This Nugget presents concepts that are as applicable to small business owners as it is to job applicants.

These days, more and more people are becoming comfortable with the idea of reaching out electronically to find skills and talent to perform many types of jobs. Assuming a business has a website that presents enough information for visitors to make decisions, the business may receive a request for contact or to provide an estimate.

If your business receives such a request, there then follows a right way and a wrong way to handle that request.

  • Provide a PROMPT response. A friend mentioned the responses from his request for a quotation for a basement renovation project was rather surprising. To his email request that was sent early in the morning, one contractor responded that evening, the second, the next night, the third a week later, the fourth 2 weeks later.
  • Type of response matters. The contractor who won the business was very PERSONABLE. The second contractor was also personable. The third contractor responded, a week too late, with a phone call AFTER the decision was made, and after rejection letters had been sent out. It was the rejection letter that had prompted his call. The fourth contractor sent an email TWO WEEKS LATE and in it provided a list of reasons why people don’t like the work of contractors. Then, my friend’s name made it to that fourth contractor’s mailing list for several more follow up emails.
  • ALL requests are important to the person making the request. Notice the word, “person”, in that sentence. People want to be “hugged”, but not in creepy Joe Biden style. The point is, show respect for the inquiry. Often a very effective way to do that is to move it from an online, impartial interaction to a personal interaction. If you have a contact phone number from the inquiry, then PHONE. At least get your voice to them as soon as possible. When you do call, if you get a request to leave a voice message, do so. Provide your name and company name; a quick comment about your expertise, a brief comment about what you’d like to do to start the process.
  • When you show up, LISTEN…LISTEN…LISTEN. One of the contractors providing the estimate to my friend went above and beyond when engaging the home owners. The second contractor simply took a few measurements and promised an estimate.
  • Be timely. One contractor promised to work his evening to produce an estimate and committed to return the next evening with an estimate and diagrams. The second contractor committed to producing an estimate and “some drawings” within the next 3 or 4 days.
  • VALUE-ADDED is a key concept. The contractor that my friend, and his wife, selected was rich with suggestions to add to the comments made by my friend and his wife. It was a “great conversation. We had some ideas, but this guy went above and beyond…not only clarifying each of our comments, but also pointing out potential issues with the ceiling and how to overcome them, the doors and the wall on one side…”
  • A written quotation was provided that included drawings, details, and a scale for payments. Once again, my friend speaks: “We were anxious about handing our life-savings to a contractor. You know. You hear so many horror stories of people paying big money for renovations and then having all kinds of nightmares. So, the scale of payments made us feel that we had a semblance of control.”
  • My chum had this to say, “When work began, we were literally blown away. Worker crews were amazing. They worked tirelessly. The contractor we selected was there for our every need, making adjustments as we went along, etc. We are just delighted in our choice.”

Let this be your take away, if you are small business owner: as soon as you can convert the online contact into a face-to-face relationship during which you listen to the inquirer and gently offer suggestions to THEIR ideas. Then, WORK YOUR ASS OFF to be on schedule and meet all the needs of your client.