Listening to Small Business Owners

For a while I had been pressing our territory managers to invite small business owners into a meeting with their managers and business calling partners, with the idea they could ask the owners exactly what they wanted.

I, and others, had been telling them what we felt confident small business owners desired. What dawned on me was that I could talk till I was blue in the face. I could tell stories of  past interactions with small business owners and make countless analogies. I could share books, articles, graphs and statistics. But, nothing would have the impact of them hearing it straight from the owners’ own mouths. So with the help of a territory manager and a small diverse group of their local business owners, I was able to see if my assumptions were correct.

Below is a summary of five points that came from visiting with a CPA, a restaurant owner, and an auto parts distributor, all of whom didn’t currently have any business relationship with our company and 15 of our bankers.

Doing the “Little Things Just Right” Matters – Doing one thing outstanding is great sometimes, but doing all the little things, all the time stands the test of time. The business owners we met with stated repeatedly that the small things make all the difference.

Being Respected in the Communities You Serve – The most difficult thing to repair is a bad reputation. It was refreshing to hear business owners say what we’ve always believed. Being a good solid corporate citizen isn’t only the right thing to do, it is also good business.

Know the Business, Use Owner’s Name – The sweetest sound to a person’s ears is the sound of their own name. And I love what my Stephanie always says, “Everyone wants to feel special.” One of the simplest ways to make someone feel special is to know what they do and to call them by name. Be interested in them.

Pricing is important, but knowing they are “Taken Care Of” is more important – It is so easy to get caught up in the pricing game, but only the worst sales people play in this arena. We heard them clearly say they value genuine solid heart-felt ADVICE over cheap prices. Additionally, they wanted products and services delivered in a manner that was easy on them. Real relationships are won and lost by giving great advice and making the use of your product as easy as possible. All three owners stated the one thing they didn’t have enough of was time. Don’t waste it!

Have Fun, but be Professional – Having a good time is contagious! People – including business owners – prefer to be around those who are smiling and laughing.  So while having fun is great for morale and customer service, we need to keep a keen eye for how what we are doing might be perceived from someone who giving us their hard-earned money. Ultimately, they want to know that you know what you are doing when all jokes are put aside, and we should never lose sight of this fact.

As you can see there were no earth shattering revelations, nor deep hidden secrets as to what small business owners want from a service provider, banking in my case. But, if you could have seen the light bulbs that went on above the banker’s heads, you would have learned that nothing is as powerful as hearing from your customers or prospects directly.

When was the last time you actually stopped and asked your customer what they wanted, and how you could better serve their needs?

In our modern world we can sometimes get so caught up in the latest research, all the high-tech gizmos, or the latest greatest sales strategy, that we forget about the power of a simple conversation in which we sincerely ask how we can better serve our customers.


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