Anyone who knows me well will tell you that outside of my husband and kids, my dogs are the loves of my life. I didn’t have a dog until I was an adult so I had to be taught how to interact with them. In thinking about my relationship with my pooches, I realize that so much of what I do with them can be applied to my everyday dealings at Arland. So, here are my top business tips as learned from my Malte-poo, Rocco, and my Shi-a-poo, Arnie.
Start with a firm handshake. If you are meeting a new dog for the first time, carefully let him sniff you first then gently but firmly shake his paw. This same rule applies in the business world (minus the sniffing part.) For maximum impact, look your prospect squarely in the eyes and give him a nice and tightly gripped shake. Please remember that no one, and I mean no one, enjoys a sticky or sweaty palm or worse yet, a limp-wristed hand shake, so keep your hands clean & dry and practice your grasp with your spouse or friend.
Treats are a great reward. My dogs Rocco and Arnie are incredibly affectionate and I used to believe this was because they adored me and I was the center of their universe. Now I know that their devotion is really based upon their love of cheese and chicken treats. My dogs learned quickly that good behavior = yummy treats. I think the same thinking applies to rewarding your customer’s behavior. If you have a customer who has given you repeat business, referred you to a colleague or endorsed your work, return the favor! It’s also nice to send a thank you card, take them to lunch or dinner occasionally or buy them some treats when visiting (cupcakes are always a hit!) Everyone loves to feel special!
Walk your dog. Dogs are very much like children in that they crave routine. They feel secure and loved and behave best when they are routinely walked, groomed, fed, etc. Customers are looking for their partners to consistently take care of them. It needs to be habitual that you regularly check in on your contacts preferably by person or by phone. Make sure that you are proactively delivering reports or any other assets promptly.
Clean up messes ASAP! I am sure you have seen the clever but crude bumper sticker proclaiming that “Sh*t Happens!” What I have learned is that when a puppy goes, you need to be on the scene immediately to do damage control, especially if it was on your neighbor’s front yard or driveway. As long as you are timely and do a good job, your neighbor will be pleased but, whatever you do, don’t pretend like your doggie didn’t do the duty. Own up to the poopie! So many customers have told me that it’s not the flub-up that turned them off from a prior vendor; it was clearly the lack of skills or desire to clean up the disaster.
Guide your dog. Okay, ever see an out of control dog, pulling his bewildered pet owner in one direction while the owner strained in the opposite direction on the leash? Sometimes, as vendors, we think that our ideas are the only ideas, getting hung up on who is in charge. When helping clients make choices, leave the choker chain at home. Strangling them into a choice is hardly the way to build your partnership. Further, if you are constantly trying to be the “alpha” dog, you are going to turn off your clients. Customers want someone to take care of them who is confident, knowledgeable & able to make solid recommendations without being overbearing.
Don’t take in more dogs than you can handle. I have a friend who is constantly rescuing dogs that have not gotten the care they deserve. Unfortunately, if she takes in too many dogs, her home becomes a disaster area and no dog gets the attention they need. In the business world, you should strive to provide world class service. This means monitoring your work load and being wise enough to know when to add head count to provide additional support. Everyone should work hard, but not kill themselves on a daily basis to meet objectives.
Dogs need affection. If I ignore my pups, they quickly become despondent and then begin to seek out affection elsewhere, mainly from my husband or kids. In the business world, when you don’t cuddle your clients, guess what happens? They lose interest and can easily be wooed away by your competition. Love your customers all the time and they will pay you back ten-fold. Go the extra mile without being asked, be a good listener and give your customers the attention they deserve.
So, there you have it! Words to live by in our dog- eat- dog world!