Several months ago we tackled a few projects around our house. And by “we” I mean “someone else who knows what they’re doing” because when “we” tackle anything, it is usually each other roughly fifteen minutes into said project, because half of “we” is a man who considers changing the HVAC air filters a major accomplishment, and therefore is quite sensitive when it comes to home improvement, and therefore “we” can’t put together Ikea furniture or detangle Christmas lights without World War 17 breaking out (yes, usually it’s bad enough we skip wars 3-16 and just go for broke).
But I digress. Each and every one of these projects required the help of the pros, which meant that we asked friends for advice, we did a thorough online vetting of every potential pro, we compared prices and services, we knocked a few things off of our list because we ain’t made of money, and we began reaching out to companies and individuals that we felt like would be a good fit for us and our projects.
And so began a multi-week process where I realized that some places are still inexplicably, bewilderingly in business. I realized that just because you’re good at whatever your business card says doesn’t mean you’re good at other things. And most importantly, I realized that there are a scary number of parallels between not-so-great business practices and not-so-great church practices.
So let’s pretend that I had an opportunity to talk to the business owner who didn’t make the cut. What would I tell them? What are the things I want them to know? Here are the top eight reasons that a particular business didn’t actually get my business, followed by a takeaway for the church world. How many of these are true for your context?
1. You didn’t have a web presence.
If you are a mom-and-pop home improvement business, I don’t expect you to have a website to rival Zappos or Amazon. But I would like to find something when I Google your name. Where are you located? What geographical areas do you cover? How long have you been doing this? Do you have list of your services and/or estimated prices? Church takeaway: your web presence isn’t necessarily what sets you apart. It’s what keeps you even with others.
2. You didn’t return my phone call(s).
I left my name, number, and what I needed. In some cases, multiple times. But nothing. You either never returned the call, or returned it several days later, after I’d already decided to go with someone else (and then you acted offended that I chose not to wait four days to see if you were interested). Church takeaway: are you practicing same-day call return?
3. You outsourced your phone calls.
At first, I was impressed that you employed a professional answering service so we could avoid #2 above. But that was quickly muted by the fact that to get real information, I had to wait on you to call me back. Your answering service could answer the phone, but couldn’t answer basic questions. The stock answer was always, “I don’t have that information. I’ll have to have ____ get back to you.” Church takeaway: have you equipped your phone-answerer (paid or volunteer) with the answers to basic questions people want to know?
4. You didn’t do what you said you would.
You told me you’d call me back by Thursday and you didn’t. You promised the quote would be ready next week but it wasn’t. You said you’d show up between 8-10 on Monday and you didn’t. If I can’t trust you to follow through on basic commitments, how can I trust you with my real project that involves my real money? Church takeaway: are you following through on what you say you’ll do?
5. You bad-mouthed your competition and/or other clients.
I’m all for you letting me know what makes you distinctive from other companies in the area. I appreciate you telling me the services you offer that not everyone else will. But once you started tossing out names of other companies and running them into the ground, you lost me. Worse, telling all of the business of the guy two neighborhoods over made me wonder what you’d say about me after you left. Church takeaway: are you standing on your own merits, or simply making yourself out to be better than the church down the road?
6. You assumed I knew a lot about the project.
I’m calling you because I can’t do the job. But I would also love it if you would treat me like a student. Don’t just tell me what you’re doing, tell me why you’re doing it. Give me a chance to ask questions (and don’t get frustrated with me because I’m not as smart as you). Have the heart of a teacher, as Dave Ramsey says. And while I want you to treat me like a student, don’t treat me like an idiot. Church takeaway: how many assumptions do you make with your guests? Do you believe they’re farther along than they actually are?
7. You tried to up-sell me.
I called you so that you could give me an estimate on a certain set of projects. When you got out of your truck and cockily declared, “Well, I don’t know why you called me, but I have my own list just since I pulled into your driveway!” you came across as an arrogant know-it-all. Give me a chance to talk. Let me tell you what my priorities are. I’m fine if you point out vital things that I may not have seen, but don’t try to turn my few hundred dollar project into a situation where I have to take out a second mortgage. Church takeaway: are you answering the questions your guests are asking, or are you trying to fast-forward them to a place they’re not quite ready for?
8. You simply never got back to me.
This was the most bewildering to me. If I’m looking back over this list, you passed #1-3 and 5-7 with flying colors. You were professional, you gave me confidence that you knew what you were doing, and when it was all said and done, your plan didn’t just squeak out that of your competition, it did laps around it. My wife and I were in total agreement that you were our person. Sure, your quote may have been slightly higher than others, but it was a small price to pay for the belief you sparked in us.
But then #4 killed you. I know it was a busy season. I heard your excuses every time I followed up. I gave you grace along with a second and third and fourth chance. But finally, I went with your competitor, because they were hungrier for the business than you were. And you know what’s crazy? I still regret going with them. But if you’re not available, there wasn’t much of another choice. Church takeaway: people are reaching out to you. Are you reaching back to them?
How easy (or difficult) do you make it for people to “do business” with your church?