When I was eight years old, I sent a very belated thank you to my grandmother for a birthday gift. A few days later, she called. I apologized for taking so long to send the letter, but my grandmother, in typical grandmother fashion, said, “What’s important is that you took the time to think of me.” Now, if you knew my grandmother, you’d know that this lovely Hallmark moment was 80% sincere and 20% guilt. But that’s OK. Her comment has guided me ever since in my relationships with family, friends, and business associates.
We’re No Different
We’re no different than my grandmother. We want our friends, family, and acquaintances to think of us. We want them to ask about our lives, to send congratulations, and to remember important dates like our birthday and anniversary. No one is perfect, and no one expects you to be, but they do expect you to make a sincere effort.
In business, “Taking the Time” is a mindset. We all know it’s easier and less expensive to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one. That fact has been drilled into our brain repeatedly. Yet, we devote most of our energy to chasing new customers or simply reacting to existing ones. What we rarely do is contact our existing customers. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. When was the last time you called a customer for advice about a product or service? How often do you send out surveys asking for feedback? Do you ever phone a customer just to ask how they are doing without launching into a sales pitch?
I’m Guilty Too
We’re all guilty of falling into a comfortable routine, me included. I call those Classic and ClassicMODUL distributors I know, the ones I have a comfortable rapport with. We talk about business, about families, about the news. Often, we simply bitch about stuff. Then I get a call from a distributor who has a problem. The problem is often small, but it somehow goes from a molehill to a mountain in a nanosecond. It’s then I realize that this customer feels forgotten. We have a business relationship. Nothing more. The customer doesn’t know me, and worse, I don’t know anything about them except their monthly sales volume.
It’s Not Hard — But You Have to Try
It’s not hard to stay connected with customers, but you have to try. You have to carve out time to call, to email, and to plan. You have to contact customers you know well and those you barely know or don’t know at all. Be prepared to have something to share, but more importantly be prepared to ask questions and to listen. If you are a manager, hold your team to the same expectations. Develop a communication plan with expectations, goals, and tools. If it doesn’t work, then change the plan but not the overall goal.
Starting now, resolve to stay in touch. But make this a resolution you keep (not like that silly New Year’s resolution to train for an IronMan event).