We all make mistakes.
Some of them, we can’t avoid, and that’s to be expected.
Nobody is perfect.
Then there are the mistakes that are avoidable, which set us back 10 steps, and if we’re lucky, give us an opportunity to recover gracefully.
Odd as it may seem, some of the best mistakes are those made by others – especially if you can learn from those mistakes and prevent making them yourself.
Treat every customer like it’s your first, and every lead like it will be gone tomorrow.
Here are 5 dumb things you’ll stop saying to your customers, and in turn avoid making the same mistakes others have made.
The success of your business (and your brand) depend on it.
“I’m sorry I was late with your job. I was working on another customer’s order.”
You might as well say “You’re not important to me.”
No customer wants to hear this, especially if you’ve missed a deadline. If you’re late with delivering something, get ahead of things quickly. Call your client, explain when they’ll get the deliverable, and apologize for the lateness – before you are late!
Don’t make excuses either. Own up to it, and follow through on your commitment.
“We don’t need a contract. I trust you.”
Consider these questions:
- Is there intellectual property (e.g., your unique ideas, processes, or techniques) that you need to protect?
- Do you like to be paid on time?
- Do you want some notice when a customer is going to miss their session?
- Do you want a deposit upfront before you perform any work?
- Do you want to be able to reschedule or cancel a session?
- If you have to go to court, do you want to be able to go somewhere close and convenient to you?
If you answered yes to any of these, you need a contract. It doesn’t have to be lengthy, nor does it have to be filled with lots of legal terms you don’t understand. It can be written in very clear language, but it also has to abide by the laws of your area.
Unless you’re a lawyer – get a lawyer!
Use contracts for every job, and avoid the problem altogether. Real customers will expect an agreement of some sort, and you should never be shy asking to define one legally.
The only trust you can have without a contract is to trust that when things go sour, it will be messy.
“I’m sorry I didn’t follow-up right away with your request for a quote. I’ve been so busy.”
This one is the most efficient way to kill sales for your business. I’ve met so many photographers that have all their sales channels set up to drive new business (website, email, social, etc.) and when they finally get a lead they wait 3 days, a week, even a month to follow up!
Remember that customers shop around, and so do those referrals you mistakenly assume are going to do business with you. While you’re a photographer, you’re also a salesperson. If you have an allergic reaction to that notion you’re in the wrong business, or should be outsourcing that work to someone who works on your behalf.
And lastly … everyone is busy! We’re all busy, we’re busy being busy, and we’re too busy to be busy. This is the lamest excuse in the universe. Don’t use it.
“I know I promised you X, but I ran out of budget, so I had to cut that out.”
I’ve heard this more times than I want to admit. In their zeal to make a profit on every job, I have seen folks not deliver parts of their service to protect their profits at the expense of the customer.
If you’re substantially under water on your project, to the extent that your business is about to drown, by all means it’s time to have a heart to heart with your customer.
Otherwise, this is your chance to learn how to better price, deliver, and source your resources for the next job – not stick it to your customer.
“I’m sorry I didn’t make our meeting yesterday. I lost track of time.”
That is precisely what your prospect or customer is thinking – and they’re not coming back.
You’re a professional. Don’t be flaky.
What does this all mean?
The common theme here is to avoid these situations completely. Over-communication is always your best policy with prospects and customers. Set your terms early, bring to the surface the critical elements that make your service unique, and align those elements with the value you bring over your competitors.
Simply being faster than anyone else is very much a competitive advantage – one of the easiest things to maintain if you make it a habit.
Underpromise and overdeliver. Be on time, every time.