Detractors, nay-sayers, back-stabbers and others who'd love to toss you under the bus. First, we all have them! It may be the former employee or colleague, who now wants to make you and/or your business look bad. It might be a competitor. It could be the customer no one could possibly please. It may be the 'ex' whomever, who is an 'ex' for a reason, and now they want to make it look like the only reason is you. In this column, we will do a look at some ways how you can handle the detractor.
Let's begin with this premise, that the kind of detractors we are going to talk about are of the unjust variety. If someone is complaining, first stop and consider the complaint objectively. Is there truth to it? If so, make the personal/professional adjustment needed to turn the complaint into a reason to improve.
Next, look at the types of unjustified complaints. Especially in an Internet, tweet, email age when someone can blast away at you to thousands of people, what can you do?
The options are indeed many, and some companies, attorneys and consultants exist who specialize in 'reputation management.' You and your organization's reputation is important! A good rep will help you profit. A bad rap can cost you a fortune, or even put you out of business. Some types of detraction (examples: libel, slander) may require legal assistance. Let's focus today on those that don't require an attorney.
Modern "Social" Testimonials
Testimonials and social media are key tools needed to contradict the nay sayer! While letters of reference, awards and 'good news' articles or interviews are all helpful, perhaps the key today is to successfully engage in social media.
Let me stress that it is always my goal to practice what is preached, and hopefully to do so with a measure of success about what is being shared. Real life examples help us all. I used to think good ideas were soooo important. They are, but later I learned that Ideas truly are a dime a dozen. Successful implementation and proof is what turns what would have been a day dream into an idea of specific, concrete value!
Having teed that up, let me share some personal experiences.
About two years ago, I listened to a professional friend's advice. He told me to build out my LinkedIn profile and invite people to “connect” with me on LinkedIn. This friend is a LinkedIn Lion, and has done very well due in part to his use of LinkedIn and Twitter. So I listened to what he had to say, and took his advice. Hint, hint. I hope you will listen and do too.
At first it was slow going. But today, my LinkedIn connections number among the largest in factory built housing. Over 900 connections and growing. I'm glad I took my friend's advice!
As important as the number of connections are endorsements and recommendations.
At first, I asked for recommendations. Later, they simply came my way. Exactly when LinkedIn began the endorsement function, I can't say without researching it. But the endorsements started coming in (without my asking) a few months ago and have not stopped!
As the screen capture from my LinkedIn profile page above shows, I have something like 175 endorsements at the time I'm writing this column. Besides those shown in this screen capture, are some pretty finely targeted skills and topics that have also been endorsed, not shown in the graphic above.
We also get other testimonials via email or letters beyond LinkedIn that we may post, here are some testimonial examples. Make sure you showcase testimonials whenever possible. For example, notice how we sprinkled them onto the pages of our MHC-MD.com website. That does make a difference!
Now none of those LinkedIn connections, endorsements or recommendations puts a nickel in my pocket directly. But 7 to as high as 70 people a week check out my LinkedIn profile. Some of those who look my profile turn into clients. Coincidence?
What is really interesting is that some of those clients have been told negative stuff by that handful of souls who seem to make it their mission in life to attempt to toss me under the biggest, baddest bus they can dream up. So having those referrals and testimonials can be crucial to neutralizing the naysayers. That also happens to be the theme of this article!
Weights, Measures and Comparisons
I tell sales pros in my training sessions that most prospective clients (retail or B2B) weigh, measure and compare products and services before acting.
Today, that may mean that before you go to a new restaurant, you read online comments posted by others. Let's say you read a half a dozen comments. 5 are good. 1 is terrible. You read them all with a dash of the skeptical, because you know that people can pat themselves on the back, or the opposite… Does the comment(s) read like it may be legit?
Once you did your quick evaluation, you make a decision. You go eat there. The food, service and atmosphere are as good as most reviewers said. You say to yourself, 'The one who trashed the place may have been a disgruntled ex employee, or someone that is hyper critical, happened to catch someone on a bad day, etc..'
That principle will apply to others who are evaluating you, IF you start, have and improve your professional social networking and testimonial gathering efforts.
More Positives than Negatives
The point is that the way you deal with detractors today is to line up testimonials that showcase your good work! Make it easy for people online to see how well thought of you or your company's product(s) or service(s) may be.
In the case of written testimonials in an article or letter, showcase one or two on your website and then let people know they can ask for and receive others.
While the more the merrier, even a few good words from good people can make the difference as people consider doing business with you.
Let's sum up:
Ask for letters or recommendation. If you are working B2B (business to business), the recommendation should be on that company's letterhead.
Use social media. Facebook tends to be better for B2C (business to consumer), LinkedIn tends to be better for B2B. Get endorsements and recommendations.
Showcase those online, so that prospective customers doing a quick web search can find them easily.
Not just Talking, Doing
Walk the talk. Don't over-promise. Don't under-deliver. Do what you say you will do. If something goes wrong and you are responsible, then do what you can to make it right.
Nothing – short of death – can stop the determined detractor. But you can neutralize their voice(s) by applying the suggestions you see in this column. Be pro-active and build up your positive, online presence. When the detractor comes along, you will be ready for them.
Open minded people who see that you have far more supporters than detractors will be able to see that the detractor's comments as the exception, not the rule. Do you recall the Hollywood maxim, there is no bad publicity. While I don't entirely agree, you can in fact turn a negative into a positive. You may close new business because of the detractor, so long as you have built up the resources noted in this article.
Finally, take the first step. It takes time to do what is described above. Don't let that stop you from starting. Getting the letters, Facebook like's, LinkedIn connections,
endorsements and recommendations, etc. are worth the effort. Once you have the testimonial process started, it picks up speed ever more easily.
Until next time, All the Best! ##
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Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, you're right. – Henry Ford