Updated: Jun 2, 2019
I’m sort of a nickname-making machine. Everybody in my life gets one: most get more than one. In-fact, if you’re in my life significantly and I call you by your given name…you may not be in my life as significantly as you think you are!
Over the course of her 21 years on this planet, my daughter has had a bunch of them: Nugget, Panda and Pand, PandaBear were among her early nicknames with Buck, Buck Wheat, Bucky, Bee Dubs, Wheat Thins and anything else I could connect to the word “Buckeye” being the routine since she said she was going to THE Ohio State.
Lately though, I just call her Punky! And it fits, because she’s a punk!!
Punky is spending this summer in Columbus, OH for an internship. I’m proud of her for making such a great opportunity for herself: but that doesn’t mean I’m happy. Like a lot of young adults, my daughter is not always the best at keeping in touch with the old man! That’s actually a fairly new behavior and I am not adjusting well. Between working, writing, partying and sleeping it off, it’s like she hardly has time to speak to dad anymore (and it’s Padj btw…she likes nicknames too!).
Except of course in the last few days of the month.
Turns out, that rent doesn’t pay itself and so at least at the end of the month I can count on a call or text from Punky asking for rent money.
The parents in the room understand: I take what I can get. But all this reminds me of a good lesson that applies to your lives as independent retailers: Don’t just be in touch when the account is past due!
Whether you realize it or not, your customers are in a relationship with you. Maybe not as intimate as what we share with our families but a relationship none-the-less.
And so we have to do the work involved to maintain the love!
We all have the basics down. We say thank you after we get an order or are awarded a job and after we receive a payment. That’s a good start. But if the only time you're in touch is during a “transaction” then you’re not in a relationship at all.
Think about my relationship with Punky. If the only rime we REALLY spoke the conversation started with “I need my rent paid”, would that be a relationship that keeps us both happy?
Relationships, even the business variety, require communications in good times and in bad. I like to be in touch with my better customers on a regular basis. I’m always concerned that if I just call when your account had fallen past due, I’ll be the guy whose calls you try and avoid: the opposite of my goal.
But the desire to stay in touch conflicts with another problem I have with business and sales relationships: I HATE the “Howdy call.”
So I try to stay connected and not just call when I need to do the specific business AND I try not to call just to “say howdy!” If I want to check in with a good customer and I don't have specific issue that I need to get to, I call with some other specific issue. Simple is fine: “Hey Joe! Benjamin Moore has a new color tool out that I think you could use. Should I send you a few?”
The reason is simple: I want to keep you on the phone or stay in front of you a second longer. “Hey Mark, how’s it going?” gets you “Fine Derek, thanks for calling but I’m busy now.”
Good conversations don’t happen on their own and what I am looking for is a good conversation: so before I call I think about what I want to say and have a plan to engender the conversation I want.
Don’t overthink in a way that stops you from calling and it’s a phone call-so your plan can be a small one: Just as long as you have one.
So unless you want someone to start calling you Punky (behind your back no less), it’s best to call more than just when you need money!
"I never wanted them to forget Babe Ruth. I just wanted them to remember ME!"