Often when you are managing a small business, the day-to-day pressures often don’t give you time to think. Normally you are dealing with a steady stream of questions from customers, contractors, staff members, and other stakeholders that make require your attention / pick your brains. At the end of the day, you review what you have achieved and sometimes shake your head because you have been busy all day and seemed to have achieved not much.
The solution to this very common situation is the train your staff constantly across the board. They need to understand your business, the value you are out to create for your audience and the policies, processes, and procedures as the right human capital to run the business.
The process of running a small business is relatively simple but not easy. Every day there are challenges. Sometimes, the challenges seem to be huge and this is where training comes in and, in most cases, has proven to be the most appropriate solution. I was at a retreat with an SME recently and none of the staff understand the vision of the business. There were no clearly defined core values on which their activities are to be based. Yes, they are making a profit and expanding but there is a limit to their growth if basic guiding principles and practices are not in place.
Each customer has to be led along a particular path. This path should be made clear to every member of staff so that they can deal with the majority of questions raised by customers. Train and retrain your staff in the process frequently. This will make your life easier as a small business manager, minimize wastage, sell more, and post better profits.
Every customer goes through a simple buying process when we think it’s impulse buying. The processes are captured in these five steps:
- The customer first recognizes that he or she has a problem
- The customer looks for ways to solve the problem. Here, he or she searches for the different possible means of solving the problem and makes an effort to gather relevant information on the situation and the possible solutions, and makes an honest evaluation of each of them. Herein lies the place for reviews, comments from trusted friends, etc. They can plan a huge role in the selection process.
- They then select the product or service that meets their need. Often they select the wrong product or service and need expert advice. By giving them a range of options, you are allowing them to make their buying decision. Once they have selected the product or service, they then decide where they will obtain it. If they arrive on your doorstep asking about the product or service, then you are in a situation to reinforce their choice.
- Next, they will accept the price. They will accept the price if they perceive that they are getting value for money. The business development skills of your team will come to play here.
- Finally, they need a reason to act now. If you don’t give them a reason to act now, they are likely to procrastinate. How effective are the selling skills of your team? They need to be taught how to sell effectively.
When you look around at your competition you will find that most of them are ignoring this structure. Become a mystery shopper and prove it to yourself that the majority of people in small businesses are not reminded of this structure. Go and shop at your competition and see if anybody even gives you a reason to act now.
This structure might seem simple, but it is a strong competitive advantage if your team understands it and can apply it with knowledge. This is why training is important – both formal and informal training. It should flow naturally because you know it and it has become a part of you.
Customer needs are always changing but the process of meeting the new need is not any different from the former. Apply this structure to your business and constantly train your staff in the importance of following this method so that your satisfied customers will return and come with a friend or family. Businesses that follow this structure make good profits.
Ikechukwu Kalu is the CEO / Lead Consultant at Customer Passion Point Limited. He is a seasoned marketing professional, value creation consultant, public speaker, and corporate trainer. He facilitates thought-provoking sessions at both LBS and Pan Atlantic University, Lagos. His experiences cut across manufacturing, telecommunication, financial services, and business consulting.