Networking – The Key to Unlock Small Business Growth

What is the mantra for success of your business? Introducing new products? Big ad campaigns? Networking? No. It’s relationships!

Networking sounds like wiring. And many people network like wiring – they make it messy

and they want to extract something out of it.

Networking is not exchanging business cards! It’s about connecting with people. That is how you can help them. Darcy Rezac (in the book “The frog and the prince”) defines it as “discovering what you can do for someone else.” (Source: Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of Schmoozing)

Relationships are about Caring for OthersNetworking – The Key to Unlock Small Business Growth

Just today, I heard this podcast (Jackie Speier, Former State Senator and Deborah Stephens, Center for Innovative Leadership at Stanford) where Deborah talked about relationships and she said, “I don’t think we have to network. We have to build Relationships. Relationships are about caring about someone.” And caring is reflected in how we listen to people, and how much we help others, how much you want to meet people, and how much time can you spare for others just to help. And you have a ton of such opportunities in business.

Wonders Relationships Do to Small Businesses

I cannot think of p2w2 without relationships. Every step we have taken until now was made possible because we had someone who helped us along the way.

Relationships are so important – they help you reach a higher orbit. You get new opportunities because someone knows you. They help you keep your business in a tough economy. They help you in hiring, financing your company (friends and family are the biggest and the first source of financing small businesses), in purchasing (you know deals before others!), and of course in selling (referrals). Relationships could be the essence of building a business.

If you have great relationships, you can survive the biggest challenges in the market, competition or otherwise.

So how would you network? err.. build relationships?

Networking – The Key to Unlock Small Business Growth

About the author: Chaitanya Sagar is the Co-Founder and CEO of p2w2, an online marketplace for services like writing, software, graphic design, virtual assistance, business consulting and research. He is fascinated by entrepreneurship and the difference technology can make in people’s lives. Chaitanya blogs at p2w2 blog (RSS) and tweets at

Picture credits: Theeerin, techcocktail

Dealing with upset customers

Receiving positive feedback from your satisfied customers is always nice, but the real test of your business acumen lies in dealing with the upset ones. Unfortunately, despite efforts, mistakes happen. When they do, how you tackle them determines your success.

A talking customer is an opportunity

Let’s look at the opportunity. When the client is upset, she is willing to talk. And you have an opportunity to listen what she has got. Most likely, she has a genuine issue. If she had, you have every reason to alleviate the problem and see to it that the client is satisfied. Even assume, the client is being a little unreasonable. She wants a little more than what the implied promise is. That is an opportunity to show your customers that you mean what you say in your marketing materials. 🙂

Fix Your ProcessesUpset customers, client service

There’s another opportunity. An upset client is a symptom. Studies reveal that a small percentage of upset clients actually complain. It means that the clients are just a tip of an iceberg. Most likely, with every such disappointed client, there is a loose end in the process. If you do some soul searching, you will come up with some problem that you can fix and help you have more satisfied clients. I have learnt that it’s better to be prepared to listen to complaints. You never know what you might be missing out on unless you get critical feedback from them.

An upset customer might interact with an employee in person or on the phone. Remember, when a customer is upset, he or she might seem to lash out on you as a person. They can get unruly and sometimes downright obnoxious. Excepting the odd one out, most customers are looking for someone in your company to listen patiently and solve their problem in a reasonable time. Just give them a smile, hear them out and solve the problem they have. That is it! The first lesson is that you must listen to the customer.

Receive the Angst with Pleasure

There is no need to take the diatribe personally, I realised that the customer doesn’t know me as a person and his or her angst is not meant to be directed at me unless it is my fault. Keep your cool throughout the talk, and be professional and considerate when you respond. A lot of such customers might have a genuine problem and even though I agree that their tone might be far from polite, their complaint needs to be heard objectively. A brief heartfelt apology is a good start. An abusive and angry customer generally calms down to a great extent if you approach the issue with an open mind after an apology. If I got defensive I immediately came across as not trying to look at the problem from his or her perspective. Listen carefully without interrupting. Make sure that you register the complaint fully the first time itself, asking a customer to repeat the problem again will portray inattentiveness.

In case this conversation is happening on the phone, I make sure to note down the real problems which might not be obvious if the customer is irate. After taking down all the details, I offer to call the customer back at a time convenient for him or her. This gives you time to calmly resolve the problem while letting the customer cool down and will avoid the problem from exacerbating. I know that I have spent a considerable amount in acquiring the customer, so I need to make an effort to retain him or her.

I found myself empathizing with such customers and deviating from standard company policy in a few cases to help them out. Be ready to do so, dealing with people means that you cannot always follow a rigid set of rules. Give them the attention they deserve as individuals rather than a complaint. A company policy needs to be flexible since my customer takes priority over it.

Followup and Solve

Choose your words wisely. There are ways of replying in an effective manner without upsetting the customer further. Offer them the best you can; if that still doesn’t appease them, transfer the problem to a superior and brief them effectively about the issue. As a final point, always remember to follow up on the problem with the customer once it gets fixed. Satisfactorily dealing with upset customers will go a long way in ensuring the success of your venture.

So, what do you do when a customer calls in with a complaint?

Dealing with upset customers

About the author: Chaitanya Sagar is the Co-Founder and CEO of p2w2, an online marketplace for services like writing, software, graphic design, virtual assistance, business consulting and research. Chaitanya blogs at p2w2 blog

(RSS). He is fascinated by entrepreneurship and the difference technology can make in people’s lives.

Picture credits: Blatch Shermeee

Best customer experience needs attitude not cost

Best customer experience needs attitude not costIn my experience, our best customer experiences were not about the product or the service alone, but about the attitude with which those services were rendered or product delivered.

Indeed, very often, the product is not very high quality. But the service that comes with it is so good, that, eventually the customer is ok if the quality of the product is just enough.

I had one such experience at a Mumbai restaurant. The friend I was with, a regular at that restaurant, ordered a rich green curry that he was very fond of “methi malai matar” that he’d first tasted at this very restaurant. However on that day, it didn’t live up to his expectations.

As it turned out, the old cook had left and the dish was cooked by his substitute. To me, it really wasn’t that bad, but, to my friend, it wasn’t what he wanted. So he made a very casual remark to the waiter, something about the “funny taste” of the curry and the alert waiter immediately appeared by our table, carrying another curry — this one was the new cook’s specialty and we were treated to it, on the house.
Then when we were leaving, the manager appeared at the gate bearing a rose stem that he politely handed to me, once again profusely apologizing for the fall in their own, pre- established standard.

It costs very little but brings rich returns

A frequent shopper once complained about checkout counter attendants who slide the credit card, instead of handing it back politely as many Chinese or Japanese attendants do, with two hands. Giving the card back costs little and enhances courtesy in leaps and bounds. Businesses should try to enhance service and not just marketing budgets. Yet, many think increasing your budget will help you provide better service. No wonder that there is a growing disconnect between the lack of customer service and increased marketing budgets in the American businesses. Best customer experience needs attitude not cost

A food chain like McDonald’s provides a simple experience, yet they are remarkably successful because they maintain the same standards in terms of neat,

good quality food that is good value for money in whichever country they may operate in.

Starbucks succeeded at creating the service by making their baristas as knowledgeable about their products as wine experts are – once again costs some money, but pays huge dividends.

And, all this has nothing to do with customization that costs a bomb for each customer. It’s all about attitude. Actually, if you do not have a service attitude, it might cost you more. And that’s not just in lost profits but in actual cost. Take for example banks. I know banks that can’t solve my problem despite repeated calls to them. Every time I call them, it costs. It costs them telephone time, an employee’s salary etc. But if have the right service attitude, then it costs them much lower because they don’t have to spend that extra time and they get a satisfied customer.

Get out of petty thinking

It’s easy to think, “My rate is $50 an hour. So if I spend an extra hour to make sure my customer is delighted, I lose $50” That’s petty. I would ask you, what is your cash outflow to spend extra hour? That’s real cost. Not what you ‘could have earned’ unless you have a real work waiting for you which you will surely lose if you work on the first one.
What is your own “best customer experience?” Share it.

Best customer experience needs attitude not cost

How to Lock Your Clients – 2: Exceed Expectations


In today’s competitive world, you get your differentiation from gaining trust – by exceeding expectations every time and having great customer relationships.
The relationship culture gets reflected in our lingo – nightclubs offer “a good time” not beer or other stuff. A jeweler promises: ‘We enhance your appearance,” while a real estate seller says “We create happy living environments for people” – not brick and mortar. 🙂

Making promises is easy. Delivering is not. When you make a promise, you set an expectation. When you deliver, there is a comparison between the expectation and what you delivered. If you deliver more than expected, the customer talks positively about you to some people. If not, they talk bad about you to many more.

Lining up the ducks – align expectations to what you can deliver

The key to exceeding expectations is setting them right. You first figure out what the customer wants and then anchor your service promise at a little less than where you can deliver. Promise only what you can deliver. If you know you can’t deliver, or delivering that promise is improbable, don’t promise. Simple. I know it’s difficult. But if you would like to build relationships, this is where you start.

Under promise

When it comes to promising something, then make sure you promise a little less than what you can realistically deliver. That does not mean low balling your targets. It only

means you assess what you can deliver and leave a little buffer for uncertainties and then promise that. E.g. A customer asks you if she can get a discount of 20% on the good she wants to purchase. You know that you can give a standard discount of 15%. But to give 20% discount, you have to take an approval from the company you bought the goods from so you can pass on the discount to it. In this case, you tell customer that you can’t give a discount, unless you talk to the company. After you know that you can pass on the discount, you promise the client and give the discount – not before.

Over deliver

My experience is that so long as a customer’s expectation are adequately managed (i.e., “you’ll receive a response from us within 24 hours” and you live up to that commitment) you can manage to meet expectations. But to exceed expectations, you have to do some extra work.
Take for instance a 24-hour after-sale service guaranteed by most automobile manufacturers. Suppose a customer finds a problem with the car stereo and takes it to the dealer. The dealer can, on inspection:

(a) Find no problem with it
(b) Find the problem, but fail to repair it
(c) Find the problem and repair it in the expected time
(d) Find the problem, repair well ahead of the expected time
(e) Performs (d) or replaces the entire audio system or finds a new problem that he fixes along with the audio system repair

In this example, the (c) response will merely meet a customer’s expectations, while a (d) response will exceed it and an (e) response is what will actually induce strong customer “delight.”
You have to go that extra mile in delighting a customer, even if you charge a premium for it. (Remember what we said about customers willing to pay a premium for good experience in one of our earlier posts?) In ‘e’ option, the customer would not mind paying an extra fee for getting the other problem fixed.

When you can’t meet a commitment

In case you are unable to meet a commitment, the best way out is to own up to the shortfall. The thumb rule is: make a clean breast of the bad news as fast as you receive it; while delaying good news delivery till it actually happens. Both will prove your sensitivity to the customer.
Exceeding customer expectations (not just meeting it) is one of the key ways to grow your business. If you just meet expectations, you just met them. If you exceed, you become someone your customers should take notice.


Picture credits: creo que soy yo fabya9

Why Your Supplier isn’t Performing: Pitfalls in Supplier Relationship Management in a Small Business

Ever wondered why your supplier isn’t performing? If you had a great relationship with a service provider, she goes out of her Vendor Relationship Management way to further your business. Imagine a good ghostwriter who writes compelling copy for your blog. And your blog gets you hits through search engines. It saves you money and makes money! If you do that enough, Google traffic will be good enough to compete with your ad campaigns!A killer User Interface designer, a Search Engine Optimizer, and a good accountant can all contribute enormously to your business. The more each of them contributes, the better your business gets. They will want to if you have a good relationship with them. Did you invest to nurture the relationship or are you spoiling the relationship yourself?

You must also learn how NOT to spoil a relationship first.

Forgetting the individual behind the vendor

If you forget that there is an individual behind the vendor, you are mistaken. This gets manifested in several ways. You don’t greet them or wait for them to greet you. You wait for opportunities to yell at people. And when you get, you yell to your heart’s content. You don’t think what is ‘fair.’ You just think that you are the buyer so the service provider has to service you anyway.

Mistake. Big mistake. Look at the individual. Connect with them.

Squeeze too much

Some people want to squeeze as much as possible. If you ‘squeeze all,’ where is the incentive to delight you? Because, at the next opportune moment, they will look at replace you with more reasonable client. Always, aim to pay a little above average so more people want to work for you. The more they want to earn from you, the more they will

want to delight you.

Use ‘take it or leave it’ tactic too often

This is the bullet that many employers think will solve all problems. “Do this. Or I will give this work to someone else.” Don’t get me wrong. It is YOUR prerogative to get the kind of work you want done. But don’t use it too often. If you do that, your provider will lose interest in you. He/she thinks that it’s just a matter of time that you will go away and so, it’s better to focus on getting some other client who doesn’t threaten pulling off often. After all, a service provider works for you because he/she thinks you are going to give more work. Not because you can pull off any moment.

Asking for the moon

If something is not possible, or it costs too much money to the provider, don’t press for it. I guess the touchstone here is, is what you are asking reasonable? Once again, don’t get me wrong. You are absolutely entitled to high standards of work. You can demand that. But, is that reasonable given time, and the price you’ve promised to pay? These are questions you have to answer yourself.


Ego comes in big time. “I am the buyer. He/she is just the service provider. SHE must agree with ME!” How crude! You forget that both you and your service provider are partners in achieving the same goal. YOUR goal. Make sure you further your goal. Not just your ego.

If you remove these value drenchers, you are set for the positive factors of your relationship to kick in.

If you employ professionals on, the world’s best marketplace for freelancer professionals (which will go live soon), you will realize that there are wonderful tools to work together. In addition to those, you will be able to get more value out of your supplier relationships if you manage them well. From time to time, we will bring to you all the knowledge and insights you need to get your vendor relationship work for you.