One of the most common errors of business owners is adding unnecessary complexity to their business. This complexity is the result of various errors, most often, though, lack of standard policies and procedures are the root cause. While every situation is unique, here are a few 2 minute questions to ask yourself about your business:
- What is my normal sales timeline? Many small businesses vary their sales approach depending on how busy they already are, the profitability or revenue of the project, or any number of other factors. Sales to new accounts should follow a fairly regular timeline and process. Sales to existing accounts should follow a different, yet standardized, timeline. If you had to chart how you sell, could you?
- Do I have standardized materials? Before you worry about consistent branding across all of your customer touch points, you must confirm you have standardized documents: business cards, brochures, catalogs, contracts, work orders, invoices, collection letters, sales letters, and web presence. If you receive a call right now, could you have these documents in the mail or email within 5 minutes? If yes, NOW, ask yourself, do all of these materials look like they came from the same company? Is the company logo placement consistent? Font and writing style?
- What are my terms? Proper management of your brand means taking responsibility for every touch point your customers have with your company. Are your credit terms in-line with your industry? Your terms should be consistent across 95% of your customers, and you should enforce them vigorously. Are your receivables 90+% on-time? If not, either your terms (and thus, prices) need adjusted, or you must re-establish expectations and credibility with your customers.
- How do you answer the phone, and other queries? Every person in your company should answer the phone the same way, every time. Every person who “works the front” or answers the phone should know who the decision-maker(s) are for unanticipated questions or new issues, and how to handle those questions. Do you put your customers on hold? Do you offer to call them back? Do you offer your customers the owner’s mobile number? Whatever your policy, do you do it consistently?
- Do you have an established price list and other account policies? After considering #4, ask yourself, how many times do customers have questions that require more research or consideration? Most phone calls and walk-ins should be easy to deal with, and the issues raised should not require the owner’s attention. This means you should have standardized pricing, and you should enforce this pricing. NO HAGGLING. Do you require credit checks for new accounts? If so, NO EXCEPTIONS. Customers requesting exceptions right out of the gate are high maintenance customers, and you do not want them. Eliminating these decisions by simply agreeing to hold firm to all requests is an effective way to improve the efficiency of your business.
A quick review of these items will likely uncover other opportunities for improvement. Almost every small business needs some improvement in at least one of these areas, and the internal conversation a review of these items often creates is worth it. Talk with your team. Talk to yourself, aloud. This is your business, and it is important.
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