On a recent episode of The Hartford’s Small Biz Ahead podcast, my co-host Elizabeth Larkin, asked me what seemed to be a pretty innocent and reasonable question.
She asked how often I call my clients.
Using the phone. Remember those?
I thought and I thought about this and then I became a little depressed — and concerned. Elizabeth had hit a nerve.
It’s been a while. I’ve really let this slip. Gee, thanks Elizabeth.
I didn’t even notice that this was happening. As my business has grown, I’ve realized that I’ve been speaking less and less to clients. It’s not that I’m not in contact with them. I am. I still email a lot — and even get replies. But I rely on the people who work for me to assume the face-to-face role with clients. They do this well. But let’s not make excuses. I’m not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I’m a small business owner. This is my business. These are my clients. It’s not like I have so many clients that I can’t make a phone call once in a while, right?
Like I’m so important?
The thing about “calling” clients is that it really doesn’t even have to be all of my clients. I realize everyone in this world should be treated equally. But that’s not realistic. The reality is that my larger clients are more deserving of my time than everyone else. They’re the ones that are paying my salary. So even if I don’t want to call everyone, why not at least call the big customers once in a while? I really should.
There are a lot of reasons why I haven’t. You’re familiar with them. I’m busy. I have nothing to really talk about. I don’t want to bother people. I’m not as good on the phone. It’s too time-consuming. Would they take my call? Do they care? These are busy people, too. They, also, are pretty much in an e-mail world. But maybe that’s the reason. A phone call, as old school as it is, still resonates.
But here’s the thing: From a sales perspective <or something like this to tie it back to the title>, I close more deals when I meet with my prospect (or client) face-to-face then when I don’t. Hands down. I also seem to have the better relationships with those clients that I do speak to on the phone, regardless of how infrequently. Email, the Internet, postcards, social media — these all have a place and play an important role in business communications. But nothing replaces human contact…even if it’s just once in a while.
The fact is that I don’t call my clients. Not nearly as much as I used to. That’s a huge sales mistake. Are you making the same mistake?
So thanks Elizabeth, you definitely woke me up. I’ve resolved to reach out to just two clients a week by phone. I’ve already scheduled my first two. I’ll make the call short and sweet, ask after them, their business, their family, and offer help or suggestions where I can. Even if I just leave a voicemail, it’s still more human than an electronic communication. And I truly believe it’ll be appreciated.