This is part of my new series on small businesses and how one can run them successfully.
People are very important to the success or failure of businesses – whether big or small, having to relate with people daily and how you relate with them will determine whether you would be able to close the deal or lose out on it. This is so important for small businesses because they do not have the financial largess that big corporations have to create and disseminate huge commercials and neither do they have the wide reach of big corporations. so, from experience as a small business owner, I believe that your people skills are so important to your business because you are dealing directly with customers and other people within your value chain and since you cannot easily write them off and expect the world to bow at your feet, then you better improve your people skills and do good by your business.
Having good people skills mean you are able to communicate well with people, relate well with them as well as be a good listener to them as well. Communication is a two way street so while you might be good at marketing your business and yourself as a brand, you also have to listen to your customers, embrace their feedback whether positive or negative and learn to grow from them; as well as learn to build relationship with them as well. No business can survive on one-time only customers because they only use your product or services just once and do not return. But since the survival of your business relies on repeat customers, building a good relationship with them is crucial because you need loyal customers to keep your business going.
Another ache or comfort to your tooth is that small businesses rely heavily on referrals and word of mouth so if your people skills are poor, then you can expect that the content of the words being spread around would not favour you or your business. It is that simple.
Here are things customers dislike about businesses or business owners with poor people skills:
- You are rude. Nobody likes to be disrespected, especially not when you are exchanging my money for your product or services. If you are rude to customers, do not expect the business to grow or even repeat patronage.
- You are condescending: Nobody likes to deal with condescending people. The simple fact that a prospective customer does not fall within your target market does not necessarily mean that you should treat such a client disparagingly. There have been situations like that when I had had to find other service providers with the kind of services that the prospective client wanted, even though I could not be of much use to them. So at that moment, they were not my customers but because I had helped them to find the service providers that were suitable to them, I was able to maintain the communication line because I knew that they would be able to refer me to somebody else and that sometime in the future, they could actually be my customers.
- You are not flexible: One of the benefits of being a small business is our flexibility because we do not have a long chain of command when it comes to making decisions as such, no bureaucracy. And secondly, because we deal with the customers directly, we are able to better understand the customers and tailor-made our services or products to suit individual needs. Offering bespoke or custom products and services gives small businesses an edge so when a business owner is unable to take advantage of this and insist on imposing his or her own ideas on the customer, it is disrespectful and amounts to poor communication and relationship skill.
- You just can’t handle conflicts or challenges: When you deal with people, you should expect conflicts and expect challenges as well. But to go AWOL on your customers or leave prospective customers hanging without any feedback from you is so wrong and disrespectful. Nobody wants to deal with people like that.
I experienced poor people skills with a service provider recently who not only ignored me during pricing but left me hanging with no feedback. And when I did contacted this person to ask if my price offer was accepted and why my messages were disregarded, she told me she had a lot of work to do and so forgot about me. And then, she ignored me again! So I took my money elsewhere.
When you run a small business, please tuck away or completely get rid of your ego because some humility will take your business a long way.
You can find additional reading here: