The "Little Things" Have a Big ImpactSteve Adubato, Ph.D.
Consider an organization in a highly competitive marketplace. It doesn’t matter whether it is a law firm, an accounting firm, a bank, a non-profit seeking a grant from a corporation, or anyone out there looking to close a deal. Simply put, very often it is the “little things” that communicate a very big message.
Recently, I was coaching an organization on a problem they were having with the proofreading and fact-checking of sales proposals and important letters going out over the signature of the organization’s CEO. Several of these letters involved efforts to renew significant contracts, or, close new deals.
Consider some of the “little things” that were about to go out the door and were caught by the CEO at the last second:
One contract was going out to a prospective client on May 13 after several revisions and edits. The problem was the letter was dated April 1, which was the date of the initial letter that was sent to this prospect for his feedback. Forget the irony of the date being April 1 and what that communicated, but what had clearly happened was that several staff members had been involved in proofing and editing the agreement but no one had picked up that the initial date was not revised.
In another case, a renewal agreement was being sent to a major corporation, except in the final paragraph of the agreement, it referred to the corporation’s main competitor. Why? Because a similar agreement had been reached with that competitor weeks before, but because many team members had gone on “communication auto-pilot”, they didn’t pick up that what was about to be sent had a massive mistake in it that clearly diminished any chance of renewing the contract.
Further, how often have you seen typos in simple words or the misspelled name of a client or prospect in a letter or important e-mail? Unfortunately, this organization had experienced all these as well.
Clearly, there is a pattern here of sloppy communication that has forced the organization’s CEO to micromanage the written material being sent out, which creates all sorts of bottlenecks and delays. Further, it erodes the CEOs confidence in team members and their ability to execute effectively and negatively impacts morale because the CEO doesn’t hold back expressing his displeasure.
So ask yourself. What DOES it communicate when you mistakenly put the name of a company’s direct competitor in a proposal to finalize a contract? It says that you are on communication auto-pilot and are going through the motions. It says that you are cutting and pasting from a boiler-plate proposal and not customizing your communication.
These so-called “little things” also communicate very powerful negative messages when they don’t get caught early enough and are received by important clients, prospects or stakeholders. They communicate that whether it is true or not, key personnel just don’t care enough to get things right. It communicates that if they are sloppy with important names, dates and information, then they will likely be sloppy on the execution of services to be rendered.
In these highly competitive and challenging economic times, these same mistakes give someone an easy excuse for rejecting your proposal. You may never even know why you got a ‘no’, but the recipient of your communication has written you off and he could very easily share that negative view with other key players in the market.
In business, it is the so-called “little things” that communicate a very big message.
Steve Adubato coaches and speaks on communication and leadership and is author of the new book "What Were They Thinking? Crisis Communication: The Good, the Bad and the Totally Clueless" (Rutgers University Press). Write to him at The Star-Ledger, 1 Star-Ledger Plaza, Newark, NJ 07102, visit his Web site at www.stand-deliver.com, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.