When Your Voice Is Mightier Than Your Pen

Here’s an idea that can really wow your top customers (or key volunteer partners if you’re in the nonprofit sector). Years ago, I learned an easy way to engage in relationship building that set me apart from the competition. Nowadays, you can use your CRM software to make it even easier to do that than the manual calendar entry I used in the 1980’s.

Pull a report on the first of each month that lists any top customer (or key volunteer if you’re in the nonprofit sector) who has a birthday that month along with the date and telephone number.

A Key Differentiator

Now, every morning (or the night before) look over the report and make a note of anyone with a birthday in the next day or so. As you have free time during the day, call each one and wish him or her a happy birthday. Not only is this usually faster than writing, addressing, and mailing a card, but it’s also frequently more fun for you, as well. Invariably you are going to surprise them AND you’re going to be the only nonprofit staff or sales rep to call them. People aren’t all that surprised when they receive birthday cards, but many are frequently floored when they receive a personal telephone call. I’ve had some really enjoyable conversations with people I was close to professionally and it never failed to strengthen that relationship.

For relationships that are less important, you can of course, automate the process so that customers receive an email, e-card, or direct mail piece. But this tip is for those who are really important to you.

One More Thing, Don’t Do This…

It’s okay to leave a voice mail. Most likely that’s still going to set you apart from your competition, but if you do wind up talking to him or her live, don’t do anything more than wish them a happy birthday. First of all, they might be busy, but more importantly, this is not a call where you ask for their business. This is, as they say in major gifts fund raising, a “move,” it’s neither a request, nor an attempt at discovery, nor a close. In this respect, it’s purely social. Now, if they want to talk business, that’s different. Respond to their request as if it were any other contact.

You’ll need to create the habit of reviewing the list each morning or the afternoon of the day before. Don’t call after the birthday. You’ve missed your opportunity then.

Try it for a month. I’ll bet you discover it’s not only well worth the professional ROI, but frequently it makes your day as well.

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