1. Know how to shake hands. Your grip must be firm and you must make eye contract. Smile and squeeze. Human contact is the first step in initiating a relationship.
2. Determine what you and/or your services are worth right from the start. Don’t sell yourself cheap at the beginning just to get some business. If you or your product is too cheap, you won’t attract the best customers. I had the same price for the first several years, which was significantly higher than my more experienced “competition.” Why? Because I positioned myself to have a superior product. My brand is “high quality, top-notch, and professional service.” That doesn’t come cheap; neither did I.
3. Be consistent. Consistency is vital to success. You’ll get a higher response rate from your contacts, and a significantly higher number of return customers, if you are consistent in your ethics, personality, work quality, and relationships. Stability is a mainstay of success.
4. Learn to listen, pay attention, and look around. If you don’t spend your time pontificating about you and your product, but instead take time to listen to your prospective client and study their office, you’ll glean lots of invaluable information that will give you the edge over your competitors. Remember, there’s plenty of time to make the deal after you have established a personal connection.
Find out if that person is a numbers person who wants more facts than fluff. Do they like birds? Do they hate doing business with individuals who are late? You’ll be surprised at all the advantages you can obtain during a meeting if you stop talking and engage your client in conversation. Then use that information to establish a relationship. If they love birds, send a thank you note that includes the latest copy of the Audubon Society’s magazine. If they seemed proud of the fact that they just ran the 10K Marathon for their local charity, make a small donation to that charity on their behalf. Business is about relationships first. The deal always comes second.
5. Follow-up and follow through. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Don’t sell what you can produce. Make commitments only if you absolutely, without fail, can make good on your promise(s). And if for some reason you can’t make the deadline or can’t deliver what you promised, let your customer know as soon as possible. Don’t lie. Be honest and give them an option. S—t happens and everyone knows that. But your response to the crisis is what will determine if you get a second chance with the person with whom you are doing business.
Here’s my little pearl of wisdom on screwing up. Tell the person you are dealing with exactly what happened and then ask them what they want you to do to make it right. In 99 percent of the cases, the client will ask for reasonable concessions or sometimes nothing at all, just because you gave them the opportunity to decide the next step. And if most cases, you won’t loose them as a client.
My final chard of advice is about positioning yourself for success. You can be successful only if you do what you love, if you have a passion for your job, product, skill, or service. Never make it about the money. If your key motivation in a business venture is getting rich, most likely you won’t get there. But if you have passion for whatever it is you are trying to achieve, one of two things will happen—you will either become rich doing what you love, or you won’t get rich but won’t care because you love what you are doing.
So all of you ladies out there, young or old, educated or just street smart, I am here to tell you that you can make it on your own. Lift your head up high, shoulders straight, feet planted firmly, and think positively. You just have to believe in your self and follow a little advice from some other women who’ve made it. After all, as I said from the start, “It’s better on top!”