Over a decade of Sandy’s weekly written articles on strategies and motivation for your business and your life.
Two years ago, Karen became a “Top Ten” representative out of the several hundred agents at her financial services firm. She received a certificate, a $15,000 bonus, and a great deal of attention from her peers.
Last year, she barely made it into the Top Thirty…
In January, Karen called me for help. “I didn’t do anything differently this past year than I did the year before,” she told me. “Maybe it’s the economy,” she continued, “’Cause it just seems like fewer and fewer people are saying ‘yes’ to me.”
“When you made the ‘Top Ten’ two years ago, were you consciously pursuing it?” I asked her.
“Well, no, actually,” she responded. “I was totally surprised by it.”
“What were you focused on, then, that year?” I continued.
“I guess, my total focus was on helping as many people as I could in as many ways as I could,” she explained, with a note of pride in her voice.
“Well, did your focus change this past year?”
There was silence on the other end of the line. After what seemed like minutes, Karen responded:
“I wanted to make it to the Top Ten again, and I guess my focus was on that, and not really on helping anyone,” she realized, “But would that really have made the difference? I was helping people, either way!”
“There’s a way to find out,” I hinted. “Start focusing again on helping as many people as you can in as many ways as you can, and see what happens.”
Karen called me a few weeks ago to let me know she had already made it back into the Top Ten, but that she was no longer focused on either getting there or staying there. Her focus was, once again, on what got her into the Top Ten in the first place.
“But what about the economy?” I teased.
Stop worrying about your standings, your income, or the number of cases you’re opening, and instead focus your energy as Karen has remembered to do: on serving. If you do, you’ll undoubtedly find the personal success and satisfaction you’re after, no matter what your numbers are.
If you’re having trouble with your focus, contact me, and I’ll help you get back in [the front of the] line. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
“I think I ought to go back to the way I was doing it before,” Ron, an advisor in Nevada, asserted to me in his weekly coaching check-in email. He had just taken advantage of an opportunity to teach a one-session evening class on financial concepts for a local college’s adult education program.
One of Ron’s challenges was that he rarely asked directly for an appointment. Instead, he would passively talk around offering to sit down with someone, hoping they’d get the hint—something that just wasn’t working.
In anticipation of this event, I had coached him to announce to his attendees that he had already set aside two days the following week during which he could meet with any of them who wanted to explore their situations. He would instruct them to approach him right at the end of his program in order to schedule their appointments.
Ron continued his report to me:
“I tried being more direct with everyone about setting an appointment with me afterwards, but nobody did.”
And, he concluded, “People don’t want me to be so direct.”
A few hours later, Ron received this email from one of his attendees:
I wish you had given us more valuable information, and not spent so much time promoting your business. I would have liked to get some beneficial information along with stories and facts to illustrate your subject. Then, you could have asked for questions before letting people know you were available to make appointments.
Ron sent this email to me as his proof that the direct approach isn’t a good one for him.
But Betty wasn’t complaining about his “direct approach” at all; she was upset that there wasn’t enough substance to the program and that Ron was selling his services instead of giving the attendees value. If you read her last sentence, you see that she concluded that had Ron provided the service the attendees had expected, it would have been okay to be direct about appointments.
What Ron couldn’t see was that his direct approach to appointments wasn’t the issue. He needed to have given extraordinary value first. And from the tone of Betty’s email, he clearly did not do that—at least, not for her.
Ron wants to build his business through seminars and programs like this one. If he does go back to his coy little dance around his invitations and he continues to give too little value, his results will be even more disappointing.
On the bright side, there are two clear lessons here for professionals who do presentations:
(1) Give extraordinary value and don’t spend all your time trying to sell attendees on using your services, and
(2) Only then—but always—be direct about the next step you want your attendees to take.
Every seminar should end with a clear “Call to Action”. But you can’t ask for your prospects’ action if your seminar did not move anyone to take action. Deliver value, and then tell your attendees, “Here’s what I want you to do next.”
Don’t choose to go backward before taking a direct leap forward. Contact me, and let me help you make your presentations—and your results—extraordinarily more powerful. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
“I’ve just been lucky,” my client, Jerry, responded when we started talking about the success of his financial practice.
Jerry started working with me when he felt he had hit a plateau. He was afraid to lose what he had built by raising his management and planning rates, and he wasn’t sure what he wanted his next steps to be.
“Jerry, you’ve worked hard to develop your practice to this point,” I affirmed to him, “So what makes you say that it was luck?”
“It’s just that the people I work with haven’t discovered how little I really know,” he replied. ”I mean, I’ve got all these licenses and certifications, but if they knew how often I was just winging it, none of these people would have stuck with me for so long.”
Jerry was suffering from “Imposter Syndrome“. While his clients believed in him and gave him glowing testimonials, in his own mind he was a phony, and whatever successes he had were only attributable to blind chance. The fact that his “luck” was based on how he treated people—as well as on a combination of training, continuous learning, intuition, and life experience—didn’t register with him at all.
Jerry is not alone. According to an article published a few years ago in Inc. Magazine, as many as 25% of successful entrepreneurs feel like imposters all of the time, and up to 70% feel that way at least some of the time. (That leaves little more than 5% who are confident that they have earned what they have!)
But I worked with Jerry to change his paradigm—to get him to understand that while it may appear that some people have success that is attributable to chance, his success is attributable to the dedicated effort with which he applies the skills he does possess, and to his obvious care and concern for his clients—it comes from ACTION.
Jerry came to realize that it was appropriate for him to raise his rates. “I still feel like a fake sometimes,” he told me, “But I understand that the feeling is about my fear that I don’t deserve this success. I have to look in the mirror and remind myself that I do deserve it.”
For a great discussion on the Paralyzing Fear of being unworthy, refer to my first book, The High Diving Board. I encourage all professionals to start selling services by “acting as if” they are already successful. Somehow, many of them never stop feeling that they are only “acting as if”, even long after they’ve actually become quite skilled and knowledgeable, and truly excellent at what they do.
If you think you’ve been riding on luck alone, and you’re worried it’s going to run out, contact me now and I’ll set you straight. Don’t give Imposter Syndrome the chance to hold back the growth of your business, practice, or person…just keep REACHING…
Several years ago, during a teleconference where Josh Hinds had interviewed me about my work, listeners got to hear one participant, Matt (not his real name), tell us that he was about to receive an acceptance of his offer to work with a big, new client. “How do I deal with the feeling that I may have oversold them,” he asked, “—that I’m not really capable of delivering what I promised?!”
“My wife calls what I’m going through ‘imposter syndrome‘,” Matt continued, “but whatever you call it, it is really making me feel like a fraud, and as though that at some point, they’re going to figure it out.”
Imposter Syndrome describes that collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in the face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is the feeling that you are not really competent; that you are only posing as someone who “is”. It often hits professionals at the worst time—when they are negotiating an exceptionally large contract.
Josh and I both came to Matt’s aid. I pointed out that Matt should tell himself that it is okay to have this fear. “Instead of trying to fight it,” I recommended, “acknowledge that it’s there—that it’s okay to be afraid—and take steps to do what you need to do to get rid of it. Be the expert you told them that you are.” I explained to Matt that the first step anyone takes in order to become an expert at something is to declare that he or she is an expert. Then, he or she needs to “walk the talk”.
“Get whatever training, materials, and books you need to make what you told them true,” I advised him.
Josh and I both also pointed out that Matt needs to trust his clients’ guts. “Believe that they have thoroughly considered your credentials and background,” we coached. “If they have more faith in you than you do,” we told him, “Then you need to borrow theirs.”
Many of us have a gap between what our abilities are and what we perceive that they are. While it sometimes works the other way, usually our abilities are greater than our perception of them. If you’re feeling the symptoms of Imposter Syndrome, more often than not, that’s probably what is going on.
If the feedback you’re getting is overwhelmingly positive, trust in your client’s or employer’s perception of you! If you’re still afraid, acknowledge the fear, and contact me for help getting over it. Move forward as your best self syndrome-free (with confidence), and keep REACHING…
Last week, I read an article by Dan Waldschmidt in the publication LifeHealthPro that inspired me to sit down and write this article of my own. The gist of Dan’s piece was that just because some technique or strategy works for someone else doesn’t mean that it will work for you. Not everything works for everyone all the time, Dan expressed, and you can’t underestimate the importance of how a strategy is being executed.
Jamie Smart, author of the new book Clarity, refers to the same concept in this way: It’s like taking the fruit off of someone else’s tree and trying to glue it onto your own. It just doesn’t work that way!
Over the past fourteen years, I’ve studied just about every strategy a professional can use to grow his or her practice. I’ve seen countless methods that were hugely successful for one professional that were terrible disappointments for others.
That’s because your success isn’t necessarily going to come from any of the strategies you employ, as much as it will come from how you employ them—or, in other words, from how you show up in the world.
How do people—particularly clients, prospects, and referral sources—see you? Do they see you as someone who is there to serve them…or to sell them something? Do they get the sense when they meet you or talk with you on the phone that you are someone with whom they can share their most intimate secrets…or someone around whom they have to be careful?
A timid, weak, uncertain, distracted advisor can put on an expensive suit and learn some powerful marketing and sales strategies, but he will still be seen as timid, weak, uncertain, and distracted. For him, the magical techniques that worked so well for the million-dollar producer from whom he learned them will ultimately prove to be ineffective.
Growing a business or professional practice is about reaching people who might need your help, and then “converting” them by getting them to engage your services. We can spend months developing strategies to reach prospects and techniques to convert those prospects into clients—which are both things we definitely need to do—but in the end, our successes will depend largely on who we are being, not on what we are doing.
If you aren’t getting the kinds of clients you want, it’s possible there’s nothing wrong with your strategies. The question you need to ask yourself is: “Who do I have to be (who I’m not being) to have all the great clients I can handle?”
If you can answer that question, be who you need to be. If you’re not sure what your answer is, let’s talk. In the meantime, try to engage the clients you want by branching out to grow your very own fruit, and keep REACHING…
Bill is a financial services representative in the Southwest U.S. who told me that one of the greatest challenges for him was his fear of reaching out to the already “successful” people in his community who he thought he could help.
“I have a list of these people I never call,” he told me. “The thought of reaching out to them gets my stomach churning, and I just can’t bring myself to do it.”
Bill’s list of these special prospects had at least 50 names on it. He called it his “Whale List”.
“What’s the actual challenge in contacting them?” I asked him. “Why is that you have no trouble contacting other people, but you’re paralyzed when it comes to contacting the whales?”
Bill thought for a moment and then nearly gasped at his own answer.
“They might think I’m a fool to believe that I could help them.”
“Bill, do YOU believe you can help them?” I asked.
“Well…yes, I think I might be able to!”
“So, all you’re really saying is that they might say NO to you,” I pressed on. “And if you think about it, how is that any different from when anyone else says NO to you?”
Again, there was a silence, and then Bill replied. “Well, I guess it really isn’t any different.”
“So, if you weren’t afraid to pick up the phone and ask them if they’d like to work with you,” I asked, “what would you do differently than you do with anyone else you call?”
“Nothing different at all,” he quickly conceded.
“Could you commit, then, to just one Whale Call a day?” I asked, and Bill agreed that he would.
After a week, I could tell we had created some magic. Bill had already made five Whale Contacts, and while three of them had politely told him they had no interest in speaking with him about their situations, two of them made appointments with him. None of the Whales were rude to him or refused to take his call.
A few weeks have gone by now, and Bill is still too intimidated by these local “movers and shakers” to make more than one Whale Call per day—but he has also successfully converted one of the whales into a promising new client.
If there are people on your list who you’re terrified to contact, challenge yourself to call just one a day—or even one each week. Prepare and rehearse what you’re going to say, and then make that single attempt to connect. It could change the entire course of your practice.
Two advisors start their careers with similar backgrounds—the same education and training—and similar connections and people skills. Within two years, one of them is extremely successful, and the other is struggling.
The struggling advisor sees that he has fallen behind, so he seeks out more training, more advice, more strategies…but his world gets no better.
Too many professionals are seeking descriptions of someone else’s successful behaviors and strategies that they can apply to their own businesses. But descriptions of someone else’s successful behaviors and performance don’t usually give you access to that same level of performance.
There is only one thing that accounts for the difference in the level of performance of these two advisors, and it’s not that one has more ideas and strategies. Access to the higher performance is based on ACTION! The successful advisor is taking massive action to create what he needs. The struggling advisor isn’t.
Study any top professional and you’ll see the same thing. What distinguishes his or her performance is his or her level of ACTION.
But why doesn’t the weaker-performing advisor access the same level of action? It’s not because he doesn’t have enough information or strategies. His performance level is lower because the way the world is occurring to him—and the way he is occurring to himself—is perfect for the level he has attained. His level of action matches how the world occurs to him perfectly.
Here’s how the world might be occurring to the successful advisor:
I am the best advisor in the state. The prospects I meet are godsends. They are people I can serve who will appreciate what I do for them and want me to help everyone they care about. I can be who I want to be because the world is a safe place and the people that matter will respond to me positively.
Here’s how the less successful advisor might be viewing the world:
I’m good at what I do, but sometimes I just feel I don’t know enough. Prospecting is so difficult—nobody ever answers the phone and they never call back. When they do, they’re already working with someone or they have no money. It’s a tough world out there and if I just told some of the people who are ‘thinking about’ what I’ve recommended what I really think, they’d probably back away, and then there would be no business at all.
If you’re not happy with your performance, it’s because of how prospecting, sales, dealing with prospects and clients, and your role as a professional are occurring to you—not because you need more ideas. All the training in the world from the best people in the business will not substantially change your results if there isn’t a huge shift in your view of the world surrounding your activities. It’s really about your “inner stance”, not what activities you’re doing.
How your world is occurring for you shapes every action you take. So trying to change your level or type of action to improve your overall performance, without first addressing and shifting how the world occurs to you, is futile. You don’t need more information, either. You need a better view of the world and your place in it.
Listen to the words you use when you talk about yourself, your family—your business, your prospects, your clients. If you’re not where you want to be, what you say about all of these things will tell you why. Your words are the window into how your world is occurring to you. Catch the negative, weak words that are holding you back and replace them with powerful words—words that show the world is occurring to you in a better way.
You don’t need more training; you need an alteration in occurrence. Only then can you change your actions, increase your performance, and become the success you know you ought to be.
The work I do is giving people access to an alteration in occurrence. If you have the courage to contact me after reading this, I’ll waive my fee for the conversation that could begin your transformation.
In the meantime, watch out for your own weak words, and do all that you can to keep REACHING…
Call me Crazy (or maybe just call me “Coach”) but when someone rings to try and sell me something, I usually don’t hang up on him. I listen and respond to his inquiry, and then I make suggestions to him on how to improve his approach.
For most professionals, cold calling for new clients is the strategy of last resort. Who wants to call someone up to be lied to, cursed at, or hung up on? Still, many of my clients are in businesses where some cold calling, at some point, is necessary. And most of the others need to be comfortable on the phone calling referred prospects.
Do people hate to receive calls at home? Do busy managers and executives hate to be bothered by callers trying to convince them to buy their products? The answer to both of these questions is yes…but no—at least, not entirely.
“If I were calling you to tell you that you just inherited a million dollars and I needed to arrange for you to pick up the check, and there wasn’t a lie or a catch,” I ask in my workshops, “would you be angry that I interrupted your dinner time?” “No,” my attendees agree.
“If I were calling you at your place of business with a truly low-cost, truly guaranteed way to make more money, while simultaneously reducing your overall expenses for the future,” I ask, “would you be upset that I got past your ‘gatekeeper’ to reach you?” “No,” they agree again.
“So, then,” I ask, “what do you and your prospects actually hate?”
The answer usually comes down to “sounding like a telemarketer”, or a “salesman” (or saleswoman). There are, of course, successful telemarketers who sound natural and comfortable. But you know the type we’re talking about…
~They mispronounce your name with no apology and no effort to get it right.
~They sound like they’re reading directly from a script.
~They come on strong, forcing a big “salesy” smile through the telephone.
~They try to warm up the call by pausing to say or ask something disingenuous like, “And How Are You Today?” when you know they don’t care about your health or well-being in the slightest.
~They use “salesy” language like, “This is an exclusive offer.”
If part of your work is making calls to people you don’t know, the “telemarketer type” provides you a great guideline for how not to do it.
But here are some suggestions for making a perfectly pleasant call to the ideal client you simply haven’t met yet:
1. Get the name right beforehand; or, apologize and fix it! If you can’t find out how to pronounce the prospect’s name ahead of time, ask immediately if you got it right. Apologize and try again. Continuing to call me “Mr. Skuzzel” won’t ever help your cause.
2. Learn the script and put it aside. Scripts themselves are okay. Some of the best actors use them. But you change the channel on a show quickly when the actor sounds like she is reading her lines. Either learn your script so well that you no longer sound like you’re reading, even if it’s in front of you, or toss it away and keep only an outline with bullet points of the things you want to make sure to say. It’s not a bad idea to keep this near you, but never just read it to your prospect.
3. Forget about the rule that you should sound “up”. Coming on too strong—even too positive or bubbly—can be a turnoff. Don’t be timid, but start gently—and adjust your mood and tone to the person with whom you’re speaking.
4. Don’t do AHAYT. For most of us, “And How Are You Today?” raises an instant red flag that we’re going to be sorry we took this call, so we better just not. Say why you’re calling and get to the point right at the outset. Telemarketers use the “AHAYT” greeting to catch their breaths before jumping into their long scripts—and we “prospects” know it. Another killer is “actually”, as in “Actually, the reason I’m calling is…”. Just don’t.
5. Stay away from “salesy language”. Phrases like “one-time, limited offer” and “I’m going to be in your neighborhood,” are business killers. You have a much better chance of making a sale or getting an appointment if you avoid trying to make a “pitch”. Simply describe your products or services and their benefits, and don’t try to clinch a deal with urgent ultimatums.
6. Go for rapport. Make marketing more fun for you and less painful for your prospects by aiming not for the appointment or sale, but to connect with them—maybe even to engage them in conversations. While this may, at first glance, seem like the long way to go about it, I promise that it will be much more effective in the long run.
If I can help you get more clients in this (or any other) way, call me your “More Clients Coach”—and first, just call me. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
While most people think that the biggest fear we face in our professional lives is the fear of failure, the fear of success is actually much more insidious and damaging.
Lisa, age 28, had been earning $40,000 a year at her corporate job and switched to a straight commission financial job working for one of my clients—the sales manager of a company that offers clients mutual funds—because it promised her unlimited earning potential and flexible hours.
In her first six months in sales, starting with cold calls, Lisa cleared $31,000. But how much do you think she earned in her next six months?
That’s right: only $9,000. Somehow, in the second half of the year, despite her continued activity on the phone, she could not set as many appointments, she had more cancellations, and she ended up with significantly fewer sales per kept appointment—so that her annual income came out to be just about what it was at her old job.
How could this have happened? My client called me to ask if I might be able to help Lisa, and he referred her my way. As it turns out, she and I found that her problem is a common subject of coaching. It appeared that Lisa was actually avoiding the success she had in her first six months. But why would anyone avoid success?
Whenever professionals are having a run of “bad luck”, a fear of success may be at the root of it. Dr. Kerry Johnson, a renowned sales coach, suggests that a fear of success is not usually an issue of self-confidence, but something more specific, arising out of two limiting beliefs that may have come to be embedded in our thinking:
1. The belief that the only path to financial success is through extremely hard work. If we have a belief—conscious or subconscious—that our success is coming too easily or too quickly, we’ll actually slow ourselves down.
2. The belief that being too successful is somehow essentially wrong. If we’ve been taught that “money is the root of all evil” and “you can only make money off someone else’s back”, we may start back peddling when we suddenly find ourselves making real income. If we think we’ll hurt Dad’s feelings if we’re earning more than he does, we’ll slow down so as not to get too far ahead of him.
Here are some symptoms of Fear of Success from which you may suffer:
Your income has stayed flat or decreased, even though you’re not working any less.
You feel guilty about your small victories, but you’re not sure why.
You’re missing what usually are easy sales, especially after you’ve had a good week.
You’re “forgetting” to follow through on promises made to prospects or clients, and you’re blowing sales that were already “in the bag” by acting unusually foolish.
If you have any of these symptoms, you may be backing away from the success you deserve—even sabotaging it. Here are some of the things you can do to turn your situation around:
1. Take a look at where your sales are now. Set goals to take them further, and commit to them in writing.
2. Observe and record each time and place that the “fear factor”—that uncomfortable, overly modest or guilty feeling—appears in your daily business or personal life.
3. Share 1 and 2 with someone else who truly wants you to succeed.
Through coaching, Lisa started her earnings rolling again and this year, she’s right on track again to earning a six-figure income.
“There’s just never enough time to do all the things that need to be done!” Dave, an insurance producer, told me during a recent workshop. “Is it possible,” I asked Dave, “that you’re focusing on the trivial many instead of the vital few, and that’s why you don’t have enough time?”
I explained to the group how the Pareto Principle—the 80-20 rule—applies to most businesses and professional practices:
20% of the things you do to grow your business or improve your career—the vital few—produce roughly 80% of your results. If you want to work “smarter” instead of “harder”, your goal should be to do more of that 20% work—the work on the vital few—and less of the usual 80% of your work that doesn’t get results—the trivial many.
To know what is vital and what is trivial, you first need to figure out what your mission is—what you want to accomplish. This needs to be crystal clear to you. Each of the vital few activities has to be designed to get you to your business goals.
Once you know where you’re going, you can figure out which activities are helping you get there directly, and which ones are only peripheral pit stops. Then, every time you’re doing something in your business, you can ask yourself whether what you’re doing at this moment is directly aimed at the result you want—whether it’s vital to your success. If it’s not, why not delegate it to someone else?
Do the work that only you can do, that you’re best at, and that you like the most. Delegate the rest.
“The first thing you can eliminate is the work you hate the most,” I suggested to the seminar group. “What do you hate the most?”
“The bookkeeping,” Dave spoke out, before anyone else could respond. “But delegating that is expensive and I really can’t afford to do it,” he complained.
“Have you figured out how much you make per session when you’re working with clients?” I asked him. With some humility, Dave confessed that if we figured his time with clients hourly, it came out to about $200 an hour.
“And how much would a bookkeeper cost?” I continued.
“About $40 an hour in my area,” Dave admitted.
“That means,” I pressed on, “that if you spent just one more hour this week with a client, you could hire a bookkeeper for five hours and not lose any profit, right?”
Dave’s eyes lit up. I knew that he, and at least a handful of the other workshop attendees, would be freeing up some time for themselves soon.
If you weigh the cost of having someone else do the work you hate against the energy drain and erosion of effectiveness you experience in doing that work yourself, the cost of having help reveals itself as a very small price to pay.
This week, list all of the things that need to be done in your business or practice, but that you hate to do, and be honest with yourself about whether someone else could be doing those things for you. Pick one item from your list and arrange to have someone else take care of it. You’ll be amazed at how much time, and energy you’ll free up for the vital few.
If I can help you consolidate your professional schedule, contact me. In the meantime, as part of your 20% work, keep REACHING…