Deadly Mistakes Small Business Owners Make

Updated: Jun 11, 2019

What are the worst, most awful mistakes that you can make while trying to land a big customer? Most small business owners don't know. Below is a list of mistakes you really need to avoid as a small business owner.

  • Ignoring your customer's expectations

  • Mishandling a customer's crisis

  • Taking on more than you can handle

  • Putting all your eggs in one basket

  • Mismanaging your cash flow

If you make one of these mistakes or combination of them, you can not only destroy any current or future opportunity with your customer, but you also run the risk of destroying your business. Eventually I'll discuss all of these potential challenges. However, in this post let's talk about the first two — ignoring your customer's expectations and mishandling a customer crisis.

Ignoring Your Customer’s Expectations

It’s essential you give your client’s exactly what you promised during the negotiation phase of your relationship. If an event does occur and you have no way to meet your customer’s expectations, not only do you have to find a way to fix the situation, but you also have to find out where it all went wrong.

Here is an example of handling a customer's expectations. Years ago, a consulting organization that I was leading had an enterprise software training contract with a very large customer. We were excited about this engagement because the customer was well-known and delivering well could open new doors for us.

We met with our customer in advance of the training to review in detail what was needed. The customer contact explained a bit about their employees and the company culture. We took copious notes to share with the trainers.

The following week we brought the team into the customer's facilities and began training their employees. In the middle of the second day, our customer contact came to me saying, "We have a problem!"

It seemed that students were complaining about one of the trainers. Technically she knew the material backward and forward. The issue wasn't knowledge; it was her presentation. Students complained that she was boring!

After observing an hour of one of her sessions, I understood the problem and assured our customer contact that the situation would be remedied immediately. I sent the "boring" trainer to a different engagement and brought in a trainer with a different personality.

With the new trainer, complaints stopped, and everything was back on course!

You might be asking yourself, what could have contributed to this problem:

  • Poor sales process, meaning that our salesperson was trying too hard to seal the deal and didn’t listen to our customer's requirements.

  • Lack of communication, which can often occur between a salesperson and the operations department.

  • Resource mismatch, which is what happened in the example. Resources for a customer need to be a 100% match, less than that isn't good enough!

To avoid these issues, it's imperative that you design an action plan for your entire staff, including salespeople, sales support, and sales-related operations employees:

  • Think before you speak.

  • Give yourself a break.

  • Perfect your process.

  • Pre-format over-deliverables.

  • Stay hands-on throughout the entire process.

  • Define success.

Mishandling a Customer's Crisis

Crises will happen. However, your response and how your resolve those crises will define your company and interaction with your customers. A response that is immediate and effective is essential. This will help you gain even more trust and confidence from your customer.

Some simple tips can help you deal with any customer crisis:

  • Take responsibility and apologize no matter who is at fault.

  • Act swiftly and effectively.

  • Step in and take control of the situation.

  • Focus on the process and framework, never point fingers or place blame.

  • Stay in constant communication with your customer.

  • Stay calm throughout the situation.

  • Remain engaged with your customer during and after the crisis subsides.

Now, that you know two of the most serious mistakes you can make to kill a large customer deal, you’ll understand better how to avoid making these mistakes in the first place and can implement a plan of action to address any crisis that comes along.

If you want help with any of these challenges, reach out and send an email with your question(s).

In the next post I'll talk about the third and fourth deadly mistakes that small business owners can make. Until then, here's to balance and your success!

Deadly Mistakes Part II

Deadly Mistakes Part III

#smallbusiness #management

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