In the past few weeks I've been doing quite a lot of work that has required businesses to send through follow up material, proposals, quotations and so on. I am amazed at how lazy people have become, simply thinking that attaching something is all it takes to actually sell something.

What are the most common mistakes I've noticed:

  • They got my name wrong (and I assume it was still addressed to the person they had sent it to previously).
  • They got the dates wrong (three proposals required me to respond several weeks before I had actually contacted the business).
  • All bar one virtually ignored my questions and just sent me an electronic brochure for me to try and figure out the details (one brochure was 86 pages and the part that was relevant for me was buried in there somewhere).
  • Most didn't even personalize the message in any way, it was simply a perfunctory "Dear Mr Griffiths, here is the information you requested". Even if it wasn't the information I requested.
  • The longer it took them to respond, the more mistakes and lack of attention that seemed to sneak into the email.

My point here is that people are getting lazy when it comes to communicating and I see that as an opportunity for those of us who are prepared to do the work. The bottom line here is we need to make it easy for our prospective customers to buy from us and that means we have to put a little extra work in.

If you are prepared to go the extra mile, I'm sure you will set it reflected in sales conversions and word of mouth referrals.

The following tips will show prospective customers that you have heard them and that you want their business:

1. Acknowledge that you understand what they want and need by making reference to the conversation or earlier email, detailing or even better, summarizing what they have asked for and even posing the question - "Have I understood you correctly?"

2. If you are attaching brochures/documents - make reference to the relevant pages for them. For example, "the information you requested can be found at the top of page 6".

3. Don't get into an "attachment frenzy" - just give them the information they have asked for, but when personalizing your email, let them know you have more information available.

4. Don't just give prospective customers a link to your website - I'm pretty sure they would be able to find that without you. Give them the link to the specific pages that will be relevant to them and explain why?

5. Get a little creative - I've been adding an MP3 file to any complex enquiries for a few years and I've had a great response. So in the email, I simply say something along the lines of "rather than write a really long email, I've recorded an MP3 file and attached to this email that will explain X, Y and Z".

6. Always check documents for file names (nothing worse than sending out rates for 2016 and the file is called rates for 2012), any required personalization, names, prices etc. Anything that can change and should change, needs to be checked and rechecked. Even personalizing the name of a standard document will be noticed by the recipient. Little things make all the difference.

7. Take note of just how often people send you information - and how badly they do it. By being aware of what lazy communicators are doing you can avoid making the same mistakes. Forward this to other members of your team at the same time, just to bring attention to the blight of lazy communication.

8. Speaking of teams, I suggest that you double check what your team are doing in terms of communication. Have you set guidelines for them to follow or do you assume they will go the extra mile (bad assumption) with their communication? They might not like it, but ask them to forward you their last ten enquiry response emails and see what they are doing.

9. Take the time to write a short but intelligent email. Think about the subject line, think about how to formally acknowledge the person, break the copy into paragraphs, avoid shouting by using capitals, make sure that your email is clear especially with what steps need to be taken from here for the customer if they would like to proceed.

Published on: Mar 29, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.