by John Ingrisano
I know a fellow who once threw a handful of customers out of his restaurant because they were really wolfing down the chicken on all-you-can-eat night. (After the fourth platter, he announced to the men, all sport fishermen, “Okay, guys, that’s all you can eat,” as he ordered them out.) You can bet that they not only never came back, but (A) they told all their buddies, including me, about how they had been treated and (B) the eatery down the street was more than willing to have their business.
I know another fellow, a self-employed film/video editor, who cursed, slammed equipment around the editing bay, created an unpleasant atmosphere of tension on the set, insulted customers, and just in case that wasn’t enough, rarely bathed. I worked with him only when absolutely necessary, and I was not surprised to learn that he has long since gone out of business. Instead, I took my projects to a competitor, a man who was just as talented, but also gracious, charming, and cheerful to be around, a man who always made me feel welcome and made it clear that he appreciated my business. (It has been more than 27 years since I left the area and have seen Lee, but he is still in business, paying the bills and, yes, even prospering.)
My point: It doesn’t matter if you have a terrific product or service. As an SBO (small business owner), your greatest asset is relationships. Make sure that each and every customer knows (not “thinks,” but KNOWS) that he or she is incredibly valuable to — and valued by — you. (When I invoice my clients, I often tell them: “Thank you for the opportunity to work together. I appreciate you.”)
Even when a customer becomes rude or demanding or wants to skin you alive and then fillet you, there is absolutely no reason (none, zero, never) to be rude in response. Oh, you may have to say, “I’m sorry, but I simply cannot let this product go for $10 less than I paid for it.” In these situations, be gracious but firm.
The amazing thing: I’ve had clients who worked very hard to pick my pocket. Keep in mind that this must have been a standard practice for these folks. (If I say I can do it for $4,300, they will come back and demand that the price be $3,900.) They no longer phase me, if only because I’ve learned that bad business is worse than no business. However, here’s the kicker: After they’ve made the rounds, it is not unheard of for them to come back to me and say, “Okay, let’s do business. What was that price again?”
The bottom line: Work hard, make money, have fun … and always be gracious … always. — JRI
John R. Ingrisano
The Freestyle Entrepreneur
The Freestyle Entrepreneur – winner of the 2010 Top 35 Entrepreneur Blog awards from OnLine MBA.
The Freestyle Entrepreneur
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