By Wendy Enelow, CCM, MRW, JCTC, CPRW
Successful entrepreneurs understand what it takes to win in today’s intensely competitive careers industry. It takes a combination of business savvy, expertise in client relationship management, and an enduring commitment to servicing and satisfying each and every client. Here are 10 basic concepts of entrepreneurial elegance that will give you and your business a competitive distinction and ensure that you’re on the right track to long-term success and profitability.
- Embrace Your Clients. The key to success in our business is the ability to build strong and enduring client relationships. To achieve that, you must understand the concept of embracing your clients - making them feel special, valuing their business, responding to their needs and being accessible. If your clients feel a sense of warmth and safety in their interactions with you, you will have reached a huge summit in your professional life. When those clients do feel special, they’ll be the first to tell their friends and colleagues how remarkable you are. Then, just watch as your phone rings, your email box fills up and people are "knocking at your door" for your services, expertise and support. Remember, your existing clients are your single best sales force!
- Be Friendly & Personable. People want to do business with people who demonstrate a real interest in and concern for them. And, the best way to show that is by being friendly, personable and down to earth, while always retaining your professionalism. Consider truly successful people you know and you’ll realize a common characteristic that almost all of them share is they are open and friendly. It’s as though they’re silently communicating, "Come up and talk to me. I’m all yours!" In turn, others are attracted to them, want to do business with them and want to be a part of their world. Be sure that you exude that same kind of genuine openness and approachability.
- Listen Well. Give each client, colleague, employee or whomever you’re speaking with - whether in person or on the phone - your full attention. If your caller hears papers rustling in the background, if you’re constantly putting them on hold to catch another call, or if you’re whispering in the background to other people, you’ve communicated that you’re not listening and you’re not interested. The prospective client will go somewhere else, where someone listens and someone cares.
- Create The "Right" Image. Often people don’t meet you; instead, they meet a piece of paper, a website or a business card. Therefore, it is imperative that the visual presentation and content of each be the very best that it can be. Invest in sharp-looking, upscale business cards and brochures. In fact, invest in a graphic artist who can design an image that reflects you/your business and is unique. Then, translate that same design to your website to ensure that all of your marketing communications are consistent and present the same image and high degree of professionalism. If you’ve been fortunate enough to actually meet a prospective client or business colleague, after you’re gone, no matter how positive the impression you make, the only thing that someone has to remember you by is your card and brochure. Let them make a strong and memorable statement.
- Create Your "Best" Voice Mail Message. We all know that voice mail messages should be part of your overall marketing strategy. If you can’t answer the phone at a particular time, at least your voice mail message can communicate the value and professionalism of your services. However, be sure to keep your voice mail message short and to the point. How many times have you placed a call and then had to listen to a message that’s 60, 90 or more seconds long? It’s as though it will never end and you’ll never be given the chance to actually leave a message. All too many prospects will simply hang up. Don’t let that happen to you.
- Respond Today! We all have days when things get out of control and we simply can’t get it all done. And, that’s fine. However, it’s not fine to not respond to each day’s voice mail and email messages. Even if all you can do is call or email a client to say that you’ve been extremely busy and can’t talk today (what time tomorrow would work!?), you’re at least acknowledging them and their importance to you. Make this a daily priority in your professional life, starting today and forever.
- Make It Easy For Someone To Return Your Call. How many times have you had to listen to a phone message two or three times to get the caller’s phone number? To ensure that you don’t do that to others, repeat your phone number twice - slowly and clearly - whenever leaving a phone message. In addition, don’t leave more than two numbers where people can reach you. When you leave three, four or more numbers, it becomes too much of a chore to track you down. Take advantage of the latest technology that allows you to link all of your phone numbers and make it easy for someone to return your call.
- Be Thankful. Clients love to be appreciated, and there is little in business that can mean more than a handwritten thank-you note. When an employee, a business partner, a colleague or an associate does something for you, send a handwritten thank-you note via snail mail, not by email. With the advent of email technology, online greeting cards and the like, the personal attention that characterizes thank-you notes has disappeared. There is NOTHING someone will remember longer than a handwritten note that you’ve taken the time to send just to them. Buy several packages of cards and keep them on hand so you can mail one at a moment’s notice.
- No Man (Or Woman) Is An Island. Entrepreneurial success is all about building partnerships, relationships, alliances and more. And, that never holds more true than when you’re talking about entrepreneurship. The successful entrepreneur is the one who surrounds him/herself with other talented people, realizing that the knowledge and energy to be gained from others will be of invaluable support to them as they continue to pursue their entrepreneurial goals and success.
- Build Your Own Community. Entrepreneurship can be lonely and isolating. As such, it is essential that you build your own support system (combination of personal and professional) to provide yourself with a sense of belonging and unity. The community that you build can provide you with much-needed camaraderie that most people (those that are NOT self-employed) get from work. Because most small entrepreneurs work by themselves or with just one or two other people, it is critical that they build their own support community because work will not directly provide it.
The key to success in our business is the ability to build strong and enduring client relationships. To achieve that, you must understand the concept of embracing your clients - making them feel special, valuing their business, responding to their needs and being accessible. If your clients feel a sense of warmth and safety in their interactions with you, you will have reached a huge summit in your professional life. When those clients do feel special, they’ll be the first to tell their friends and colleagues how remarkable you are. Then, just watch as your phone rings, your email box fills up and people are "knocking at your door" for your services, expertise and support. Remember, your existing clients are your single best sales force!