The Personal Touch(es)

Have you ever:

- called a company for a quote and never got a return phone call?

- described your future needs to a business, got an enthusiastic response, and nothing happened?

- met someone at a networking event; agreed to take their call, and never heard from them again?

These head-scratching scenarios happen all too often in businesses both large and small. Obvious opportunities to sell, provide service or nurture a relationship go unexploited. Hours of time and thousands of dollars spent marketing, networking and advertising are wasted. Legitimate leads are never converted to sales due to perceived disinterest.

The way people buy is changing, and one of the big changes is that in our content-centric, options-filled world, buyers require more touches with businesses before they decide to buy. Those numerous touches – 7, 10, 13 or even more depending on who you read and how they count – require a strategy for developing a personal relationship that complements a customer’s interest in specific features and benefits. Chances are they can find features, benefits and prices similar to yours with a few clicks. But why should prospects consider your company at the moment they’re ready to actually buy?

They will consider you if they know you and you know them, not just as buyer & seller, but as people who are comfortable with each other, respect each other and recognize their mutual interests.

Wait. What if YOU own the business that does the poor job of follow-up I described earlier? As a business coach I meet hundreds of entrepreneurs each year. I believe strongly that all the business I could ever need is linked to the few hundred people I already know – not the 10,000 on some email list I could buy. Here’s the sad truth: less than 5% of small business owners are effective at following up with their contacts (even when there are obvious sales opportunities, as I described above). All the excuses get trotted out: I’m too busy; they know how to reach me; it takes too much time; I don’t want to bug them; and on and on.

If you’re building sales nothing substitutes for deliberately nurturing relationships with a big pool of qualified prospects (set a goal to have at least 500). For example, within 24 hours of meeting someone new, send them a personal note letting them know how much you enjoyed meeting them (handwritten will instantly distinguish you). Or thank them in email and attach something informative that you know, from talking with them, they’ll read and appreciate. Ask to connect with them on Facebook and/or LinkedIn. If they acknowledge receipt of your note, then within 7 days touch them again and suggest a cup of coffee. Your goal isn’t to sell: it is to deepen the relationship. If they don’t acknowledge your note, push out the next touch to 30 days, but don’t stop trying to connect. Keep your name in front of them and continue to share ways in which you can help them with their business. Newsletters are one way, but my preferred way is to write short, personal “thinking of you” notes with articles, “how-to” tips or recommended links.

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