John's Journal... Entry 68, Day 1
EDITOR'S NOTE: You can make more money, increase your business and build longevity in your relationships with your customers if you take them hunting and fishing with you. Many companies overlook this critical key in this day of bean counters, bottom lines and high-pressure sales. The better you know your customers, and more importantly, the better your customers know you, the more business each of you will do with the other and the better you can serve that customer. This week, we're looking at the reasons you should take your clients hunting and fishing, as well as ways to make your hunting and fishing trips more effective.
Successful businessmen and women understand that developing close relationships with their clients helps keep those people as clients for the lives of their businesses. Parnell Amerson, owner of Amerson Engraving Company in Hueytown, Alabama, regularly entertains his clients by taking them hunting and fishing. Amerson believes that having access to your clients provides one of the major keys to a successful business.
"My customers buy their signs from me because I know them and hunt and fish with them," Amerson explained. "If you call up a customer and you just sell signs, more than likely that person won't talk to you. But if you call up that same client, and you hunt and fish with him, the secretary knows to put you right through to him. People do business with folks they know and like.
"If I called a contractor, we might talk for 30 seconds about his need for signs. But then we'd spend 30 minutes discussing the last hunting and fishing trip we went on together, what we caught or took and when we could go again. Hunting and fishing trips definitely allow me to get to know my contractors better."
Amerson doesn't think of his clients as customers but instead considers them friends with whom he happens to do business. The friendships Amerson has with his customers mean more to him than the business they do together. "Because of that friendship I try and eliminate every problem I can for my customer," Amerson emphasized. "I want my customer's job to run smoothly and efficiently, with the least amount of hassle possible."
Amerson says that by knowing his clients personally, he can provide them with better and quicker service. If a customer has a problem or some need outside of regular business hours, Amerson, unlike many other "sign men," encourages his customers to call him at home.
Rusty Nichols, vice president of operations at Nichols Concrete Equipment Company of Alabaster, Alabama, said, "In a more relaxed environment, people tend to open up to you more than they do if you meet with them in the office or on the job site. You don't have the distractions of people yelling and hollering like you do at the job sites or telephones ringing like you do when you visit them in their offices.
"Our company has learned that corporate entertaining in the outdoors develops lasting relationships between our company and our customers other than strictly business relationships. We get to know our customers as people, and the relationships that we build with our customers by hunting and fishing with them usually last long after the business ends. The people we entertain as customers become our friends."
Tomorrow: How to Plan a Corporate Trip