There are many ways to win customers, but here are my top five and the heart behind it.
#5 Don’t trash talk the competition, but learn from what they do wrong.
When I was running my landscaping business, my customers constantly complained about the previous contractors that worked for them. It’s really tempting to chime in and say how horrible it was to be treated that way, and boast that, “I would never have done that.”
It’s much more professional to take the higher road and refrain from adding to the fire of criticism. The moment you cast stones at the other contractors, they know you are no different than the wrongdoer. It is good to empathize and acknowledge that they have been hurt, but then explain what industry best practices are and why you do it.
Take Away Point: Build your relationship on positive attributes about your business, not the negative failures of others.
#4 Use itemized invoices.
Some people don’t like this for the up sell of purchased items vs. labor cost e.g. you can charge less per hour but then make money on up sell of parts or other services. For example, a handy-man might try to be affordable with hourly rates but then bill higher for miscellaneous parts needed to repair wiring, faucets or cabinetry.
To build loyalty with your customers, being honest and upfront with costs makes a huge difference. This builds trust and your customers will remember how fair you were the next time they need a job done.
Take Away Point: If you have higher rates and you justify it with an itemized invoice, clients will be more willing to hire you again because they know exactly what to expect.
#3 Be timely.
One thing that clients will complain about across the board in EVERY industry, is timeliness. Clients complain about contractors arriving late, accountants never calling when they really should, and technology consultants disappearing at the worst times.
It’s one thing to be ON TIME but an entirely different story for being TIMELY. Timeliness is more about communicating about time. If you’re a business manager, you have to know how to end your meetings so that you can arrive on time to the next one and not make excuses for why you are late.
A contractor might get held up on a project that takes longer and gets to the next project late. It happens. I’ve been there on both sides of the equation. Communicating with your customers you are serving at the time that you have to come back later because you have another appointment to clean up your mess will speak volumes! Be sure to tell them what time you will return and that they can count on you. When you are running late, notify your upcoming appointment about it, then they are not angrily waiting by the door for you to come. No one likes waiting for the “cable guy,” but if they know exactly where he is and what to expect, it’s not so bad.
Take Away Point: Timeliness is more than just keeping a calendar; it’s making it work in your favor.
#2 Watch what you wear and say.
Clothing is a weird thing. We typically want to wear stuff that is more comfortable, but that isn’t always the best idea. For contractors, landscapers and handy-men it can be difficult to keep clothing clean. I’ve also known programmers and designers that wear ripped jeans and t-shirts to meetings.
Keeping extra clean clothes like a shirt, blazer or even nicer shoes can make the difference in your client’s opinion about you. Stay professional and be prepared. This is the best money you can spend. it’s okay to charge a little more for being a true professional.
Be careful with your words, too. Using slang or common curse words can make you seem true to form, but not as the professional you want to be known as. Typically people use curse words in moments of frustration, whether it’s taxes, gopher holes, or other annoyances which can make you look like you lose your cool and might be unfit for the job if you can’t handle small things in stride. Be calm, confident, and reassuring.
Take Away Point: If you want to be a professional, walk and talk like one.
#1 Always be honest.
This is a hard subject and even harder to do. As professionals, we never want to look like we don’t have an answer. However, if you’re a car mechanic that specializes in Honda’s and someone has an older Camry they want you to look at, it’s okay to say Toyota is not your specialty. It’s okay to explain that something is different. By doing this, your are not losing the confidence of the client. If you are honest about who you are and what you do, you’re an easier person to build a relationship with and to trust.
Honestly, it’s also okay to say NO to jobs that are not your specialty. If you’re a bookkeeper for a particular industry, make your life easier by just saying no to things that are not your specialty because those are not your target clients. You will end up spending too much time trying to adapt, and your other clients can sometimes suffer by your lack of focus.
Take Away Point: Be honest and don’t get in over your head. Keep your focus on your current niche clients.