Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Dr. Clarice Fluitt, a powerful international speaker and industry leader. She is the author of many books, including Developing Your Limitless Potential: Reach, Seize, and Conquer, and makes sure every audience member is equipped with the tools they need to succeed in today’s economy. For more info: www.ClariceFluitt.com.
SmallBizlady: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE CORNERSTONE OF A SMALL BUSINESS?
Dr. Clarice Fluitt: Sometimes, you only get one chance to promote your product. Make something about that one time, first time, unforgettable. The best way to make a first meeting memorable can be summed up in one word, smile. I call some of these strategies for unforgettable first meetings my rules of engagement. Smile, be polite, make and hold your eye contact, and above all other rules, be genuinely interested in them, and what they have to offer. Never underestimate the power of instinct. People can see through phony and fake.
SMALLBIZLADY: HOW DO YOU TRANSITION FROM THE 1ST STAGE OF AN IMPERSONAL INTRO TO A PERSONAL ENCOUNTER BRINGING TRUST INTO THE EQUATION?
Dr. Clarice Fluitt: Create a welcoming and warm atmosphere without being over-bearing. Be confident but kind. Potential customers need to feel your confidence close up, rather than viewing it from a distance. They need to feel it in the handshake, not in the arm that comes from the shoulder that is attached to a torso. The best way to let your potential customer feel the confidence in the handshake that leads to a trusting relationship is not in the hand-to-hand touch, it’s in your eyes. Be intentionally engaging.
SMALLBIZLADY: HOW DO I KNOW THAT THIS PERSON I’M BEING INTRODUCED TO MIGHT BE A POTENTIAL CUSTOMER?
Dr. Clarice Fluitt: Business is all about finding out what the need is, and then providing a way to meet it. The best way to find that out is to make listening your highest prioritized form of communication. To find out what your customer needs, be fully engaged in what your customer is saying. Let the conversation be about them, not you. It’s a scientific fact that people love to talk about themselves.
SMALLBIZLADY: ARE THERE MORE ELEMENTS TO LISTENING THAT I SHOULD BE AWARE OF WHEN IT COMES TO ENGAGING WITH A POTENTIAL CUSTOMER?
Dr. Clarice Fluitt: You’ve heard the phrase ‘reading between the lines.’ Practice “listening” between the lines. Pay attention to detail. It’s easier to hear something than to listen for what was said. Listening is the discipline that leads to understanding, and without understanding you will hear what your potential customer is saying without ever knowing what they actually need. Listening requires the listener to do something with what they hear & that something, in the case of a potential customer, is to take what they have said, determine what they need, and customize it to what you offer.
SMALLBIZLADY: WHAT STEPS NEED TO BE TAKEN ONCE THAT INITIAL INTRODUCTION HAS ENDED, AND EVERYONE HAS GONE THEIR OWN SEPARATE WAY?
Dr. Clarice Fluitt: Take the necessary time to prepare for every potential second encounter with every potential customer. Commit the conversation you had with them, and the needs they mentioned, to memory with the expectation that a second meeting with them will take place. You already determined how your service could be customized to meet their needs. Now, your answers to their follow up questions need to be immediate and relevant, not off the cuff and disconnected.
SMALLBIZLADY: TELL ME MORE ABOUT HOW TO PREPARE FOR THAT SECOND ENCOUNTER AND FOLLOW UP QUESTIONS.
Dr. Clarice Fluitt: Know your product inside and out, including available resources you recommend outside of your own business or area of expertise. Your service is not an island unto itself but comes fully equipped with your previous connections, current connections, etc. You might be surprised to learn how many connections and available outside resources you have that would help to serve the needs of potential customers if you were to sit down with a piece of paper and begin to list who you know, and what they do.
SMALLBIZLADY: LOOKING AT HOW THIS ALL FITS IN WITH AN ACTUAL BUSINESS MODEL, WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE OUR AUDIENCE?
Dr. Clarice Fluitt: Update your outreach and have your outreach be ever-evolving. Keep a running list of those you want to add to your business model as they come to your mind. Make it a project rather than a process. Give people an incentive to continue to do business with you on a regular basis.
SMALLBIZLADY: WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE CONCERNING THE TECHNOLOGICAL RESOURCES THAT ARE AVAILABLE TODAY FOR SMALL BUSINESSES?
Dr. Clarice Fluitt: One thing is to realize that there really is no difference between small, moderate, or large businesses when it comes to the accessibility of technology to operate, move your business forward, and keep accurate records. It’s to your advantage and everyone else’s to leverage the skills of others rather than doing things you know nothing about. One of the best ways to strengthen your business is to hire to your own weakness.
SMALLBIZLADY: WHAT ARE SOME DETERMINING FACTORS A SMALL BUSINESS SHOULD CONSIDER WHEN IT COMES TO MAKING ADJUSTMENTS IN THEIR BUSINESS PLAN?
Dr. Clarice Fluitt: Review your effectiveness on a regular basis, be prepared to adjust and revise your business model according to the shift in trends. In today’s world, one of the outcomes of making your business relevant to the current trends is longevity. Some businesses boast of having been in business for 70 years or more but find themselves on the verge of bankruptcy. It is one thing to be time-tested, but if there is no tangible growth evident in your sales and bottom line, you either need to consider another line of work or overhaul your business model to the same ratio as the current market trends.
SMALLBIZLADY: WHAT ABOUT FOR PROSPECTS, HOW COULD WE START AN EXPERIENCE FOR THEM?
Dr. Clarice Fluitt: Follow up, follow up, follow up. Start with just responding immediately. One of my clients always asks new clients why they chose her business.
Most of them say “because you actually followed up with us.” It’s sad but the bar is set really low, so when you can stand out from the crowd you will win!
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