When The Going Gets Tough

Now that the dog days of summer are over, things should be getting back to normal around the office, right? The phone should start ringing and the jobs start walking in the front door. But if you have not been paying attention to the sales and marketing side of your business, you really can’t expect to see your business flourish or even maintain itself. The truth is that objects in motion stay in motion, and those at rest tend to stay at rest.

So how do you get your company moving again in a slow period? How do you keep your energy and enthusiasm up when you are feeling the pinch of a tight market? There is no silver bullet that will handle all of the issues that face a sluggish economy or slowdown of the building industry. But since the topic of this column is communication, let’s focus on what can be done to keep the business working and maybe even growing.

The first thing to address is attitude. When you are down in the dumps about money, your business or your personal life, this usually carries over to the other areas of your life. Combating that miserable feeling is an important first step toward turning things around. Surround yourself with people that have a positive attitude about life and your business. Examine your staff. Does your office administrator smile during the day or does it always look like he/she has just came back from the dentist? If the office demeanor is dour, it will come across to potential customers who call your business looking to work with you. The office attitude can be adjusted without having to restaff the business.

Some people believe in motivational posters. You know the one — the picture of the kitten whose claws are hooked into a huge knot while dangling in mid-air with the caption, “When you come to the end of your rope, make a knot and hang on.” If that moves you, go for it. But I’ve found that more tangible visuals and goals tend to motivate people. If the goal is to get five new clients by X date, put that on the office white board. When you experience success or progress, make sure that you note it on the board. Whether you use a graph or icons representing new clients, keep the message positive in order to reinforce that the plan is working and that success is being achieved.

As the leader of the troops, you may be transferring your negative attitude to the rest of the company as well as potential new customers. It sounds corny but it is true; if you smile when you are speaking on the phone, you will have a much more productive telephone conversation. If you’re tense and aggressive on the phone, people shut down. If you are relaxed and sound like you’re in a good mood, people are much more receptive to you. This is basic stuff but so hard to make a regular practice. Consciously work on it by putting a note near your telephone with a reminder to smile.

When you experience failure, don’t be so quick to make it a total failure. Thank the prospect for their time and ask if they can give you a referral. That’s right, ask for a referral. Just because the prospect doesn’t have work for you doesn’t mean that they don’t know someone who could benefit from your services. You don’t need to lower your tail between your legs because of a failed sale or get disgusted with a “wasted” phone call. Every encounter with potential customers is a business opportunity. View them as such and maximize your investment of time.

Joseph Dellanno is the founder of my Design/Build Project, a Web communication application for design and build teams, and president of my Design/Build Coach, providing design/build business training exclusively for residential designers and building professionals. He is also president of Design Solutions Inc., a national design firm providing professional design/build companies award-winning design services. Dellanno can be reached at (781) 648-5548 or info@mydesignbuildproject.com. Read his past columns at rdbmagazine.com.