Most of us start our businesses or careers backwards. Instead of figuring out what kinds of lives we want to have, and then making our professional choices as part of strategic plans to attain those lives, we first choose businesses or careers, and then let them take us wherever they decide we can go. Over time, we discover that we’re not where we wanted to be, and we become unhappy.
Who’s in charge, you or your work?
Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited, refers to the life you want to live as your “Primary Aim”. Your practice, on the other hand, is simply a part of your “Strategic Objective”. Why are you doing what you are doing now, if it’s not to guide yourself toward your Primary Aim?
Here’s an exercise that’s worth doing:
1. Write down where you want to be in your life in two, five, ten, and twenty years: financially, emotionally, spiritually, geographically, etc. What do you hope to have learned? What do you want to have accomplished? What kind of people do you want to be living with, working with, associating with? Who do you want to be?
2. Write down how you think your career/business/practice ought to grow and change and how it will, as it evolves, help you reach your goals. What has to happen in the next three months/years for you to feel happy with your continual progress?
A picture like this might emerge: “My business couldn’t possibly make me the millions I need to live the tropical-island lifestyle I want within the next twenty years. I either need to change my expectations, change what I’m doing, or change the way I’m doing it.”
3. If your picture looks something like the one I’ve just described, write down what you need to change, and how and when you need to make your changes to fix your “Life Plan”. Do a “SWOT Analysis” (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats):
What strengths will you need to reinforce and maximize, and what skills must you develop (weaknesses), in order to focus on and capture your biggest opportunities for progress? What are the biggest threats you will need to face and deal with in order to seize those opportunities?
As the famous Twentieth Century philosopher, Yogi Berra, said: “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”
Delve deeply into your Life Plan, and utilize powerful tools for figuring out what you need to do to get where you want to be. You can do this exercise and follow through on what needs to be done all on your own, but your odds will improve greatly if you ask for help. So keep asking the RIGHT questions, keep planning, and keep REACHING…
More insurance and financial professionals than I ever expected showed up for my webinar last week on Business Planning for 2013.
But I was even more surprised, in talking with attendees in the days that followed, to learn how many of these professionals could not answer basic questions about their essential numbers.
Whatever field you’re in, you have to start with the end in mind. Your goal doesn’t necessarily have to be financial, but let’s use a financial goal as an example:
Let’s say you want to earn $100,000 this year.
Now, you can’t really plan how you’ll reach that goal unless you know your other essential numbers:
~How many times do you have to pick up the phone and initiate a call (how many “dials”) before you reach people live (make “contacts”)?
~How many of the people you reach will be willing to set an appointment with you (“sets”)?
~How many of them will actually keep those appointments (“kept”)?
~How many of those who keep an appointment with you will eventually become clients (“sales”)?
~What are your average earnings per sale?
If you know these basic figures, you can plan your business activities for the year. For instance, if you want to earn $100,000 and you average $2,000 per sale, you need 50 sales to reach your annual goal. If you’re planning on working 50 weeks out of the year, that’s an average of just one sale per week.
If it takes you 3 kept appointments to make one sale, and you need to set 4 appointments in order to have kept 3, you need to make contact with enough people to set 4 appointments. If it takes 10 quality contacts to set 4 appointments and at least 25 dials to make 10 contacts, then 25 dials should get you the 4 set appointments you need. If you work a 5-day week, that’s just 5 dials a day.
Assuming you have people to call, all you have to do to make $100,000 this year is to pick up the phone and dial your qualified prospects at least 5 times each 9-to-5. Of course, if you’re cold calling or not getting great referrals, that 5 dials might be more like 50. If your average sale is significantly smaller, you’ll need more sales, so you’ll need to increase all of the other essential numbers in your model.
You can create any ending you want for 2013 if you make use of your essential numbers and figure out what actions you need to take to reach them. As you begin to improve those numbers…setting more, keeping more, converting more contacts to clients and getting bigger sales, the amount of activity required to get to the same result will shrink. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
My friend and colleague, Julie Blake, recently related this story to a group of coaches to which we both belong. She was talking with her son Josh on the way back from YMCA winter camp:
Josh: Mom, I asked a girl to dance with me at the camp dance.
Mom: What did she say?
Josh: She said no.
Mom: What does that mean? Will you never, ever ask a girl to dance again?
Josh: (rolling his eyes) No, it means that she probably did not want to dance with boys.
One of the biggest obstacles preventing professionals from having enough business is the reluctance to submit a proposal for fear that the answer will be “NO”. They make up stories about “what if” someone says “NO” to their proposal, and then they start making up stories about what each “NO” they get means.
We all do it sometimes. I’ve caught myself avoiding a direct proposal to help someone just because I assumed, ahead of time, that the answer would be “NO” and started making up stories about it. But what would a “NO” actually mean?
It could mean:
“I have other commitments right now that take precedence, at least for awhile.”
“I’m not really committed to changing my situation—at least, not at the moment.”
“I want to do this, but I’m in debt, and it’s not important enough to me at this moment to make the investment.”
“I’m filing for bankruptcy, and I need that money to pay my lawyer and the court fees.”
Or, it could mean:
“I don’t really think you have the right solution for my problem.”
“I don’t believe that working with you is a worthwhile investment.”
“I don’t like you.”
This second, darker place is where all too many professionals tend to go.
In actuality, “NO” might not mean either of these. Or—wonder of wonders—he or she might actually say “YES”.
If you talk yourself out of asking too often, you won’t ever have the business you deserve. Remember, a “NO” could simply mean that she probably doesn’t want to dance with boys.
Byron Katie says, “You can have anything you want if you are willing to ask 1,000 people for it.”
Start working towards getting everything you want by asking me for help today. Then, keep asking, and keep REACHING…
Make this New Year your best yet!
I’ve been following coach/consultant Robert Middleton for many years now. Middleton, whose main market is independent professionals, claims to have recently found an old list of the tips below saved on his iPad, and now calls them “‘Pithy Sayings’ that teach essential truths.” I have further distilled them for you here with full credit due—and a link—to his account:
1. If not even your family understands fully what you do, how do you expect your prospective clients to understand?
We can’t assume people understand us, and if they don’t, we only have ourselves to blame.
2. In networking, make it your main job to follow-up. Above all else, follow through with friendly persistence.
It’s always your move, no matter how—or if—the prospect responds. People are busy. So patiently try again; it will usually pay off.
3. In speaking, people don’t want to be bored—they want to be informed and entertained.
Communicate powerfully so that your prospects really see the value of your services.
4. Nobody’s going to buy from you unless they know what’s in it for them.
Understand what your prospects need and want. What are their issues, their challenges, and their aspirations? How can you make it easier for them?
5. In selling, nobody likes to be pressured. They like to be listened to.
Few of us practice listening religiously. Notice that as soon as you stop listening, the pressure and manipulation starts. Amazingly, you can listen your way into a sale much more effectively than you can prove your service is right for someone.
6. When talking about your services, tell stories to make things absolutely clear.
When you use stories, people put themselves inside the scene you are telling and relate completely.
7. Nobody’s going to remember you or think about you if you don’t stay in touch with them.
Don’t be so arrogant as to think people will remember you after one or two contacts. Stay in touch.
8. Over-communicating can be just as bad as under-communicating, especially if every communication is a pitch.
Give people better information, valuable stories and examples—something they can use. This will endear you to people and when you have something to promote, they’ll listen because you’ve gained their respect and attention.
9. If you don’t ask for what you want, you’re not likely to get it, in life or in business.
Yes, it’s terrifying to ask. And yes, you just might get rejected if you do. But isn’t it better to know one way or the other? Ask, get an answer, and move on.
10. Nobody wants to buy from an arrogant jerk; they want to buy from a nice person who they can trust.
Marketing and selling sometimes do funny things to people. They can turn you into a pushy person who always has the right answer. Cultivate humility in marketing and selling. Your prospect will tell you if you have the right answer or not.
If you can incorporate all of these tips into your business mindset, you’ll be off to a great start in 2013. Join my No-Cost Business Planning Webinar on January 3rd—or simply contact me—and I’ll help you turn these sayings into your very own Essential Truths. For now, rest and rejoice, but remember, ‘tis the season to keep REACHING…
Magic happens in your career when you stop trying to call and drop in on anyone who might be breathing and have a few dollars, and start, instead, to take extraordinary care of your existing clients.
I’ve been working with Bryant, a financial advisor in New York, who has been “just getting by” for nearly five years. Our work started when he asked me for better cold-call scripts, and I suggested that there was a better way to get clients.
We talked about how he could use the same time he had been spending cold-calling:
(1) Serving his existing clients better,
(2) Surprising and delighting them, and
(3) Earning referrals from them.
As part of our coaching, Bryant submits a weekly report to me. Here’s what he wrote to me last week:
Hey Sandy, quick update…I surprised and delighted two of my best clients. I got the first one a slow cooker that matches her new appliances. Her neighbor happened to have been there when I brought it in…and I got an appointment with her! I’m waiting for the gift I thought of for the other one to be delivered to me so I can bring it to her…she likes gummy bears, so I bought her a 5-lb gummy bear!!! Haha! Also, she invited me to come to this baby shower she is hosting, so I bought the baby some gifts…I’ll keep you up to date on that! Thanks for the motivation!
“Surprising and delighting” isn’t about the cloying act of trying to please people so that they give you their money. It’s about letting good clients know that you value them and listen to them. Bryant brought a kitchen gift to a good client that matched the new appliances she was proud of. The giant gummy bear showed his second client that he listened to her and learned about her likes and dislikes.
Too often I talk with professionals who, even after years of working with them, don’t know very much about their best clients.
Surprising and delighting also isn’t about spending huge amounts of money—or even buying presents, for that matter. Dropping by the hospital (empty-handed) when his client was recovering from surgery cost one advisor I work with nothing, but had his client telling all of his friends about the visit.
So, unless you know your client loves gummy bears, don’t send her a five-pound gummy bear. But what would surprise and delight her? If you don’t know, it’s time to learn more about her. If you do know, this is the perfect season to show her you value her as a client.
Would your clients appreciate a coaching session with me if you arranged it? Contact me and I’ll tell you how to set one up. Even if they never use it, they’ll always remember the unique gift you offered them.
While I’m on it, give yourself the same gift. Start the New Year with a clear understanding about where you’re heading. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
Several years ago, I appeared as a guest on the BlogTalkRadio program Greenpath to Wealth, hosted by Coretta Fraser. At that time, I shared my Seven Strategies to turn yourself into a Client Magnet. At least one listener from among my e-subscribers, Barbara, had questions that never made it onto the program. But I’d like to share one of her thoughts with you here:
“Sandy, you noted the importance of building relationships. One of my pet peeves is ‘customer service’. What would you consider to be some key ‘best practices’ for providing excellent service to existing customers while maintaining profitability?”
For as long as I’ve been doing this work, I’ve maintained that how you treat existing clients or customers is critical for your growth. This is particularly true if your service is one that allows you to work continuously with the same clients, either repeating what you do with them or offering different services to them as time passes. But it’s also true even if yours is a “one-time” service. The people who have experienced working with you even once are an important source of referrals, recommendations, testimonials, and introductions—and you are responsible for staying in touch with them, and on the forefront of their minds, after the job has been done.
“Best Practices” start with an understanding of what great customer service is. It’s not just how well you perform the technical aspects of the service you provide. Doing that will satisfy your clients, but it won’t make them loyal, proactive advocates. They won’t go out of their way to use you again and they won’t tell stories about how amazing you are.
Great customer service involves the feelings that customers or clients get when they experience working with you. Certainly, if there is no technical proficiency, they’ll have some bad feelings, but you can also make a lot of mistakes and still leave them feeling great about you!
Their feelings, ultimately, depend upon two elements:
1. How much contact you have with them, and
2. How magical your contacts are.
The more contact, the better. The more magical the contact, the more clients will remember you and want to share this magic with their friends and loved ones.
When I was practicing law, if I handled a real estate or business closing, I always brought a bottle of champagne to give to my clients—whether buyers or sellers—when the deal was consummated. It produced smiles and a sense of gratitude that instantly put all of the emotional ups and downs of the previous weeks or months behind us. Realtors who came to my closings to pick up their checks were envious. “I should have thought to do something like that!” one of them once confessed to me.
My small, relatively inexpensive gesture helped to ensure that those same clients would come back to me for additional services and would recommend me to their friends in the meantime. On a few occasions, the clients of the other attorney would call me to handle their next transaction.
Build these with every client, and you’ll watch your business thrive:
Respect. Every client wants to feel like he or she is your only client and the most important person in the world to you.
Empathy. Every client needs to feel you have truly listened to him or her. As Dale Carnegie might have said, “Be impressed, not impressive.”
Action. Do what you say you will do. The smallest action on your part is far more powerful than the greatest intention.
Communication. Be proactive. Don’t make the client call you to find out something you could have told him/her first.
Trust. In part, trust comes out of doing all the other parts correctly. As too often happens, however, you yourself have great empathy and communication skills, but these traits have not fully assimilated into the culture of your company or office. Your associates and every member of your staff need to be in this with you.
Everything you do—and don’t do—with a client should be thought of in terms of “Moments of Truth”—opportunities to make an impression. Every Moment of Truth should be as special, unusual, and magical as you can make it. That’s the “Best Practice” that Barbara could possibly implement.
Many of you declared your employment independence some time ago. You walked out of your jobs and into professions of your own. Now, you would call the shots.
But when the pride and excitement settled, one of the first things you may have noticed is that your business lives could be lonely. And you still wanted to rely on those around you for all kinds of support—and validation—when there were tough decisions to be made.
Unfortunately, when you needed advice on growing or sustaining your practices, you couldn’t ask the employees who depend on you for a living, because your decisions might have impacted them. Or, a subject matter could have been sensitive for other reasons. Your employees might have figured out, for instance, that you, the owner, were clueless about what was going to happen next.
As an entrepreneur, your burning questions can’t be presented to friends or family, either. Friends don’t generally have a clear enough understanding of your work goals in order to help. Spouses, parents, or siblings might serve as sounding boards, but like friends, although they genuinely care about you, they also have their limitations, and often, their own agendas.
Your husband genuinely wants you to make that huge career move to Texas, but deep down, he is also worried about the impact that relocation will have on his own career. Your friends are genuinely excited that you’ve started to earn significant money, but deep down, they are also worried that if you continue to grow, you may grow apart from them. Your parents, children, and others may want the best for you, but often, they will also be concerned that big changes will have some sort of negative impact—not just on them, but on you, as well.
So, when you ask, they give you their best, most caring advice, but it tends to conclude with something like, “If I were you, all things considered, I wouldn’t do it, because it could turn out to be a disaster.”
Imagine you’re a chiropractor who makes up your mind one day that you’re ready to give up your practice, because you are passionate about and tremendously skilled at golf, and you know you can turn pro and make a great living. Will your wife of fifteen years have an agenda of her own when you arrive home to share the joyful news?
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the fictional character Ray Kinsella, whose family tried to discourage his far-out dream of building a baseball field. But in real life, several years ago, my client Amanda’s well-meaning family members tried to dissuade her from opening her own business. They wanted her to be successful and happy, but their agenda was to blindly protect her from getting hurt. Had she listened to them, she never would have launched her hugely successful telemarketing practice.
Last year, Jeanie, a 28-year old financial advisor, consulted me after a heated argument with her parents, who wanted her to leave her poor-paying “commission only” profession and get a “real job”. By this year, Jeanie was earning a healthy six-figure income in the same commission-based career to which she had committed, despite the adversity.
“It’s a little disconcerting,” she confessed to me during our last phone session, ”But I’m now earning annually more than both my parents ever did, combined!”
Don’t ask the people you care about for business advice—unless they’re in that business and have nothing to gain or lose in your decision. A coach is one of the only people that owners and independent professionals can turn to whose agenda is theirs. If there’s something you want, my job is to help you get it, and not to hold you back.
If you must keep asking those other people for career encouragement, stop listening to their answers. Contact me today to start making plans to accomplish whatever you desire, and keep REACHING…
“If you pay attention,” writes Byron Katie, ”You’ll notice that you think thoughts like this dozens of times a day:”
“‘People should be kinder.’ ‘Children should be well-behaved.’ ‘My neighbors should take better care of their lawn.’ ‘The line at the grocery store should move faster.’ ‘My husband (or wife) should agree with me.’ ‘I should be thinner (or prettier, or more successful).’”
“These thoughts are ways of wanting reality to be different than it is. If you think that this sounds depressing, you’re right. All the stress that we feel is caused by arguing with what is.”
My coach and colleague, Steve Chandler, recently wrote this about Katie’s words of wisdom:
“People new to The Work [Katie’s approach to problem solving] often say to me, ‘But it would be disempowering to stop my argument with reality. If I simply accept reality, I’ll become passive. I may even lose the desire to act.’ I answer them with a question: ‘Can you really know that that’s true?’ Which is more empowering?: ‘I wish I hadn’t lost my job’, or ‘I lost my job; what can I do now?’”
“This last question captures the essence of coaching,” Chandler continues. “Coaching honors reality. It treats reality as pure opportunity. Clients usually come to a coach with a severe case of disapproval of reality. They want life and other people to be different. They are living from the outside in instead of the most powerful, creative way: from the inside out.”
As a coach, I view part of my work as showing my clients that reality is on their side. Reality is not the problem. Our thoughts about that reality are the only problem.
When we feel rejected if someone says “no” to us or hangs up on us, that feeling comes from the thought that there is some meaning to their reaction—a meaning that relates to us: “They didn’t like me.” “I was awkward.” “I’m no good at this.” We might also be thinking, “People shouldn’t do that—it’s rude and hurtful.”
But these thoughts deny the reality that people do hang up on us…for reasons that usually have nothing to do with us personally. These thoughts are, as Katie says, arguing with what is, and causing us stress and pain as a result. These terrible feelings come from thoughts that aren’t based in reality.
Stop arguing with what is, and figure out what to do about your reality if you don’t like it. Contact me so I can help you find the empowering view of—and approach to—the things that are causing you stress.
If you want what isn’t yet, don’t kick and scream; just keep REACHING…
A colleague of mine recently drew my attention to Underearners Anonymous, a “Twelve Step Fellowship of men and women who have come together to help themselves and one another recover from underearning.”
The website identifies 12 Symptoms of Underearning, many of which are recurring themes for the clients I work with. A few of these symptoms fit ME perfectly, as well.
I want to focus on one of them today:
Undervaluing and Under-pricing—We undervalue our abilities and services and fear asking for increases in compensation or for what the market will bear.
After three years in practice, Nora, a therapist, was still charging her clients the same amount she had charged when she first started.
Nora’s issue was not about what people could afford—it was about not understanding the great value her clients received by working with someone as empathetic and insightful as she. So I offered her a way to quickly double her income…I told her to double her fees for all incoming clients.
Having convinced herself that the issue of fees was about the market, Nora protested. “If I raise my fees,” she complained, “No one will work with me.”
I finally convinced Nora to try raising rates slightly for existing clients and increasing her fees to one-and-half times the old rate for new ones. She called me after her first meeting with a new prospect.
“They didn’t even flinch when I told them about my [new] fee schedule!” she exclaimed.
Nora also informed me that none of her existing clients had complained about the small increase she implemented with them.
Last November, Brett, a financial planner who invests and manages his clients’ portfolios in exchange for an annual percentage, was still charging a fee way below those of many advisors who had half his experience and skill.
“I believe that those guys are grossly overcharging their clients,” he told me.
“But their clients are happy to pay their fees, because the cost is still a very small percentage of the assets being managed,” I replied.
“And,” I continued, “considering your training and expertise, YOUR services are worth at least as much as theirs are.”
I got Brett to agree to have two conversations: 1) To tell existing clients that the fee he has been charging them is much less than most investors are paying; 2) To charge new clients a significantly higher fee.
Last week, Brett and I figured out that this small change had added 30% to his income for 2012. And none of his new clients had raised any question about the cost of his services.
Whatever you think of Kevin Costner, he is the star of one of my favorite movies (which, thankfully, also features James Earl Jones and Ray Liotta). In Field of Dreams, Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, hears a whispered voice that tells him: “If you build it, they will come.” Against the advice of all family members and friends, and at risk of bankruptcy, Kinsella travels thousands of miles in search of answers and invests thousands of dollars to carve a baseball field out of his cornfields, so that specters of deceased ball players can become a money-making spectacle.
Many coaches teach their clients Law of Attraction—that we all can “tap into the Universe” to “attract” what we want. They tell us that by wishing for it, being open to receiving it, visualizing ourselves having it, and then behaving as if we already have (or merit) it, it will come.
But this “Field of Dreams Myth” neglects an important aspect of Kinsella’s story. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve personally witnessed dozens of cases wherein someone wanted something miraculous so badly that it was practically dropped into his or her lap—seemingly, simply by believing it would happen.
But in each of those cases, just like Kinsella’s, there was a second key element: they built it. They prayed and visualized, but they also worked and fought for what they wanted. And while it’s true that the specific actions they took may not have been direct causes of their ultimate results, being in action was a necessary component of their successes.
Periods of doubt and disagreement are part of the human experience, especially when you’re after something BIG. When you are going through desperate times, try reaching for one of the proactive solutions below:
1. Free yourself from “shoulds” and respect the needs that increase your own sense of worth. Find out what you want, and value it. Then, take actions designed to take you where you want to be.
2. Set achievable goals first. I believe that people who set unrealistic goals can reach those, too, but start by establishing goals you can realistically achieve, and then work step-by-step to develop your fullest potential.
3. Talk to yourself positively. Your subconscious hears what you tell yourself. Is that whisper saying, “I’m an idiot,” or is it reminding you that “even very bright people make mistakes”?
4. Separate your reality from your emotional baggage. For example, you may feel stupid, anxious, and hopeless about a project, but if you think about it, you’ll conclude you probably still have the ability and ample opportunity to accomplish something with it.
5. Take chances. Expect to make mistakes, hit roadblocks, and upset others, and don’t be disappointed when these things happen. Feel good about trying something new and making progress.
6. Face and solve problems and conflicts. If you run away from problems you might be able to push through, you threaten your greatest goals.
7. Leverage your strengths, and accept your current limitations—for now. You can work on those limitations, but don’t let them lower your opinion of yourself.
8. Trust your own opinion and hard work. Entertain feedback from others, but depend on your own values and actions in making decisions. When you assert yourself, you enhance your sense of yourself, learn more, and make a greater difference in your life and the lives of others.
No matter what you yearn for, be patient. If you build it—even if you have to start up from the ground—it will come.
If it moves you, heed the words of Governor Romney’s concession speech, and give it your all, leaving “everything on the field”. Or, choose to hear the words of President Obama’s victory speech:
“[H]ope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep REACHING…”
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