How to Use Good Communication to Set a ‘Scope of Expectations’
Paul Boucherle explains how two-way communication instead of a one-way contract can help grow your business.
Good communication is the fertile field for companies that want to plant and harvest their revenue growth, build teamwork and share innovative ideas. Fundamentally you build active customer promoters and reduce/eliminate unproductive drama at harvest time when delivering installations or service commitments as expected.
Communication is the No. 1 business skill for all who wish to excel in their chosen careers and lead team growth, according to many business pundits.
How well does your company really communicate? How often are you called upon to put on the zebra shirt and referee whistle to settle rule disputes between employees? Is this productive time? Probably not, I would suspect. Communication is a huge subject, so let’s separate the wheat from the chaff.
Effective Communication Clears Any Confusion
Applying principles of good communication on a daily basis to the realities of your security integration business will save you time and drama so you can focus on growing the company. I suggest sales as a great place to start. Let’s make it tangible and real by talking about a fundamental sales team discipline of which you are familiar — scope of work (SoW) in a proposal or agreement.
This crucial communication element basically tells your prospect, customer or contractor what you are providing, and for how much compensation for materials and labor, correct? However, do your customers really understand your technologies, practices, and how you conduct your business?
We often use terminology and language to “communicate” what we are going to do. Now add in the time factor between proposal acceptance and actual installation of your solutions. What could possibly go wrong with this picture?
Plenty, especially if your SoW is a bit ambiguous and leaves room for interpretation … “I thought the system would …; that you would include ___ in that cost; that you be finished installing by …” and so on. Sound familiar?
Naturally SoW should be part of every proposal where security systems integrators typically define the equipment or solution that will be installed. We also include all the fine print to limit our liability and business exposure. So here is your new acronym: SoE, or scope of expectations.
Set Expectations Early in the Process
As security systems providers we have expectations of the sales, design and installation process, but so do your customers. Let’s re-examine the benefits of how two-way communication instead of a one-way contract can help grow your business.
First, there is one caveat; if you are bidding an RFP with a hard specification that was professionally developed, a good deal of details is already provided to identify SoE. This can represent a small percentage of your business, but what about the bigger picture, like customer expectations?
Share your processes, educate and ask your customers to share their expectations early in the selling process. The basics for SoE should include six key elements; let’s examine two here and the rest next time:
The “who” involved in the success of the project.
Too often the only “who” the customer knows is the salesperson, but who else in your company will this customer work with in the future and in what capacity? Will they call your salesperson whenever they have a questions or issue to resolve?
Is the “problem solver” or service manager the role and responsibility of your sales team? While I understand it might be the salesperson today, consider changing that if you aim to harvest satisfied customer expectations in the future.
Effectively communicating the different people from your team that will deliver solutions helps customers understand your business processes, while releasing salespeople from the Just Fix-It to the Just Sell-It role.
Good communication is the ultimate time management tool for your sales teams. Finally, who will be involved from the customer’s team? Early identification of the stakeholders and their roles will help your team deliver solutions, training and resolve concerns faster.
The “what” translation from our security language to plain English that makes sense to a business owner and the team.
Rather than list equipment and model numbers, explain the intent of the system to make sure you are meeting customer expectations.
Consider common questions customers will ask. Will the installation be phased or completed from start to finish? Will your installation team use power equipment, be pulling cable, mounting equipment, invading their network, and need a customer contact on site to resolve problems?
Will training the customer to use the system be included? Will your technicians ask for a signature of system acceptance?
The more effective your personnel communicates your process, the more clearly you set, confirm and hopefully excel in surpassing customer expectations. That wins you active referrals!
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