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Copyright 2006 Joel Sussman

Possibly one of the biggest obstacles to making a sale or increasing your client list is fear: fear of making the wrong decision, fear of being ripped off, fear of getting lousy service after the sale. Two things fuel that fear: personal experience and news headlines.

Case in point: A couple years ago, I tried out a new dentist based on a full-page ad in the yellow pages and the credentials listed on his web site. To make a long story short: After a couple visits, I decided I was extremely dissatisfied with every aspect of my experience as a patient of his, so I asked his office staff to forward my records to a different dentist that was recommended to me. The upshot is that about a year later, I saw a newspaper article about this first dentist saying that he was sentenced to five years of felony probation after pleading guilty to bilking dozens of patients out of almost 100 grand!

Another case in point: The state Attorney General?s office is now building a case against a contractor with whom I had some major service-related problems. Apparently, he has created a long trail of disgruntled customers over the years and it?s catching up to him. For the time being, however, his display ads in the local Penny Saver newspaper keep luring new, unsuspecting customers in.

The purpose of these two stories is this: Lots of people have been burned and many other people have heard news reports and stories about fraud, dishonesty, or just plain bad service. That?s one of the reasons it?s more important than ever to convey to your prospective customers and clients that you?re an ethical, respected, and service-oriented business person.

It?s All in How You Communicate

Similar to an integrated marketing strategy, one should pursue a combined approach to portraying themselves as an ethical, customer-centric individual or company. One way is to develop a mission statement, a values statement, and/or a vision statement that you can include, in some form, on your web site, brochures, press releases, newsletters, and other modes of communication. Those statements should convey a strong emphasis on client satisfaction and customer service.

Developing and maintaining a stellar reputation for excellent quality and value-added service is the foundation for gaining people?s trust and generating valuable word-of-mouth advertising. The more positive ways the public hears about you, the more receptive they?ll generally be to becoming your client, customer, or patient.

What a lot of professionals fail to do ? and this is costing them clients and income ? is to ask for referrals, especially at the moment when their client is at their optimal level of enthusiasm. Each situation is different, and everyone has to be their own judge of what?s appropriate, but one of the best times to ask for a referral is when a client has just profusely thanked you for the great service you?ve provided. The opposite side of that same coin is to give them a few of your business cards and ask them to give them to friends, co-workers, or family members who might be in the market for your services.

Whether you?re talking about Internet marketing or traditional marketing, the more hooks or nets you have in the water, the greater your catch is going to be.