“The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”
— Tom Waits
I love this quote—even if it’s not always true. It goes hand in hand with “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Everyone does judge a book by its cover: That’s how we decide which books to buy.
And by default, your clients and prospects will believe that the way you do anything is the way you do everything. If your sales process shows you to be inaccurate or difficult to communicate with, they will believe that that’s how you are in other things.
That’s why I put so much emphasis on process (You can’t control people, but you can control your processes). When you think about “your way” and your SOPs, it’s important to note that everything you do in your company falls into one of two categories:
1) Behaviors you created with intention
2) Behaviors that emerged on their own
It’s extremely important that more of your behaviors fall into the first category. This includes technical processes as well as culture and the softer (human) side of your business. There are three periods during which you need to be attentive to that long list of “everything” you do: Before the sale, your first job for the client, and your ongoing relationship.
Before the Sale
Whether you realize it or not, your sales process tells a story about how you will be to work with. Do you have pre-printed forms? Do you give a written estimate? Are you easy to get ahold of by phone or email?
I intentionally mention that we have a process for everything when I’m in a sales cycle. I always use the phrase “We like to see . . .” to describe what we would do with the prospect’s network. We like to see a business class firewall. We like to see a monthly test of the backup. And so forth.
This casually lets the client know that we have a process. And it subtly says that we expect them to follow it.
Whether you like it or not, you will be judged very broadly based on your sales process.
The First Job
In the Managed Services Operations Manual, I have a whole chapter on the first job. Basically, this is the most important job you do for the client. It sets the tone for everything that will follow.
This will be the first time you show up for a work order. How do you show up? What do you wear? How do you greet the client? How do you explain what you’ll be doing? How do you manage the money and the paperwork?
If you’re working from a quote, it’s very important that you charge what you said you would charge. Avoid a change order at all costs, if you can.
If you haven’t thought about it, you should. What do you normally do on a first job? How does it go? How do you control as much of the process as you can?
It’s particularly important that you don’t let the first job morph into a big, messy, catch-all job. Do exactly what you agreed to and make it as successful as possible. Then create a service ticket for each additional item the client wants to add to the list. You don’t need to say no, but you do need to say, “Not now.” If you allow scope creep on the first job, you can expect it on many jobs after this.
I know some of you are thinking that this is “bad” service because I’m not running around trying to get ten hours’ worth of work into a two-hour visit. But there’s a good reason for this policy: You need to establish a pattern of support that is sustainably profitable.
The Ongoing Relationship
This is where the real payoff is. You need to practice consistency in all things. This is very important as you grow your company. When you are a small shop (five or fewer), every client gets to know every technician. As you grow, that becomes harder to do.
One time I was talking to a former client and we were discussing the various technicians we experienced over the 20 years they were my client. She mentioned one guy who really stood out—for the wrong reasons. Apparently, when he started, people in her company weren’t sure they liked him or his personality.
“But,” she said, “we know you and we know the kinds of people you hire. And we had faith that he would do a good job.” And, over time, he won them over. More importantly, the consistency of our performance over time won them over.
In all these things, you need to steer the ship. Wherever you are right now, you need to make sure that you are attentive to the “everything” and move it in the right direction. If a process is well-defined and exactly what you want going forward, make sure it’s documented and everyone is trained on it.
If a process is poorly defined, or your company doesn’t consistently do it the way you want, then you need to define how it should be, and train everybody up on that. Little by little, all processes will improve over time. Documentation and training are your best tools.
I have said on many occasions that employees and clients are like dogs: They will do whatever you train them to do. This includes training by not training. If you train employees to do whatever they want at the client’s office, that’s what they’ll do. If you train clients that they can call you in the evening, they will.
I highly encourage you to have a formal documentation process. Keep your documentation in a place where everyone can get to it. Train employees to look for a written process first and to follow it. Train them to update the process if necessary. The last item on every checklist should be to update the checklist.
I guess the way you document anything is the way you document everything.
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