone and speak to me. I, of course, would much rather hear the inflections in their voices rather than the “ding” notifying me that yet again, they have something to “say” to me.

Business Trends
I wondered how this communication trend affects the business world. In general, business is based on building relationships, trust, likeability and personality. Social media is based on using as few letters and numbers as possible while trying to communicate your thoughts. Now, let me be the first to say, yes, I use social media as a means to assist my business, but it is not my primary source of building a business relationship. I still pick up the phone and engage my clients in a conversation for at least 5-10 minutes. This allows me to not only establish a relationship with the client, but gives me the opportunity to ask questions and clarify what the client is trying to achieve with window film.

If recent college graduates prefer to text, Tweet and Facebook, how are they going to succeed in business? Let’s face it; you have to be able to sell your company to your peers verbally.

Calls vs. Email
The Times article mentions someone who owns an advertising business. She noticed that her sales were significantly dwindling. She concluded that her staff (all under the age of 35) were emailing their pitches and not picking up the phone and interacting with their clientele. The moral to the story: if you are only an email address, you are much easier to dismiss than someone with whom the client has shared time and eye contact. You will close a lower percentage of your sales electronically, compared to those done in person.

I sell window film to people all over the country. My territory extends into Canada. It is virtually impossible for me to meet with everyone face-to-face. However, I do pick up the phone and try to have a conversation with everyone. I find that if I have a conversation with the potential client, I close about 50 percent more of those inside sales than those I am only able to email. Try this exercise in your own office. Follow the sales outcomes of your three groups of potential clients: those you were only able to email, those you could not physically meet with but spoke to over the phone and finally, the ones you actually met in person. I think you will be surprised by the end result!

Internet is Your Friend
If you are an automotive shop, you are in a different category. Most of your sales are based on building a quick relationship via the Internet or telephone. Try to entice clients to visit your showroom. Let them know that you offer a variety of product. Of course, if they would come to your shop and see the products, they would have a better understanding of which product line will best suit their needs. Perhaps you could offer them $10-$20 off if they come to the shop and book the appointment while they are there versus booking the appointment over the phone.

Finally, building long-term partnerships with industry members is no different. If you believe you are going to find new business partners solely by contacting people through social media, you may be very disappointed in the long run. You, as a business owner, need to participate in industry-related functions. You need to go the extra mile and spend personal time building relationships with owners, architects, automotive sales managers, etc.

Many of you go to a jobsite or job walk, introduce yourselves to the person you are supposed to meet and then complete the task at hand. What if you spent an additional 10-15 minutes walking around and familiarizing yourself with the other contractors? You might find this exercise will lead your company to future business.

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