Saturday, January 16, 2010

We are not an island

The other day my optical mouse decided to pack up. As you can probably appreciate it is pretty hard to work a PC these days without a mouse. Of course I didn’t have a spare so I took a walk down to the local PC shop. Now I had passed the store many times but never actually gone inside so I was intrigued to see what it was like.

The staff were friend enough and pointed me towards a suitable replacement mouse. As I was paying for it I started to ask about their business, how it was going. I told them that I was in IT and so on and so on. The reaction I received was basically, here’s you receipt, have a nice day, goodbye.

Now, sure I didn’t buy the most expensive item in the shop but is that much trouble to engage with someone who maybe an opportunity for your business? I’d shown some interest in who and what they were and basically I got totally shut down. Thank you, have a nice day.

I started to think about the wider circle of IT people that I know, who typically run their own business and most are quite the opposite. However, that is probably because of a relationship that has been built up over a number of years. When I think about some IT businesses that are acquaintances it made me realize that many of them are like my local PC shop, all they seem to be apparently interested in is their own business.

Maybe they have seen too many tire kickers to be bothered any more but most smaller businesses would tell you that receive most of their business through referrals. Typically these referrals are not a direct connection they are a friend of a friend. It would seem to me that the more contacts you can foster the better your chances of picking up business.

I myself have been guilty of believing that customers choose you because they admire your knowledge or what you are technically capable of. The reality is that customers give you the business because they ‘like’ you more the next business. They get some sort emotional gut reaction which tells them that this person is worth doing businesses with.

Irrational and illogical it maybe but if you stop and think about your interactions with businesses you deal with (provided you have a choice) they you tend to go with the one you ‘like’. In many cases you can’t definitively say what you ‘like’ but you have a ‘gut’ feeling and that has a surprising amount of sway when it comes to making a decision.

Perhaps the point that I’m finally coming to realize after all these years is that business is more about person relationships, gut feelings and perceptions than anything rational. I think the road to success is at least partially paved with firstly understanding this and secondly utilizing it. Maybe a good investment in your business is to get to know your peers better or perhaps getting to know people who aren’t your peers and exploring outside your normal boundaries.

How will you treat the next unknown that ‘walks into your shop’? After this experience of mine I’m certainly going to try and be more engaging and attempt to build some sort of relationship. Even if they simply end up a Facebook friend you just never know do you?