If your home-based business calls for customers to visit your home, it’s worth your while to evaluate your customer areas every now and again to ensure that they’re sending the message you want. If you’ve never given the matter much thought, or if you’ve been too busy to take note of late, chances are you could be hurting your business.
It happens more often than you think.
Let me give you an example:
Several years ago, my husband and I were shopping in an antique store when he became smitten with a writing quill in a monogrammed, sterling silver ink well. When he asked the sales person how old it was, she laughed. “About two weeks. Those are made by a lady here in town. If you want a set with your own monogram, I can call and see when she’s available.”
As luck would have it, the woman could do it that day and told us to come right over. When we arrived at her house, however, she greeted us at the door with wet hair, no makeup, and wearing a lounging robe. We apologized profusely for the intrusion and promised to come back when it was more convenient. Baffled, she said it was no intrusion, and insisted that we come right in.
We were led down a cluttered hall, through a kitchen filled with dirty dishes, to a workshop that obviously hadn’t been cleaned in several years. Papers and feathers were everywhere, and every inch of table and chair space was filled with stuff. There was no place for us to sit. Her products, however, were beautiful.
My husband placed his order and asked when he could pick it up. “I’ll do it while you wait!” she said proudly. It was then that Robert realized he’d left his checkbook at home. While he left to retrieve it, I spent the absolute longest hour of my life standing in that woman’s workshop, hearing all about her female problems, her chronic back pain, her extensive training and all her famous clients—including The United States Congress. She had several old publicity photos to show me, attesting to her tales.
Admittedly, her work was excellent. How she could turn out such fine pieces amidst all that mess was beyond me, but the quill she carved and the inkwell she engraved for us has become a lovely conversation piece in our home.
Unfortunately, when people see it in and ask us where we got it, I tell them I can’t remember—which is true. I put the woman’s name completely out of my head the instant we were finally able to escape her house and incessant chatter. I would certainly never go back.
If this sounds like an extreme example, it’s actually one of several tales that I could tell in my dealings with home-based businesses. While it may seem like common sense to clean your customer areas and dress appropriately when meeting with clients, a surprising number of people never seem to give it a second thought.
If you’re one of them, I can tell you one thing right now: you’re not making as much money as you could be.
Because if your workspace and demeanor turn people off, they won’t come back. And if they don’t come back, you can’t sell to them again. And if you can’t sell to them again, you’re spending all your time, money, and effort acquiring new customers…when you could be selling to the same people over and over with a lot less time and energy.
Think that running the vacuum and flicking a dust cloth every now again is a lot of bother? Just try panning the river of prospects indefinitely because you can’t get any repeat business. Exhausting!
So don’t try it. Instead, concentrate on making an amenable environment for your customers so they’ll come back again and again and refer you to all of their friends. Here’s how:
1. Keep It Clean.
Designate an area where you’ll meet with clients and keep it clean and tidy. Have a nearby bathroom available, and keep it—as well as the path en route—picked up and spotless as well. You don’t have to clean the whole house every time—just the areas that your clients will see.
Also keep any walkways to your front door free of debris. You don’t want a lawsuit on your hands because a client slipped on some ice or tripped on a toy.
2. Dress Appropriately.
It’s easy to adopt a sloppy dress code when no one sees you. But don’t assume that your clients don’t care, because they do. Dress in a manner similar to other professionals in your field when meeting with your customers. After all, work is work, whether you’re in a corner office downtown or in a spare corner of your house.
(See “What To Wear When You Work From Home”, http://www.powerhomebiz.com/vol59/wear.htm for more details on how to dress for your home-based business.)
3. Offer Refreshment.
If your client will be with you for more than 20 minutes, offer her something to drink. Water, coffee, or juice are always welcome, particularly on hot or cold days. She may decline, but will certainly appreciate your hospitality.
4. Stick To Business Topics.
Unless you know the client well, try to avoid conversations about sex, religion, and politics. Keep to the business at hand, and don’t get too personal too quickly. Not only could you make it uncomfortable for your client, you never know who they might know. If you don’t want something repeated, keep it to yourself.
5. Go For the Backend.
Always have products, brochures, business cards, or newsletters ready for your clients to pick up or peruse. Make it easy for them to buy from you again by booking a follow up appointment or by having them join your mailing list. Remember: if they bought from you once and were satisfied, chances are they’ll buy from you again. You just have to let them know what other products you have.
The key to success is simple: treat others how you’d like to be treated. Clean your workspace, dress appropriately, offer refreshments, talk about their needs, and offer more solutions to their problems. In short, be professional. Your bottom line will swell with appreciation.
For more information, read the following articles:
- What to Wear When You Work from Home
- Home Office Safety Tips for the Work at Home Entrepreneur
- Bringing a Client to Your Home Office and Privacy Concerns
- How to Organize Your Home Office
- How to Create a Home Office that Works
Recommended Books on Keeping Your Home Work Area Looking Like an Office:
- The Smarter Home Office: 8 simple steps to increase your income, inspiration and comfort
- Building the Custom Home Office: Projects for the Complete Home Work Space
- At Work At Home: Design Ideas for Your Home Workplace
- Taunton’s Home Workspace Idea Book (Taunton Home Idea Books)
- A Space of My Own: Inspirational Ideas for Home Offices, Craft Rooms Studies
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Category: Home Office