12 Ways for your company to show its professional side

By Lola Rain, for the HBA

Successful businesses continually evaluate strategies and customer service. Once you identify areas you want to improve, implementing a strategy can be a simple task. Here are 12 ways you can shine in the eyes of your current and future clients.

(1)Be the Expert
(2)Listen Carefully
(3)Follow Up
(4)Respect, Loyalty, and Trust
(5)Keep It Clean
(6)Shop Around to Save on Your Bottom Line
(7)Appreciate Your Clients
(8)Prospect, Prospect, Prospect
(9)Respond to Every Inquiry
(10)Differentiate Your Company
(11)Evaluate Your Online Image and Yelp It Up
(12)Ask for the Business

(1)Be the Expert
Positive attitude and enthusiasm can win potential customers and even build clients for life. People are looking for an expert they can trust. “Be the expert,” said Jeff Metke of Metke Remodeling & Woodworking Inc. “We believe after 23 years, we have enough gray hair, advice, and expertise. We are going to take a lot of time — baby steps toward cementing a relationship.” Stating your expertise can also be the first step toward building a long and lucrative relationship.

(2)Listen Carefully
Active listening can help you succeed as a communicator. It requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what they hear. The ability to listen actively can reduce conflict, strengthen cooperation, and foster understanding. When interacting, people often are not listening attentively. They may be distracted, thinking about other things, or thinking about what they are going to say next. “Listening is very important,” said Debbie Kitchin of InterWorks, LLC. “We want the process to be as comfortable as possible. We don’t want them to be concerned or upset.” Actively listening for clues that indicate the potential for concern or conflict can greatly improve your relationships with your clientele.

(3)Follow Up
In today’s world everyone is busy with family, work, and life. Communication has become difficult even though we have more ways to communicate. One successful sales person suggests asking your clients up front how they like to communicate: phone calls, voicemail, text messaging, or emails. Everyone has a preference. Check in with your clients often and communicate the process. Nancy Long at Sisu Painting said she touches base with her clients frequently after the initial free phone consultation. It’s just as important to follow up during the process as it is after the project is complete. Long does a final walk-through after painters walk away to look for issues and schedule touchups. She puts each client into a contact management system and sends them closing out papers, warranties, and thank you cards.

(4)Respect, Loyalty, and Trust
Professionals know who they can trust: other professionals. Recognizing and respecting the vendors who have been there for you is important in any economy, but trust and loyalty can be essential for survival in economic downturns. “It’s been very rough over the last few years,” said Thomas Liesy, owner of TA Liesy Homes NW, LLC, which is why he has remained loyal to his vendors. Liesy also understands the price sensitive market. “We provide more than our competition and we are extremely loyal to our vendors,” he said. Cutting corners and hiring sub-par labor is not an option for companies who are dedicated professionals. Knowing who you can trust shows your commitment to professionalism.

(5)Keep It Clean
Your professional image is important, but it’s not all about how you, your office, or your showroom looks. Kitchin said her crews always keep a clean work site, which cuts down on dust, improves safety, and is better for the environment. It’s also a common and professional courtesy to extend to your clients, some of whom may have concerns with chemical sensitivities, asthma, and allergies.

(6)Shop Around to Save on Your Bottom Line
In today’s economic climate any savings is good unless it erodes your professionalism and your company’s commitment to excellence. Loyalty to vendors you trust is extremely important. But when it comes to meeting your clients’ goals, sometimes you need to shop around and cut costs to help achieve a tighter budget. Thomas Payne from Craftsman Home Group, LLC, spends a lot of time with clients to make sure they are getting the best price for what they want. Payne said it’s important to help clients find products on sale early on in the process. “I am trying to avoid having to shop late in the project when the budgets are tighter,” he said.

(7)Appreciate Your Clients
Business is tough and your hard work deserves recognition. The best recognition often comes in the form of repeat business and referrals. Sisu Painting sends two cards a year, including a Happy New Year card with a photo and blurb about the Santa House at Bridgeport Village. “If you treat them as lifetime clients, they are more likely to refer,” said Nancy Long. This type of appreciation can come in the form of cards, emails, phone calls, or even annual events. Some members give Home and Garden or Street of Dreams show tickets to their top clients. Others have annual appreciation parties. Your clients will recognize your level of professionalism through these acts of kindness.

(8)Prospect, Prospect, Prospect
It’s a cycle! You just finished a job and now it’s time to start the next one. How do you ensure you always have business in the pipeline? Through prospecting. One of the best and easiest ways to prospect is through the HBA. Attend an event and talk to people. Build relationships and make friends. Prospecting can be fun if you enter it with a positive attitude. Besides events such as monthly luncheons and happy hours, consider attending the Reserve Trade Show or sponsoring an event. These simple techniques can actually change the way you look at prospecting in the future and help you to keep business in the pipeline.

(9)Respond to Every Inquiry
Each and every voicemail and email is important to your business. How many times have you left a message only to be frustrated by no response? Companies that respond quickly are more likely to earn the business and respect of clients. Not responding can also tarnish your business through word of mouth. People are just as likely to say, “Don’t use that company, they aren’t very responsive,” as they are to say, “They have great customer service, I highly recommend them.”

(10)Differentiate Your Company
Know what areas you excel at and talk about them with pride. Carl Paasche of Woodcrafters Lumber Sales says his company stresses high quality products and customer service. “Anyone can sell for a lower price,” he said.  “We try to maintain the highest quality and a high level of customer service.” Specializing in a niche product or service can be helpful in setting your company apart. Woodcrafters, for example, specializes in molding that are no longer made. “If you need a molding to match, we are your best source,” Paasche said.

(11)Evaluate Your Online Image and Yelp It Up
Metke uses Websites and Facebook to reach out to clients, but he doesn’t shamelessly promote his business. “Become an expert on what people are doing to maintain their house and work to engage with clients on Facebook,” he says. While Metke admits his company is not as diligent as it needs to be with its Website and social media, he is trying to be more regular by dedicating at least 5 hours a week.  Long developed a group of 12 professionals to help out with her social media. “It’s a group effort,” she said. Sisu Paiting trades services with the group and they review each other online. “If an electrician comes into the group, everyone agrees to use the electrician,” said Long. By having multiple reviews on Yelp.com, Sisu Painting has a strong SEO presence. Long received a total of 14 bids in January. “Most of it came from improving online presence,” she said. “Nine bids from Yelp, Angie’s List and Google, and five from PRO members.”

(12)Ask for the Business
However you market your company, whether it’s through advertising, social media, or a referral system, waiting for the phone to ring is a passive way to do business. Following up with leads takes time, but the sales cycle can be shortened by asking for the business. Simply add to the end of your sales pitch or elevator speech, “Can I count on your business?” or “When do you want to start the project? I know you will be happy with my service,” and watch what happens next. It takes practice to build the confidence for the “ask”, but the results will be worth the effort.

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