Like me, many of you are small business owners… proud of what you’ve built and of what you’re doing. But the fact is, regardless of how slick your technology, how well constructed your processes or how professional your [small] team… your clients are buying YOU! They know the risks of doing business with a small firm (remember “No one ever got fired for hiring IBM!”?)… but they’re willing to take a chance. Why? Because of you.
Why they ‘buy you…’
Buyers will buy you – and by default, your firm – for any one of a number of reasons:
They like you. As silly as that might sound, that is often the foundation of a solid business relationship, especially for small businesses. “People do business with people they like.” You form a real connection with a buyer… a connection that can last a long time – even evolving into becoming genuine friends, not just work friends.
They have confidence in you. Whether it’s because of your experience, your advanced degrees, unsolicited referrals or because they saw you speak at a conference… some buyers will buy from you because they immediately have confidence that you can get the job done for them.
You’re credible. Similar in nature to confidence, some buyers will buy from you because you’re credible… based on a variety of factors, there is no doubt in their minds that you can do what you say you will do.
You’re enthusiastic. When you speak about what you do and how you can help your clients, you get excited… and it’s genuine. It’s not just a job to you. And that enthusiasm is contagious… it draws buyers in. It’s the same kind of emotion that’s exuded by great leaders, only in this case, the ‘followers’ are your buyers!
They trust you. Buyers won’t buy from you until there’s a level of trust established. And often times, that can take a while. But for many small business owners, their buyers almost instantly trust them. It’s real and it’s deep. And that can happen because of a combination of a number of factors… e.g. they like you, you’re enthusiastic and you come highly recommended… so why wouldn’t they trust you?
As a small business owner, when your buyers “buy you,” you have an obligation to them, which if you don’t live up to, can threaten the reasons they bought from you in the first place and could put your business relationships in danger.
To make sure that doesn’t happen:
Be available. Once you make the sale, don’t disappear. Your clients will have questions or concerns and they don’t want to talk to staffer, they want to talk to you. So, make it easy… make sure they have your email address, office phone number and cell phone number. And if you miss a call, get back to them immediately.
Be present and participate. Your buyers didn’t buy from you just so you could delegate the work to some junior member on the team. While you certainly don’t have to be the “lead dog” on the project, you’d better know what’s going on. Stay on top of all projects by getting updates from your team. Make sure they’re cc’ing you on all important client communications. And if there’s any problems, YOU need to be the one who jumps in, ensures the issue is resolved and gets back to the client.
Spend time with clients. And not just during project status meetings or your monthly team conference calls. Occasionally, pick up the phone to just talk with your clients… see what’s going on in their lives, both personally and professionally. And then once or twice a year, hop on a plane and go visit them… spend some time in their offices and get to know their teams. Then take them out to dinner and really get to know them on a personal level.
As a small business owner, you should feel pretty good about yourself when a buyer engages your firm because of you. They’re putting their faith in you – and their money in your hands – to take good care of them and solve their problems. If that doesn’t drive you to do great work, exceed their expectations and really engage with them, I don’t know what will!