First impressions matter: Second impressions clinch the deal

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First impressions count -- but how you handle things  if things go wrong can determine your success
First impressions count — but how you handle things if things go wrong can determine your success

Michael Stone has written a simple blog post that is worth reposting here.  (I don’t think he’ll mind.) He reminds residential contractors that the simple tasks of returning calls and showing up on time for appointments are the prerequisites for success.  I think these rules apply equally well in the ICI space.  If someone inquires directly to you, it is a worthy lead, and should be answered, quickly.

Stone writes:

We’re planning to start a minor remodeling project on our home in the next month. Nothing big: remodeling a bathroom, patching a ceiling, expanding a closet in our laundry room, replacing the skirting on our deck. I don’t know what I dread more, the work itself or the process of finding specialty contractors to do the work.

This isn’t the first project we’ve done. In the past, I’ve probably gotten one call back for every 5 to 6 messages I’ve left. Frankly, it feels like I’ve spent more time on the phone trying to get someone to come out than if I just did the work myself.

So I understand when home or building owners complain about contractors not returning their phone calls, because I’ve experienced it. Their other complaint? Not showing up for appointments, or arriving late.

Gang, if you want to increase your business by making more sales, simply return every phone call. Not next week; return it the same day or early the next morning. Surprise them.

Then when you set an appointment, go to the appointment and be there on time. Setting an appointment is the first promise you make to a potential customer; what are they supposed to think when you break that promise? If you show up, on time, you’re treating them and their time with respect.

That’s what you’re doing when you return a phone call or show up for an appointment on time; you’re showing respect for your potential client. You’re telling them that they matter to you. A little respect goes a long way.

Put yourself in their shoes. They need help but they don’t know who to call. When they do call, too often their call is ignored. When they get lucky and catch someone on the phone to set an appointment, sometimes no one shows up at the appointed time. If you think I’m exaggerating, ask on your next sales call how many other companies they called, and what kind of response they got.

Ignoring phone messages or not showing up for appointments on time is a dumb approach to business. If this is just a hobby, that’s fine, but if you’re trying to build a successful business, you’ll fail.

Fair enough. However, Stone goes a step further in his introduction to the post, describing how he blew it when he launched his weekly eletter 15 years ago, describing how “we attempted to include an attachment with our newsletter.”

“We learned it was a mistake, apologized, and soldiered on,” he wrote.

We all screw up from time to time and some of the blunders I’ve made over the years probably would earn their place in a rouge’s hall of fame. The worst error: Forgetting who our company’s real customers were, after we developed a slick supplier/client referral model that dropped business in our hands — and then we foolishly treated the paying clients as afterthoughts. That blunder almost killed my business. Thankfully, we survived and now even the faintest sign of dissatisfaction from a client sets in motion a strong “make it right” attitude.

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