Learning what mistakes to avoid is important
Chances are that you’ve read numerous books and articles on what to do to succeed in business. Knowing what not to do is even more important. In order for your company to make more money, be sure you’re not inadvertently making any of these top business mistakes.
- Mistake No. 1: Prejudging your customers. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but all too often business owners prejudge their prospects and customers before ever talking with them. How many times have you met someone and thought, “I doubt he can afford my product,” “She looks like she’d be impossible to work with” or “This person isn’t my ideal client”? Rather than prejudge and dismiss what could be your next best customer, suspend judgment and take the time to get to know each prospect and client.
- Mistake No. 2: Taking too long to follow up. If someone calls or emails to inquire about your products or services, how long does it take you to get back with them? While many business owners think it’s OK to reply within three days, you really need to get back with people within 24 hours or less. After all, if they’re contacting you for information, they are likely contacting your competitors as well.
- Mistake No. 3: Not working with someone because of imagined slights. If someone is having a bad day or is not feeling well, they may say or do things that you think are meant in a mean way. For example, a prospect may ask, “How did you get into this business?” Because of their demeanor that day, because they’re rushed or because of any number of other reasons, their question might come across to you as though they asked, “How did you, of all people, get into this business because you certainly don’t look smart enough to do this?” Never take anything a customer says or does as a personal attack. It usually isn’t.
- Mistake No. 4: Making prospects and customers feel unimportant. People want to know that they’re more than just another sale to you. They want to feel that you really care. For example, one business owner was stumped as to why one of the company’s best customers stopped buying. Finally she asked the customer what happened and the customer explained that in the past the business owner had always taken her out to lunch once per quarter, and they hadn’t done that for nearly six months. As a result, the customer felt that she no longer was important. Upon hearing this, the business owner promptly took the customer out to lunch and she got a sale. Therefore, take an active interest in your customers. Remember their birthdays. Send them a small gift on their anniversary. Do whatever you can to make each customer feel special.
- Mistake No. 5: Not letting your staff handle important issues. When there’s an issue with a customer, can your staff members take care of most of the situations or must everything wait for you to resolve it? When you make customers wait for you to get an issue resolved, you’re giving them extra time to stew over the situation and get angrier. Instead, give your staff members the training and tools to handle whatever situation arises, so they can make the customer happy right away. Remember, you always want your customers to leave your store or office happy and with all their issues resolved. That’s the best way to ensure repeat business.
- Mistake No. 6: Being inflexible with your hours. We all want life balance, but sometimes work is not a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job. You have to be flexible if you want to get the sale. That means if you have a good lead or a customer who is ready to spend money with you now, you may have to work outside your normal business hours. Be open to returning phone calls after business hours or even meeting with a client on a weekend. You always can balance out the extended hours you put in one day by taking time off another day.
- Mistake No. 7: Waiting too long to make an important decision. In business, the speed at which you can make an important decision is critical to your success. Opportunities won’t wait until next month, next week or even the next day. To prosper, you have to take action quickly. For example, if you interview someone who seems perfect for your open position, make an offer immediately. If you wait, another company also will think the person is perfect and hire them. Or, if you have an opportunity to sponsor an event at a good price, secure your spot. When you hem and haw over the return on investment of the decision, by the time you make up your mind all the sponsorships could be bought. Trust your gut when it comes to decision–making; it’s usually right on.
- Mistake No. 8: Making it impossible to find your contact information. Make sure your contact information is easy to find. On your website, your phone number and email address need to be prominent on every page. Nothing frustrates customers more than wanting to contact you, but not being able to because they can’t locate your phone number on your website or in your email signature. Even the most loyal customer will eventually give up and call your competition simply because they made their contact information visible and easy to find.
- Mistake No. 9: Using cheap marketing materials that make you look bad. Your marketing materials tell a lot about your company — not just in the words on the page, but also in the overall look and feel of the piece. Take a good look at your current marketing materials. Do they look professional? Are there misspellings? Do they properly represent you? When your marketing materials look like an amateur created them or when they’re riddled with errors, you send the message that you’re unprofessional and incapable of delivering quality work. Make sure your marketing materials present you in the best light.
- Mistake No. 10: Being rigid with your contracts. If your business uses a contract with customers, it’s definitely an important part of the transaction. However, just because it’s important doesn’t mean it also can’t be flexible. If someone requests a change to the contract, consider it. If it’s something small, give in to it. Realize that sometimes people just want to feel as though they’ve won — that they negotiated a good deal. If the item they want to change is small and not that important to you, let them have it. Rather than give them more time to think about it while you reissue a new contract, allow them to simply handwrite in the change and initial it. The quicker the contract is executed, the sooner you’ll get the sale complete.
Taking advice from others can be hard for any business owner, but why repeat the mistakes others have made? Learn from them, so you can shorten your learning curve. When you take the steps to avoid these top mistakes, you’ll be on the fast track to long-term success.
Pam Lontos is president of Pam Lontos Consulting, Orlando, Fla. She is a past vice president of sales for Disney’s Shamrock Broadcasting, a founder of PR/PR Public Relations and the author of “I See Your Name Everywhere: Leverage the Power of the Media to Grow Your Fame, Wealth and Success.” She can be reached at 407-522-8630 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is available online at pamlontos.com.