You’re Communicating Wrong and How to Fix It
Today we want to talk about why you’re communicating wrong and how to fix it. This came out of some thoughts we had about communication styles. Your communication style, your preferences in communicating with your customers, with the people around you, your vendors, etc. And what their preferences might be and how to handle that.
As an example, we have a vendor that does things for Coldesi, that really only likes to talk on the phone. And we are notorious for not wanting to talk on the phone. So what would happen is for the first two years that we tried to do business with each other we didn’t connect at all. He would phone and then we’d respond with an email. We lost business between each other because of it. This is a valuable vendor for Coldesi. We found that after one particular phone call, we sent him and email saying “I never answer my phone, if you would just send me an email, that would be great.” Then we got an email back from ‘John’, asking if we can hop on a phone call later that day at 2:30. And that drove us nuts. So that was both our loss and his.
This is what happens in business. You have a method that you prefer for communication. Whether that be text messages, phone, or email. Other people may hate communicating in one of those ways. Perhaps you’re the person who prefers to think something through, then write it out, read it, and then send the communication through – which is why you may prefer email or text messaging. Other people may find that to be work, and they just want the thoughts to flow easily and the inflection of voice that you gain through verbal communication. They may have reservations about their written communication – perhaps they feel embarrassed that they can’t spell well. Written communication is intimidating.
What happens in business (and can occur in your personal life as well) is that if you try to force your communication style to much onto others, then you will lose business to someone who will accept their communication preference.
One quick example is our Custom Apparel Facebook Group, 5,500 members, and a certain percentage of those prefer to get their information on Facebook. They’re on there anyways. They would rather chat with us on Facebook about an issue or a tech support question. They find it a burden to phone call or email, or go to the support site an fill out a request. Whereas just going to Facebook and chatting is easy for them, and immediate.
We are in a day and age where we have this convenience of communication. We’re spoiled a little bit by it, but if you’re spoiling your customers a little bit by giving them excellent communication and service then you’ll win customers because of it.
Let’s call it like it is, if you’re on Facebook do you keep in touch with many friends who are not on Facebook? There are people who we haven’t seen in years, that I occasionally communicate with on Facebook, that I would never email or write. That’s because the communication is simple and readily available.
What do we have to do then? What do you do when you’re a small business owner and you really prefer to have all your communications via email, but you run into customers who would like to do something different than that? How do you manage that without disrupting your own personal flow?
For us, we err on the side of the customers. As a small business owner, it’s important to do as much as you can, as efficiently as you can. But also, to some extent, that really doesn’t matter. Unless your business model is built around an online store, you solely take orders online, and that’s successful and working for you. If your whole business is made up of online orders and you’re geared towards customers logging in, designing their own shirt, and you just make it and ship it, then if someone wants to call and talk to you on the phone about an order, it may cost you money. If you’re working 8 hour days, a thirty minute phone call is a reasonable chunk of that time.
You have to choose when the time is right and wrong. However, when we talk about most of our customers that are out there, we’re in the custom apparel business, and so we’re dealing a lot with people who are making custom jobs across the board. They’re doing things for sports teams, schools, business owners, corporations, etc. Having proper communication on style, color, size, is important, so you have to make sure you do that efficiently. However, you’re also a salesperson and you’re trying to sell to these customers. This means you need to embrace what they want.
The vast majority of our customers do local business. One of the things that we talk about in all our blog posts and podcasts is that personal connection and getting out and meeting your customers and your potential customers. Just like more people are more likely to do business with someone they’ve met, they’re more likely to do business with someone they’ve talked on the phone to versus just receive an email. And they’re more likely to do business with someone they got an email from, than someone they didn’t hear from. It’s a scale of interaction and the more personal you can be the more likely you are to earn repeat business.
If you’re out there in the world and you’re meeting people, that’s great. If you don’t like to meet people, if that is not your preferred style of communication, then we’ve already said you’ve got to get over that if you want a local business. The same goes for phone calls, you just have to engineer your business to say “I know that Mark Stevenson hates to talk on the phone, so if I want his business, and I want to communicate with him properly I’m either going to have to text message or email him.” You may want to keep a list like that and go through your optional ways to contact people and fit those into your style.
What you’ll notice is that when you deal with a large business, they often will ask you what you prefer. You’ll get those questions from them “How would you prefer for us to contact you? Phone, text, email.” Take this lesson from people who have learned this before you. Businesses have learned that when you ask a customer how they prefer to be communicated with and you follow along that trend they like you better. They want to do business with you.
You should do this with your customers, but you also want to make sure you stay within the facets, rules, and efficiency of your business. What does that mean? You might have someone who really loves to talk on the phone, or maybe in person. However you might have some efficiency that you need within that.
Example: they like to talk on the phone and they want a quote for 100 t-shirts and 100 caps. However, you know not to just tell somebody a number on the phone and assume they understand. If that’s how they prefer to communicate though then you need to explain to them your rules and methods and merge. If you explain to people why they’ll understand. What we mean by this is, you’re on the phone with the customer, you say “100 shirts are going to cost you $X. 100 caps are going to be $X. The total is going to be $X. If you want me to deliver them by mail it’s going to be an extra $X. What I need to do next, just to make sure everything is perfect clear, is to email you a quote. I’d like you to review it, and then I can call you back on the phone, or you can respond directly to the email and say you agree to the terms. But either way I can call you back in a couple hours. Is that fine by you?”
This way you’re communicating to them “My style is writing things down and making it very clear, putting it all in an email. You’re style is talking on the phone, so I’m going to talk to you and then I’m going to ask you to come to my side as a compromise, and then we’ll come back and talk again.”
You may even do this, if you get someone who likes to talk on the phone then you can send them the quote then get them on the phone, and say “Are you in front of your computer? I just sent you an email with the quote, I’d like to go over it with you to make sure that I was clear. This gives you the opportunity to go through the quote while you have them on the phone. You can then have them click on an accept button, or write “Accept” in a reply and send it back to you so you can get started.
That will turn into a great closing tool too.
One thing we run into here, that you might run into in your business as well, is people will say to us “why don’t you just send an email to everybody?” And we do, but that’s going to only hit about 30-40% of the people. Then we’ll send a second email. We could send an email 12 times and we’ll still have 15-30% of the people who still haven’t seen that communication. Sometimes we have to mail something, some times we have to pick up the phone and call people.
At ColDesi and Colman & Company we go out of our way to provide information to our customers, not just sell stuff. We send them information about the blog posts and podcasts, but also twice a week we have 1 hour tech talks for our machine owners, with our best technicians on hardware and software. We send out emails to all of our owners suggesting that they sign up, we put everything on our site. They can also subscribe to our YouTube channel and when we put up a new video about how to do something, or a new product you’ll also get notified. We also put Facebook ads out there with information and new resources. When one of our best customers – who has been a customer for a decade, has multiple machines – came in a few weeks ago and we were talking to her about this communication thing, and we asked her “Let me ask you your advice. We have these great resources for people, these tech talks and we average about 15 people. We sell probably 50 or 60 machines every month, so that’s about 1,000 machines a year and we get about 15 people that come to the tech talks.” She says, “Well, first of all, I don’t read your emails. And secondly, they’re during the day so I tried to sign up for one, but then had a customer come in so I just couldn’t make it.” But her suggestion was “I call Colman & Company for supplies all the time, if someone could talk to me then, I would learn a lot more about what you guys are doing.”
It’s a constant challenge in business. Our supply calls can’t be filled with information about everything we’ve got going on. We have to pick and choose what we can communicate on the phone. We can’t spend ten minutes of every call explaining what’s going on. It’s a balance of what to communicate and when. We have a new product coming out on the website, and we gave one of our guys a list and asked them to call all these people and email them, to let them know that we have this product and see if they want a sample of it. We went through the phone list and made contact with about 30% of the people – and we’ve called and emailed them. In 30 days, inevitable we’ll talk to someone who will say “I didn’t even know you had this. Why didn’t you tell me?”
You’ll get that to where you’ll email a customer a quote and they won’t see it. Or you’ll phone and leave them a message, but they won’t listen to it. People are distracted and busy, just like you are.
What if one of your biggest customers doesn’t read emails and you’ve been sending them information about a great deal on a shirt you’ve got overstock on. Or “since you ordered these things, I’m going to give you this for free, if you order a little bit more.” What if it’s these promotions, that because you’re sending emails, your best customers never get.
We have a potential solution. We’ve talked previously about using a CRM – Customer Relationship Management software. You can use a CRM to build a database of your customers and you can input notes and documents just pertaining to that one customer. This way when you go to review that customers information in the future you’ve got everything in one place – previous work history, notes: they love this band, hates to talk on the phone. In your CRM you can put a section for preferred communication style. It doesn’t have to be terribly complicated. It means that whether it’s yourself or salespeople you have in the future, if you’ve got all this information and you start doing it right now, in a year from now when you want to follow up with them, you can go through your CRM and pull up their information. You can go through and say “I’ve got 40 people to call, 100 people to email, and 3 to send a text message, etc.” And if one of your customers likes to be talk face to face, you can figure out when you’re going to be in the area to stop by.
You become a chameleon of communication for your customers. They’re going to notice it and you’re going to make more money.
Because Coldesi is limited in the ways it can communicate to customers, we bet there are machines we’re not selling. Because there are people who really only respond to text messages, and we don’t do that. That’s going to be the same for your business. You may go through your CRM and identify a customer that you’ve done nothing but email with and you’ll pick up the phone one day, and you’ll spend 20 minutes talking with them. Then they’ll go back and read your emails and place a big order. It’s something that can happen when you vary your communication style, regardless of the way you prefer.
Make sure that within all of this that you follow the tenets of your business. Whether that’s you need an e-signature on quotes etc. Make sure that it’s not so inconvenient that no one likes it but you. Sometimes you can change or adjust what you do. Get feedback from your customers.
We can almost guarantee you that you’re communicating wrong in some way. You’re not excited to get a phone call, you’re not responding to emails quickly or emailing very well, you’re not emailing to your customers any sales or promo information, you’re not stopping by, you’re not on Facebook. You’ve got to embrace all of it and find ways to transition those other communication styles into something that’s going to work for you and your customers.
If there’s something you don’t like doing, find a way to improve it. If you really don’t like email because you have Outlook on your computer and it’s really cumbersome to use, there are other email clients you can use. Or perhaps you do all your emails from your mobile device or tablet. If you don’t like phone calls, perhaps it’s really loud when the machine is running, make a certain part of your day where you do phone calls, and you can include that in your voicemail “I’m on the shop floor until 4pm every day, I’m happy to return your call then. Or please send me an email and I may be able to get back to you sooner.” You’ll find that when you communicate honestly like that you’re going to have people, that although they wanted to talk they’re perfectly fine with sending you an email, and then perhaps including a request to call them after 4pm.
Same thing goes for emails, check them twice a day. Once in the morning and again in the afternoon. You can put a note in the footer of your emails to let people when you respond to emails, so they know that if they email you at noon, not to expect a response until 4pm.
You’ll win more customers, you’ll have happier customers, you’ll give them a better experience, and you’ll have a more successful business. In business it’s all about “How do I get one or two more customers?” And if you do this, you’ll get a few more. It all adds up.
Have a good business!
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