Are you familiar with that old cliché “The Early Bird Gets the Worm?” Typically this passage means that success will come to those who make the effort to prepare adequately and follow through effectively.
Many businesses have taken advantage of this slogan by offering “value pricing” to their customers most notably on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the official kickoff of our Christmas shopping season. If customers perceive that they are getting a good deal, then this method of “value pricing” is successful for companies planning on profiting from high volume sales. We see evidence of this in the Thanksgiving Day newspaper advertisements, as well as direct mail, television and Internet promotional offers. The early birds are the massive crowds that show up on the doorsteps of a business at 3:00 or 4:00am to cash in on some killer “limited time only” deals. Periodically, you will also find many businesses offering “Early Bird Specials” during a designated time of the day, week, special occasion or to commemorate a holiday.
What happens if your company is the early bird, but you missed the worm (a customer)? Often, some businesses will be in the right place, at the right time, but fail to “work the hook” on potential clients, simply due to their lack of preparation. Oftentimes, you will only get “one” chance to make a first and memorable impression.
Recently, an incident report was conducted on a local small business (let’s call it Company A), that examined their SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). This company was definitely an early bird, but unfortunately made some simple, yet costly errors that forfeited the worm (their potential customer). Another bird (Company B) came behind Company A, charmed the worm and got it. What happened? In this particular situation Company A’s weaknesses and threats outweighed their strengths and opportunities. They made a few common and critical mistakes that could have been avoided.
When Company A stated that they didn’t understand what happened, post evaluations immediately showed 4 factors that clearly sunk the deal before it developed:
1. Lack of Commitment: The aspiration was there, but Company A lacked focus and discipline to take this desire to the next level. Where there is no commitment, nothing happens to your business, except a financial catastrophe. You may get the opportunity, but miss the possibilities, all due to the lack of commitment.
2. Disorganization: Company A’s lack of commitment led to disorganization. Disorganization led to inadequate preparation. They did not generate a vote of confidence from this potential customer, because their presentation appeared to be amateurish and not professional. They definitely had years of experience and know-how, but putting their presentation in order was not a commendable attribute.
3. Deficiency in Time-Sensitivity: Company A did not respond quickly to inquiries these potential customers had. Company A had too many excuses on why they couldn’t address their potential customer’s immediate needs, as they should have. This customer (the worm) needed an immediate solution and Company A did not satisfactorily deliver any type of feedback to the potential customer. Slow response let to no sales.
4. Distractions: Company A became easily distracted by too many non-related business activities (including leisure diversions) and procrastinated on giving these potential customers the immediate solutions they needed to improve their business. Company A’s priorities were clearly not in order.
In a nutshell, Company B came along with their hook, a strong presentation and commitment, then got the worm. In other words, they capitalized on what Company A didn’t do and landed the contract. Company A missed the opportunity to not only get a new customer, but missed the opportunity of getting repeat business or referrals from this customer.
Company A became complacent. They assumed that this customer, which was a referral from another close business connection, would be a sealed deal and a definite given, simply by association. However, this type of overconfidence, non-commitment and lack of professionalism cost them valuable business.
In light of the state of our struggling economy, competition is beyond fierce. The lack of commitment, organization, attention to time sensitive concerns and focus can be a real turn-off. The ball is now in the consumer’s court and this is the time that “exceptional” customer service must surpass “excellent” customer service. You must show, not just tell your targeted and current customers that your company is responsible, reliable, knowledgeable and professional. Potential customers will do business with you repeatedly when they discover the perceived value of your products and services is a trustworthy attribute. It is imperative that you follow-through and respond expeditiously. If you’re going to be the early bird, make sure you come prepared to get your worm.