Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First Class Email - Can You Spare A Dollar

One of the great outcomes of the computer age is email. It has done more to revolutionize communications than anything else since the invention of the telephone. This is especially true in the world of business.

It has resulted in instantly documented communications which has helped clarify and promote business activities. Email provides a quick response to business opportunities, helps reduce confusion and reduces mistakes in the execution of business plans.

With all its merits email still has problems and the biggest is people. The lack of etiquette in the use of email in the business arena is unbelievable. Here are just a few of my pet peeves about email misuse.

Email was originally designed as a means to convey short messages quickly and efficiently. This still is its primary purpose. The problem arises when people try to write an epistle when they send an email.

An email should be brief and covering just the facts, you should not have to search for the point of the message in a long flowing commentary. Use the subject line to clearly state the subject of the message. If you feel you need to give more information, do it in a document and add it as an attachment to the email while keeping the email as a summary note.

Even though it is a short message you still need to adhere to all writing protocols and be grammatically correct. Do not use email shorthand such as acronyms and company slang when writing emails. You should not assume your reader knows what the shorthand means. The purpose of the email is to accurately and clearly communicate information. This is especially true when sending emails outside of your company. Remember your email reflects not only on you but also your company.

One other comment on writing an email, check your spelling. Spelling errors and errors in grammar can be extremely frustrating to the reader. They also make you look bad and less intelligent to the reader. Plus, you don’t know who the email may be forwarded to.

One of my other big “peeves” with email involves the “Copy” button and the “Reply All” button. When you write and send messages think carefully about who you copy on the message. Ask yourself, “Do they really need to know this information?” The reason for this is simple courtesy and the fact that people get so many emails every day. Send your message to people who really need the information and not to everyone in the office.

The same guidelines should be used when replying to emails. You do not have to reply to every person who was on the original copy. As an example, the other day I received an email from my manager notifying me he was going to be on vacation next week. He copied all the appropriate people in the company. Within fifteen minutes I had twenty-five additional emails in my in-box wishing him a good trip. I really don’t need to know you are “kissing up to the boss”. Use the “reply” button, not the “reply all”.

If you are worried about whom to copy or reply to then use this simple guideline to help you decide; would I pay for a First Class Stamp to send this note to them? If they are not worth a First Class Stamp the odds are they do not need a copy.

These are just a couple of my pet peeves on emails and there are many more. They all come down to the use of basic common sense and business etiquette. Emails may be short, quick memos but the information they carry is important to your success and the success of the company. Take time and think about what you are emailing.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Customer Service or Customer Bother

The other day my wife and I were shopping at a major department store in the local mall. I was trying to find a certain item so I decided to ask one of the sales staff where I could find it.

I walk up to two members of the sales staff who were talking to one another in the middle of the department. I stood there not wanting to be rude and interrupt their conversation thinking surely they would acknowledge me. After a few minutes of being ignored I said to them, “Excuse me, but could you tell me where the ‘such and such’ is?”

She responded with her back to me, “It’s over there, a couple of aisles over.” She did this with a flip of the hand in that direction and then went back to talking to her partner.

I told my wife, “Let’s go. If I am that much of a bother I don’t need anything from here.” We left and I may not go back to Macy’s, in our town again.

On the way home we stopped at our local Publix grocery store to pick up something for supper. Again I had to ask for help finding an item.

I asked the stock boy, who was down on his knees stocking the bottom shelf, where the item was. He immediately jumped up and said, “It is on Aisle 5, let me show you.” Even though I said I could find it he went with me and showed me exactly where the item was.

Did you catch what I just did in the above two paragraphs? I named the places of business where I was shopping. I named the store where I had the bad customer service experience and I named the store where I had the good customer service experience.

How many times have you heard someone say I going to buy a new car at Big Time Auto Emporium and heard someone else say, “I wouldn’t go there. My brother had a friend who heard they were rude to customers.”

That is what generates the most results from a customer service incident. It is not just one customer you lose but it could be all the potential customers they talk too.

When I worked in the consumer products industry we were told for every one customer complaint received, you lost one hundred other customers. These were either people who received poor service and did not complain or who heard about the other person’s problem and took their business somewhere else.

The same is true for good service. People will recommend companies and sales people who they get good service from to their friends and family.

If you have been in direct sales or service for any length of time you know a large part of your business comes from referrals. “Word of mouth” recommendations from friends and family are one of the leading sources of referrals.

Which type of customer service do you offer your clients?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Deep Thoughts . . . Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.

Don't you get tired of calling people and having them answer the telephone like you are the biggest bother in the world. Isn't this especially true when you are responding to an advertisement or a sign in a yard. If they did not want you to bother them why did they put their phone number on the sign? Heck, if that is the way they answer the phone do I really what to talk to them. I will just take my business somewhere else.

As a sales person have you ever wondered why your business is falling off? Yes, times are bad but is that the only reason you are getting less business than before? Or, is your shrinking business affecting your attitude and your attitude is carrying over into your conversations with potential clients.

Maybe, just maybe it is time for you to "smile when picking up the phone."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Not Politically Correct

Last night I was reminded of an old high school Agriculture/shop teacher I had and of all the things I learned from him. He taught us everything from the common name for hand tools to "Robert's Rules of Order". All of which I still use almost everyday. I was also reminded of an old blog post I wrote and I would like to share it again.

Not Politically Correct

The other day I had to prepare a short talk to give at a meeting I had to attend. It wasn't that difficult as it was a subject I was very familiar with but you always wonder about the length and time.

Many moons ago when I was taking Agriculture 1 as a freshman at Aurora High School in Aurora NC we had a short chapter on public speaking. Our teacher, Finley Lewis, gave this simple rule which has stuck with me and guided me in every speech I have made:

"A speech should be like a woman's dress, long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep the interest."

Aurora High School 1960'ish

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Your Name Badge – A Public Service Announcement

Have you ever watched business people get out of their cars at their local grocery store and quickly remove their name badge? Or, have you gone to lunch with other sales people in your group and had them remove their badge before going into the restaurant? This never ceases to amaze me. Are they embarassed by who they are and what they do?

Name badges are one of the best and least expensive means of self-branding and advertising available. Not only does it open the door for conversations and questions about your product and/or services, but it also serves to reinforce your name. For a few well spent dollars your name badge is publicly announcing who you are and what you do wherever you go.

From my experience, in the past, as an automotive sales person and my present involvement in the real estate industry I can honestly state that a name badge can and will generate contacts and business for you. On numerous occasions I have had people come up to me and say, “You’re a real estate agent. Can you answer a question for me?” This simple opening has directly led to real estate listings opportunities and potential buyers.

On another occasion, while having lunch at a local restaurant, a lady came up to me and said she noticed I worked at a local car dealership and she had a question to ask me. After answering the question I gave her my business card and asked her to come by and let me show her the model she liked. She showed up and I sold her the car.

Would this have happened if I was ashamed of my badge and removed it before I went into the restaurant. No, it was the badge that provided the opening for the entire business transaction. There is a saying in real estate among agents, “Don’t be a secret agent”. If you want other people’s business you have to let them know who you are and what you have to offer.

In order to succeed you have to go out and get the business. Self-promotion and advertising is one of the ways to do it. Your name badge is another tool which can make this happen.

To re-cap, here are a few facts about name badge use.

1. It will help a client remember your name and reinforce you as the expert.

2. It is a conversation starter.

3. It will bring you potential business and opportunities.

4. It is inexpensive advertising with a high return on your investment.

In order to maximize your success from wearing your name badge here are a few guidelines for name badge use.

1. Buy a quality badge. A cheap badge is just that, a cheap badge, and reflects on you.

2. Make sure it is easy to read.

  • a. Not too large that it is obnoxious or so small you can’t read it.

  • b. Not too congested with information. Just your company logo, your name and job title.

  • c. Your name should be the most prominent feature.

  • d. No fancy print or fonts. Clean, clear and concise.

3. If you shake hands with your right hand, wear your name badge on your right chest.

4. Make sure it is attached right side up and straight. Don’t laugh, it happens.

5. Use common sense when not to wear your badge.

6. Monogram clothing, shirts, jackets, sweater, and hats, are another way to get the effect in a more casual environment.

Your business is all about name recognition and branding. The more you get your name out in front of the public the more likely they are to think of you when a need arises in their lives for your services. Whether it is print advertisements, internet use, business cards or name badges, each serves to remind people who you are and what you have to offer.

Don’t keep your professional expertise a secret, flaunt it. Wear your name badge and let people know you are the expert in your profession and you’re there to help them. It works!

Make your public service announcement today by wearing your name badge.

Friday, August 5, 2011

It's Chillin Time

It is Friday afternoon and another busy week is winding down and leading into another busy weekend. So take a few minutes to unwind and get in some serious chilling.

Check out my little brothers music at the link below. After a few minutes of it you will be ready for Miller time or what ever your choice is.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Business Cards - Your Personal Billboard

Have you ever asked a sales person for a business card and had them say they were out? Or, have you had to wait while they rummaged through their wallet or purse and pulled out one that looked like he had been sitting on it for years? What does this say about the professionalism of that sales person or the lack there of? It is bad enough you had to ask for the card to begin with.

Whether you are a businessman, sales person, job seeker, you’re self-employed or work for a major corporation your business card is one of the best marketing tools you can have. It tells who you are and what you have to offer a potential client. It gives them all your contact information including your company name, your name, address, telephone number, fax number, mobile/cell phone number, email address and your websites. It advertises YOU.

Here are a few tips for maximizing the use of your business cards.

1. Don’t skimp on quality. A cheap, homemade card looks like a cheap, homemade card. Remember you are trying to present a professional image and you have to take every opportunity to convey that image. Even when you select the best premium card from a professional printer, this will be the least expensive advertising you can buy and it will give you the best return for your dollar spent.

2. Don’t put too much information on the card, otherwise it becomes cluttered. People will not read a cluttered card. Usually people will only give a quick glance at the card and determine if they will keep it or toss it.

3. Don’t print on both sides of the card. Leave the back blank. By doing this you have created a place for the potential client to make notes about you or a particular service you are offering. This can be a great tool for the client.

4. Always carry your business cards. You never know when the opportunity will arise for you to give someone a card. No card equals a lost opportunity.

5. Don’t be stingy, give them out liberally. Take every opportunity that you get to give cards to people. Hand them out any time it is appropriate. Leave them at places of business and restaurants. Send them with all of your mailings. I even heard of a person who got a real estate referral from a card he sent with a payment he mailed out. There are all kinds of opportunities to promote you.

6. If the circumstances are right give out more than one card to each person and ask for referrals.

7. Etiquette

a. When given a card – give a card.

b. When given a card – look at it and don’t just put it in your pocket.

c. Know when self-promotion is not appropriate.

d. Don’t be obnoxious or too pushy.

e. Look at the card you are giving out to ensure it is your card, it is clean and it has no writing on the back.

8. On all follow-up contacts and mailings send another card

You are promoting yourself and your business. Your card can speak volumes about who you are and what you have to offer. It serves as a reminder of your contact and meeting.

As a real estate professional I recently received a telephone call from a person that said, “I was looking through my desk today and saw your card. I have this property I am thinking about selling and wondered if you would be interested in discussing it with me?” Out of the blue an old card I had mailed out last year brought an opportunity.

It is not always practical to carry your resume or brochures with you everywhere you go or all the time. A business card can be the next best thing.

It is time to put your advertising dollars to work and light up your billboard. Let’s hand out some cards.

Have you had any special success stories as a result of business cards? Let me know how the using business cards have helped your business.