Achieving success in today’s ever fast-changing business environment is not always that easy to grasp. Small business entrepreneurs can get easily overwhelmed by the rapid changes in customer purchasing habits, the constant need for product innovation and the challenges brought by business competitions. Aside from that, small business owners are thriving hard to handle finance, delivery, management, and growth of their business at the same time.
The retention of customer’s interests and loyalty is another thing to consider. This can be a daunting task but not unachievable if you are goal-driven.
Business strategy plays a very important role in ensuring success and long-term survival of small business enterprises (SMEs). Business plans alone will not work without an effective business strategy and most importantly, the follow through. As a business coach, one of the (many) things I do for business owners is keep them accountable.
Here, we discuss a range of factors around communication and listening that should be addressed by small business owners for their own business success.
What small business owners need to know when they listen:
1. Take steps to understand the audience
Listening to customers is an integral part of an effective business strategy. Customers are a great source of information and helpful insights that entrepreneurs cannot get from another source. Customer feedback influences other customer’s buying decisions.
There are various ways in soliciting customer feedback. SMEs can conduct customer polls and surveys, ask for product reviews or interact with customers through social media. Through these methods, owners can be educated about customer preferences and innovate products and services to meet customer expectations. On top of that, customer feedback can educate business owners. Customer feedback can be used as a determiner if customers are satisfied with the products or services they are getting, or if they will purchase or avail services from your business again. Many apps and online product purchasing sites allow for feedback, reviews and ratings. This not only helps the company but helps other buyers in making a decision. More so now than ever, customer feedback is critical.
Don’t forget good old fashioned asking and talking. When was the last time you asked a client or customer how you’re performing from their perspective? What more could you do to make the experience even better? Only by asking and listening can you fully understand what your customers really want. I know in my prior business, from customer surveys we’re able to implement some simple and easy strategies which from the client’s perspective were BIG tick points for them.
SMEs should never make assumptions on behalf of customers. Providing products or services you thought will pique their interests may not actually interest them. False assumptions can kill your business. If you provide products and services that your target audience do not want to pay, your business will suffer. So asking and listening (communication) is critical before you even go into business … and along every step of the business.
2. Listen to your staff
Listening to your employees should also be given importance. Employees are the ones who carry out your business strategy and help build your business. They are the face of your business and the people who interact with customers and are at ground level. According to the article “Listen to Your Employees” by Zane, small business owners need to listen to their employees as much as they speak. True leaders listen to their members and do not abandon them. If you want to have people with great ideas and solutions, then you absolutely must listen.
There are various ways to engage in a conversation with employees. One of them is conducting regular meetings. Through this, you can hear out their problems, issues, and difficulties at work. Listening to them can lead to better employee engagement and can motivate better productivity which is essential for a business to run. As a business coach, I often will perform confidential staff reviews once a year for client companies. I ask staff for their responses to 4 to 6 critical questions and because it’s confidential, I’m asking for honesty. This means staff can give feedback, feel they have input and feel their opinions are valued. Some of the best ideas come from staff!
3. Good Communication with employees
Another way of establishing good communication with personnel is by making small talks with them. A simple “hi” or “hello” to your staff means so much to them. Show them that you care by talking about their hobbies, goals, and interests. This will cultivate a good employee-employer relationship and create a relaxing working environment for employees. When issues related to work ethics occur, it would be great to call the attention of the designated employee at issue in private. This will avoid the aggravation of the situation. Naturally ‘thank you’ should be words you use frequently. As leaders, when something is done wrong we have to ‘talk’ to staff – but don’t just talk with your team if something is wrong – do it when things go right.
4. Listen to your suppliers and vendors
Suppliers and vendors are among the most important resources in the business. Developing a good relationship with suppliers should be given the same importance as listening to customers. SMEs need to establish great supplier relationship especially now that they are competing with larger enterprises for best suppliers and goods.
Suppliers play an important role in providing the best products to customers and in determining the pricing of such products. If you have a great relationship with them, they will prioritize you and take your calls whenever you need them. Interact with them as often as you can.
Occasionally call them and ask how their business is doing. You should not only interact with your suppliers when you need them. Engage them in the business process to make them feel like a partner. Listen to their ideas and feedback to forge a successful supplier relationship. After all, it is human nature to be committed and engaged in what we’re doing if we feel valued.
5. Asking recommendations
Another critical approach entrepreneurs can employ to establish a successful, harmonious relationship with their customers and suppliers is asking for their recommendations (introductions) to prospective new customers. Most of the suppliers seem to be happier when they share their know-how and their business connections. They may know someone or a company that offers a cheaper price for the material that is useful and essential in your business. This is very helpful to propel your business growth and expand your connections.
Remember also to ask for reviews (testimonials) as well. Based on the data gathered by Moz, 67% of customers rely on online reviews of services and products. It is highly significant to understand what your customers want and needs. After all, they are the source of your profit.
Remember also with recommendations and reviews – this should also be a two-way street. If the customer or supplier is good – then be proactive and give them a review, or connect them with a prospective customer. Be sure, you do it because they are good – as it is your reputation.
Running a small business is not always a breeze. It requires a lot of hard work, passion, and effort. It may be frustrating in some instances but success will be at your fingertips when you are willing to listen, work hard and ensure communication is forefront.
For a better business in 2019, contact me for business coaching. To your success!