Last week I drove into Sacramento to pick up some printed materials and left the small, independent shop disappointed. The copies I picked up were beautiful but the interaction with the shop owner was cold and impersonal and he barely spoke two sentences while I was in the store.
While this was a personal order of just $100 (memorial folders for my cousin’s funeral) the owner of this business could have easily won my loyalty and much more business with a few simple questions.
1. “I’m so sorry for your loss, is there anything else I can help you with today?”
Simply acknowledging why the copies were needed would have been huge and shown that they actually paid attention to what was coming off the printer. Also I did have more copies of another sheet to run and spare time so I could have done it right there boosting the sale just a bit. Instead I was confused at how cold and aloof the owner seemed, as if I’d interrupted much more important work.
Remember that when the client is in front of you he or she is the most important person in the room. Always offer additional support (without being pushy) to exhibit that you care and have other services available.
2. “How did you hear about us?”
This was my first time in the print shop and I was certain I’d be asked this question. If I’d been asked the owner would learn that the window display (on a busy Sacramento street) with their pricing on color copies caught my attention. I’d additionally asked a client of mine who used them and loved their output and pricing before calling for a quote.
Understanding what marketing tools are working is essential to a small business. If no one, in 5 years, has ever found you through that bench ad, stop running it! More importantly, the answer to this question would have given the owner new insights into me, his new client.
3. “Are you a business owner? Do you often need printing for work related marketing materials?”
Okay so this is two questions, but by describing myself as a business person with clients the owner now has the opportunity to see if I’m open to business related printing in addition to this personal order. In a short period of time he may have learned that I run a business, often print business cards and marketing materials and would be interested in a local supplier if the prices were competitive and turn around time shorter.
While I don’t know why I got the cold shoulder when picking up this order I do know that it effectively squashed any business relationship that could have formed. I understand that sometimes we’re just not in the mood to talk, or having a bad day, even that we think this one off client is no one we need to woo. But just asking a few simple, leading questions may not only lead to more business but give the client a positive impression of your business. These are simple leading questions to find out if the person is an ideal client – don’t assume! Even if they’re not ideal they may be an ambassador for you to your ideal clients.
No one wants to get their bill at a restaurant and hear, “now pay and get out.” We appreciate the smiling hostess who says, “thank you for coming! Hope to see you soon!” with a genuine smile.
Even if you’re a regular grumpy pants, take the time to ask these questions to every client who comes to your business and build a relationship. And you’re not off the hook if you run an online business because these questions can absolutely be translated for you as well.