We've all made mistakes.
My son swears he'll be in therapy for life because I mistook a pair of boxers for shorts and made him wear them to school when he was 6. Hey, they looked like shorts. They were a gift. How was I to know?
We've all had moments of mistaken identity:
Waved to someone we thought we knew.
Called someone by the wrong name.
Mistook a friendship for something more.
It's embarrassing. Right? But it doesn't impact our bottom line. Or does it?
A friend of mine who owns a professional coaching business learned first hand just how harmful mistaken identity can be. She was out to lunch with a client – a long-time client, one she has a great relationship with – and he was talking about the great speech writer he'd just hired.
Wait, what? she asked.
A speech writer, he said.
But I WRITE SPEECHES, she cried.
I didn't know that, he replied.
Oh crap. She hadn't clearly identified the scope of her services and so someone who was a long time customer went elsewhere. She had to ask herself "how many times has this happened in the past."
But the better question to ask was "how will I make sure this doesn't happen again?"
She asked the question – she called her favorite clients and asked what they thought she provided. She was shocked to learn that few really understood all she could do for them.
She crafted a mailing and sent it out to her client list; not only identifying her services but bringing the whole story to light for their business.
Do your customers truly know all that you can do for them? Have you suffered from mistaken identity without even realizing it?
How can you be sure your customers understand the many ways you can help them? Ask them.
If summer is a slower time for your business, consider using this time to systematically take a select group of your best customers to lunch and ask them a few questions:
1. When you think of my business, what problems do you think I solve?
2. What would you say our leading value is?
3. When you speak of my company, how do you describe it?
4. What could we do to make working with us better for you?
Truly listen. It may be tempting to interrupt, to correct or fill in the gaps, but you'll never truly understand other's perception of you unless you listen. Remember, perception is reality – not the other way around.
Unless it's boxer shorts – even if you perceive them to be shorts – they aren't.
Deborah Chaddock Brown
Writer, Often Mistaken