Timing Key to Maintaining Good Client Relations

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Last Wednesday, I was called from my desk to go to our countertop shop to see if a particular top was done. It was late afternoon and everyone was gone from the shop. I managed to find the work order. I also found the top with its miter drying.

I then went to our shipping department and talked to my manager to see if he could deliver it the next day. He said he would load it first thing in the morning, and it would be delivered to the job site in time for the plumber to get it hooked up so an occupancy permit would be available by Friday. Does this type of scenario sound familiar?

Although this little episode delayed a scheduled meeting, I was happy to be able to make the needed deadline, and hopefully preserve the relationship with the contractor for future work.

On my way back to my office, I saw a couple in our selection center and asked, “How may we help you folks?”

They responded with, “We have been waiting for some time, can you answer just one question?”

I put my meeting on hold for a few more minutes to ask a designer to leave the work he was finishing to help the couple. I introduced him to them and explained what their needs were.

What was the point of telling this story? It underlined the importance of timing for me.

TIMELY ADVICE

Timing isn’t everything, but when it isn’t under your control, watch out. You’ll find you are like the hamster in the spinning cage, running as fast as you can and going nowhere.

The good news is that you can do something about your time usage, controlling the timing of the sales process, its delivery, installation and follow-up.

What I can do for you here is highlight some timing challenges and what you might do to put yourself in the best possible position to not just survive, but to thrive.

Consider the following:

  • Dealing with the chaos of not have operational systems. Even if you work alone, you cannot do things one way one time and another way another time and still be able to keep track of everything.
    Now, multiply that by 10, 20, 40, or, in our company, 75 people. A lack of operational systems which are understood and followed will cost you the ability to manage time. The answer is to create systems for success which, when followed, will produce the results you want.
  • Not acknowledging the prospect who visits your showroom in a timely fashion. It doesn’t take long with today’s culture for prospects to believe you don’t think they are important. Sometimes the best you can do is a glance and welcome; other times maybe it’s getting a co-worker to speak with them. Or it can be as simple as just saying, “I will be with you in a few minutes.”
    A friend of mine who owns our local McDonald’s says often people will come in and if there are several people in line, they will leave to go someplace else.
    The fact is, there are other places our prospects can go. It is documented that indifference is the biggest reason people don’t purchase from a company. Therefore, it’s imperative that we meet and greet all of our clients promptly in order to earn the prospective clients’ attention.
  • Spending time with an unqualified prospect. Too many people think they are selling when they are actually wasting time with an unqualified prospect.
    I find we don’t do well when we try to make our company fit needs that are not part of our main focus. This, in turn, limits our time for management of current projects and the opportunity to find and spend time with qualified prospects.
  • Creating an early expectation and not living up to it. The most common issues are being on time with appointments and getting quotes done at the appointed times. It’s imperative these time commitments be met to remain in good stead with prospects and current clients. This also helps you keep projects on track and meet other deadlines in a timely fashion.
  • Not being respectful of the prospect’s time. People are busy, so in your first encounter with a prospect, explain what your timing schedule would be and make sure it works for them.
    To save time, schedule appointments at specific intervals and have a specific agenda to be accomplished. Doing so will
    give you a better chance of maintaining control of the sales process and making the best use
    of everyone’s time.
    Remember, you must make customers feel that you understand their time is as important to them as yours is to you.
  • Not being accurate with procurement time. The rule here is don’t tell prospects what they want to hear; rather, give them an accurate timeline for product availability and installation.
    I have found it really doesn’t make much difference if cabinets are available in three weeks or three months if it fits the circumstance, the prospect understands it and the expected timelines are met.
    I would also suggest the expected time schedule is important enough to consider outlining it in your quote.
  • Not immediately following up with a solution to any concern or problem. Let a problem lie on your desk without giving it the time or urgency it deserves, and you will create major costs you and your company will have to battle and absorb.
    First, a delay in the solution will delay your completion and payment. Next, the problem can get bigger as the customer becomes more uneasy and irritated.
    Delays typically increase the financial and time cost of a satisfactory solution. They can also create emotional costs for your customer. What was going so perfectly becomes filled with disappointment and can escalate to anger. The solution is to get any concern or problem solved efficiently in the shortest period of time.
  • Not following up on the completed sale. If there’s a challenge or concern, it’s better you find out during your follow-up process instead of having your phone ring with a customer who has been stewing about it for awhile.
    Doing follow-up not only identifies challenges and concerns early, it also puts you in the best possible position to earn referrals.

TICK TOCK

In the end, focusing on and honing your and your firm’s time management skills will ensure better communication, create less negative emotion and generate more profits – not a bad gain for a little extra effort.

Finally, don’t forget the value and the timing of a “thank you.” Thank prospects for their time at the end of your first meeting. Send a follow-up thank you note (which can double as a verification of your next appointment). And always thank clients for their order, as well as at the end of a project.

Read past columns on Closing the Sale by Ralph Palmer, and send us your comments about this article and others by logging onto the KBDN Web site at www.kitchenbathdesign.com.

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