Anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy dabbling in, learning about and discussing new technologies.  If I can incorporate them into my work life, that’s even better.

One downside to technology — even when designed to bring clients and customers closer — is the law of unintended consequences.  It can become all too easy to get tripped up by all the apps, tools, gadgets, services and products designed to make success… more probable, delivery… faster, communications… enhanced, and results… better.  We can actually end up moving farther apart — from people, purpose and intentions.

Robin Hensley’s Fulton County Daily Report interview with retired attorney Frank Love Jr. inspired some thoughts about bringing customer relationship development back to basics every now and then,  especially during our currently challenging times.  It’s not only good for relationships, but beneficial to your brand.

Pay attention to what is going on.

Such a simple concept, but in a world that is so focused on acting NOW and delivering NOW, it can be easy to miss the little things, or even some big things, during the quest to make things happen. One case in point, I attended a marketing webcast.  I can’t tell you what the topic of the webcast was because all I remember is the speakers saying, you asked for it, so we’re giving it to you.  You asked for it, and we listened.  They would then proceed to talk about their product, which had little to do with the topic of the webcast.  I do remember that much.

Lesson learned: Paying attention to what you deliver is as important as paying attention to what customers SAY they want.

Become known in the neighborhood.

While Frank was literally referring to an example of becoming known within the square blocks where he lived, our professional neighborhoods today can be defined by geography, industry, targeted demographic, occupation — anything imaginable.  I like to think of becoming known in the neighborhood as part of establishing a playground.

And, to get the most out of your playground, Frank suggests that you make sure people know you.  “You have to do something. You can’t just sit around, read books, then go home, have a drink, and go to bed, because if people don’t know you, they’re not going to hire you, and if other lawyers don’t know you, they are not going to refer business to you.”

I sometimes have to remind myself to do it, but stepping away from the Netbook, iPod touch, cell phone — LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook — and actually meeting people in my playground, face-to-face, is a far more valuable and memorable experience.

Lesson learned: While online neighborhoods can be valuable and do serve a purpose, sometimes we need to relegate them to tool status and get out and meet the neighbors… get some face time.

Which brings me to… Get on the phone.

Love suggests establishing personal relationships with a client by talking to them on the telephone.  What a concept!!!  “One of the big problems I have is with all this electronic communication. Instead of picking up the phone and talking to client, you send an e-mail.  There are two things wrong with that. One, it creates a record of whatever you said that is difficult to get rid of.  And two, it’s not a personal thing.  You don’t get a personal response.  You get another e-mail in response. And oftentimes they’re misconstrued.  And so I never did that.”

While I have to admit that I will generally write an email message or send a text before I will make a phone call, I believe Frank is right.   Email makes it easier to communicate with multiple people at one time, but in our efforts to make things simpler, they can become more complicated.

Lesson learned: Sometimes the simplest way to communicate or reach a goal is to pick up the phone.

Be prepared to be flexible.

“If you’re specializing in an area and the business just dries up… you have to learn new skills,” advised Frank.   “You have to take some cases that you wouldn’t take ordinarily, both from a standpoint of money and skill requirements.”  Advice from a man who has lived through several major recessions in the time he’s been practicing law, according to Robin.

Lesson learned: That one is self explanatory.

Ask for it!

Tell your clients you are looking for more business.  “Just say to them, ‘Would you please recommend me if you have a chance?’ You’d be amazed that unless you tell somebody that they won’t think of it.  But if you do tell them that, the chances are very good that that client, if he’s happy with you, which is of course the number one requirement, will send you some clients. Happy clients are a good source of business.”

Like many of you, I’m big on making recommendations and referrals without being asked.  If I like a product, service, person, place or thing… I’m happy to let people know.  Connecting people who can benefit one another is almost second nature.  But, “Ask for it”? Not so fervently.

Lesson learned: There is always someone willing to help, but you may not find out unless you Ask for it!

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