Sitting at a local restaurant, my wife orders up.
Salad. Soup. Two fish tacos, no onions please.
“I’m sorry?” says the server.
“Oh. Can you just put the stuff that has the onions on the side of the fish tacos please? I can’t eat onions.”
“Oh, okay” says the server.
Awesome. Get to finally munch on tortilla chips as we wait for our food.
First up: salads. Yummy. Starving here and ready to dig in.
But wait. I look down at my plate. What do I see? Onions. Lots of them.
Okay, no big deal. It’s my salad and hey, I never asked for them to be removed anyway.
However… I slowly gaze across the table at my wife’s salad….
Ugh! Onions. Everywhere. So many they’re falling off the plate onto the table.
Not one to complain, my wife lets out a sigh and starts picking the onions out of her salad. One by one.
Hold on. That’s silly honey.
I motion to the server and kindly ask for a new salad for my wife. One with no onions please.
Now I realize my wife didn’t ask for the salad to be onion free. However, if she is not able to eat onions with fish tacos, why would she suddenly be able to down them with a salad?
The point? You and I can learn from this onion fiasco. Two important nuggets of wisdom right now…
Number 1: You must really pay attention to your customers.
First, really listen to your customer. Now — wait a minute. Did you get that?
You need to really listen to your customer.
Seriously, you and I as business owners don’t do this enough — if we even do it at all. Believe me, they’re talkin’, tweetin’ and postin’, but we’re just not listening.
Why? ‘Cause we’re so busy thinking, worrying and talking about ourselves. Don’t fret; this is normal. Just part of being human. Pretty much in our DNA.
But you know what? Get over it already.
Most businesses are all about themselves. Don’t be like them. Be different.
There is real power in understanding how important this is and using it to your advantage. Start listening to your customers. Really hear what they’re saying. And make sure your staff is doing the same.
Author and Entrepreneur Jeb Blount laid it on the line this way in his book “People Buy You”:
“Listening is the real secret to connecting. To listen effectively, you learn to be genuinely interested in and give others your complete attention. Doing so makes people feel closer and more willing to reveal their true problems. Which, when solved, creates a profitable relationship.”
So how do you start listening better? Should you read some books or take some fancy listening classes? Jeb says “no”. The answer is simple:
Just pay attention to your customer. Give them your undivided attention.
Basically, stop thinking about yourself, zip up that mouth and turn on those ears. You’ll be amazed at the things you hear. Like, hey, I can’t eat onions so please don’t plaster my salad with them!
Number 2: Write down and keep track of what you learn.
Now that you’ve started really listening to your customers, write down what you learn. If I were the owner of this restaurant, I would write important tidbits down. So on the next visit, it goes like this:
“Oh, hi Eric and Susan. Thanks for coming again. And hey, I know you have 3 daughters. How are they? And yes Susan, we will not put onions on anything you order because we know you can’t eat them.”
Sounds like a dream come true. Well, why does it have to be a dream? This is how you and I need to run our businesses.
Do you have Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to easily track your customers? If not, seriously consider getting it. Like, now.
The days of writing on scratch pads to keep track of customers are over.
In fact, I heard a story of a pretty successful entrepreneur in New Jersey who used to do just that. Julie Goldman, Founder and CEO of The Original Runner Co., used index cards and kept them in a fancy leather box on her desk. The whole time probably pulling her hair out.
So, even though the leather box made for a nice decoration, it didn’t really work. So she wised up; spent 6 months in research mode and finally went with a CRM solution called InfusionSoft.
In an effort to learn from Julie, I grabbed the phone, dialed her number and asked her how important she thought it was for a business to have a proven CRM system in place:
“I actually think it’s the most critical thing of all. I do a lot of public speaking to entrepreneurs now and the first thing they ask me is, “What’s the number one thing you would recommend when starting a business?”. I always tell them — even if you only have one customer, get a CRM solution. Because if you’re not managing your customers from day one, you’re losing a huge opportunity.”
Oh, and since switching from index cards? Julie’s referrals are up 80%, conversions are up 60% and her contact database has grown 500%.
In other words, she’s banking a lot more coin.
In fact, she is so popular now her customers include Kim Kardashian and she’s been on national TV shows like Today, The Big Idea and The Rachel Ray Show. And no, she doesn’t have a special index card for Kim ‘cause she doesn’t use them anymore.
So the bottom line? Get a CRM system as quickly as possible.
Tons of great products and services available. You can choose from cloud-based software, accessible through a web browser, or you can go the route of software sittin’ on your Mac or PC. But you need to figure out what works best for you. Either way, do not underestimate the power of keeping track of your customers.
Clate Mask, CEO and Co-Founder of InfusionSoft, put it to me this way:
“Most small businesses live in chaos. So having a CRM is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity for survival. The bottom line is it helps small businesses get more customers, increase sales and save precious time.”
And entrepreneur and software guru David Faye chimed in with this:
“The most important thing for businesses are their customers. We have software for everything else – financials, inventory, orders and projects. How can you run a business without software dedicated to managing information on the most important thing you have?”
Good question David. Entrepreneurs and business owners without CRM… can you answer this please?
Oh, and by getting a solid CRM solution…
It will actually help you listen better.
It’s funny how it works, but you’ll be more focused on snagging valuable tidbits you can stick in your CRM. And just like a snowball effect, you’ll start asking even more questions and getting even more valuable information.
And hey, crazy as it sounds, you’ll actually get to know them better. Then bingo; the more you know them, the easier to build profitable products and services to meet their needs.
Sounds simple right? It is. You just need to go out and do it.
So dear Mr. Restaurant Owner: Can you please listen to my wife and stop with the onions already?
Got some great advice on how to listen better? Or some good wisdom on how you keep track of your customers? Let me know down below. Your comments are huge and appreciated!
Oops, one more thing. Are you and I connected yet?
I’m Eric. Husband, father & entrepreneur… (oh, and a writer on Forbes too.)
If you’re an entrepreneur, let’s hook up. Seriously. Here’s a killer formula:
Your Wisdom + My Wisdom = More Success.
My email is: eric at mightywisemedia dot com. Shoot me yours right here and let’s connect, okay? Together we can really nail this thing.
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