Leasing a vehicle is a good way to mark the passage of time. Last week, our first family SUV came off lease, which really got me thinking about all the places we’ve been over the past three years. With those memories in mind, my wife and I traveled down to South Jersey with our newborn sleeping in the back, snuggled in the same infant car seat her sister used when she was a baby.
We made it 75 miles down the Jersey Turnpike when we got the call. Hazel’s daycare informed us that she was running a mild fever, which meant turning the car around and scrapping our already busy day to go pick her up from school and take her to the doctor. My poor wife proceeded to have a full-blown postpartum meltdown, screaming, “Why is this so hard!”
The reason for trekking hours away from home to lease a car was the result of a local car dealership experience that would make you question your faith in business practices and humanity itself. Weeks earlier, when Heather was still pregnant, we walked into this local dealership, pointed to the floor model in the showroom and said, pointedly: “We’d like to lease that car.”
But somehow, we couldn’t. In negotiations, I couldn’t so much as obtain a counter to my perfectly reasonable initial offer. Different reps emerged from their cubicles to ask about the equity in our current lease and then disappeared again. We were offered a walking tour of the service department twice(!), and a chance to spin a wheel to win cash (and given attitude when we declined).
Four days, three associates and two sales managers later, nothing. We couldn’t have been more direct, more certain, more informed. And still, we — the customers — couldn’t get this dealership to execute the one transaction it exists to perform: give us a damn car.
More business is won when things are easy. Had the dealership focused less on antiquated sales practices and more on their sales process, we could have established a lasting professional relationship and business for years to come. The very same is true for financial advisors who making bringing in new business harder than it needs to be.
If a legit prospect walked into my office and said, “I want to hire you. Here’s my financial information. Let’s get to work.” I would do everything in my power to get them in the door with as little friction as possible. They’d be plugged into our firm’s systems, provided a straightforward consulting agreement and charged a fee that makes sense for the services we provide. We make it easy, because we know easy wins.
Nothing could be more business prohibitive than making it difficult to onboard your customer. You must have a system for making their lives easier. If your process is digital, find the software that’s the easiest to use. If it involves hard paperwork, complete as much of it as you can and pay for the postage both ways. Tracking is a must.
What to know what else is easy? Transparency is easy. Now more than ever, people want to know what they are paying for. Being shady about your fees or costs will dramatically decrease your chance of winning and retaining business. Information passes too freely these days. Any attempt to cover the foul stench of BS will result in a dash for the exit.
The easiest of easies has to be communication. Email, text, cell phones and social media have opened a host of channels that can be used to make yourself immediately available and accessible. With this kind of technology so accessible, how can you not afford to be responsive? Making yourself easy to get a hold of is a competitive advantage.
Lastly, make leaving easy. Where most businesses slip is thinking the end of a relationship is an excuse to lower their standards. In reality, it’s a call to raise them. It’s never fun when things don’t work out, but by making this part of the process easy, you will maintain your reputation and dignity. That’s table stakes in a service profession so make sure the door doesn’t hit them on the way out.
Two days after our epic Turnpike Turnaround, we finally made it down to Vineland Toyota where a team of professionals made us feel like their number one customers and put us in our new SUV in just over an hour. They knew we had a newborn and this wasn’t easy for us. So they made what they could control even easier: the paperwork was pre-populated, the car was detailed, all hands were ready to be shaken. Before our arrival, our sales representative actually took the time to learn more about me and my business, despite the deal already being cut. I wasn’t just impressed by the service; I was humbled.
This post originally appeared on my blog.