Over a decade of Sandy’s weekly written articles on strategies and motivation for your business and your life.
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…
To Whom Are You Offering/Selling Your Services?
The wrong answer to this question is “I offer my services to everyone”. Financial advisors and coaches who tell me that they help [all] people reach [all of] their personal, career, or financial goals do not understand a critical truth about 21st Century business: clients want to work with experts and specialists.
If You’re Everything to Everyone…You Won’t Be Hired!
Instead, Become a Specialist.
If I want an insurance salesperson to handle an estate matter, and the cost isn’t significantly different to me, would I prefer an “estate planning specialist” or a professional who happens to sell life insurance? The answer should be obvious. Both advisors may have the same training and background—they may even have the same experience in estate planning—but one has narrowed his target and focus to make himself more appealing to me at this juncture.
“But if I limit myself to my senior market,” Tina, a financial advisor, complained when I introduced this concept to the group at a recent seminar, “I’ll turn off some younger people who might have wanted to use my services!”
Limit Your Target, Not Your Services
I asked Tina to trust in what I was saying and give it a try. A week later she called me, excited by her results. “Sandy, I tried what you suggested at a party last week and it worked, but I think it worked backwards,” she exclaimed. “I told a guy in his mid-thirties (like me) that I work with single older women who are worried about having enough money for retirement…and he asked me if I would make an exception and help him out, too. And then he hired me!”
“Tina, that isn’t backwards,” I told her. “That’s exactly how it works.”
Being a specialist not only attracts your ideal client, it actually attracts people from other walks of life, as well. I offer my assistance to professionals selling a service who want more clients. But when someone who does not fit my marketing profile asks for my help, I only refuse him or her if I don’t want to work with that person right now (for any reason), or if I think there might be someone else who could do a better job with his or her issue.
So, along with owners of service businesses and their sales and marketing teams, I coach managers who are climbing the corporate ladder, and IT professionals who are looking for a permanent position. Not long ago, I even worked with an entertainer who was breaking into her newly chosen field after closing out her first career. I’m an expert in the problems of people who are struggling to grow their businesses or practices, but I’ll help anyone who is serious about making his or her life or career better.
If I can help you narrow your target, contact me, and we’ll work on making you stand out from the crowd. And when someone asks you “what do YOU do?“, you won’t be afraid to identify your favorite type of client or work. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
Baseball fans know that most of the great home run hitters also have unusually high rates of strikeouts. The most revered of these players, Babe Ruth, once advised a fan: “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” But most of us are too afraid of striking out to swing hard enough and often enough to hit home runs. Instead, we wait for some perfectly pitched ball and hope to swing just hard enough so we can be sure we’ll make contact. Taking mighty swings is not for us, because there’s always a chance we could strike out.
Beth, a newly appointed 30-year old Sales Manager for an investment brokerage branch office, was getting terrible results. New advisers weren’t staying with her, and the sales of her veteran advisers were drastically declining.
I discovered that Beth was agonizing over every decision she had to make. She would constantly seek the help of her irritated regional manager and make excuses to her advisers about why she didn’t have immediate answers for them.
“I usually have a gut feeling about the right response,” she told me, ”But then I start to question it, and I end up not being able to make a decision.”
“Would your situation actually be any worse if you just gave in to that gut feeling and took your chances?” I asked her.
“It couldn’t be much worse,” she admitted, “I’m going to lose my job if I keep running to my boss with every question from the field.”
I asked Beth to experiment for the next week by just giving in—all the way—to those “gut feelings” she had mentioned every time she was presented with a work decision. She promised that she would.
Two days before our next appointment, Beth called me, excited.
“I had to make a decision about how a sale would be structured and I did what we said,” she exclaimed. ”I followed my gut and gave my veteran adviser my opinion right there on the spot—and it was a home run! Later,” she told me, ”I heard him tell another one of my advisers that I had given him great advice.”
Like any of us, Beth is sure to make mistakes in the work place, but practicing taking mighty swings will continue to serve her much better than did her fear of striking out.
If I can help you take mighty swings, you just have to step up to the plate and contact me. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
Cheryl, an advisor who consulted me to help her find and keep more clients, was questioning why I told her to spend most of her appointment times asking questions, rather than telling her potential clients about her knowledge and abilities.
“In the past,” she protested, “I spent as much time as I could telling them why I’d be a great fit for their needs!”
Like many professionals and salespeople, Cheryl assumed that, in most cases, she had adequate information before her meetings to allow her to match what she was offering to what she believed her prospects wanted.
But your prospective clients are looking for something specific that doesn’t always come up in their requests for your services. For that reason, leaping into the discussion of the benefits you offer—dumping it all out there—without knowing what that specific need is might be a huge mistake.
Ask more questions first. Find out what they’re already doing, who they’re doing it with, what’s working for them and what isn’t. Find out why you’re there. Then, talk about what you can bring to them—directing what you say to the explicit needs you’ve uncovered.
Even if they lead with something like, “Tell me what you can do for me,” don’t do it without trying first to turn it around—asking them what they’re looking for.
“You will be telling them about your knowledge and ability,” I explained to Cheryl, “through the questions you ask.”
After a few new appointments, Cheryl called me to tell me how well it all had gone. She told me how comfortable she felt using the specific needs she uncovered in her face-to-face conversations as the basis for a later discussion of her skills, and eventually, her offer.
Instead of telling these people how she could help them generally, Cheryl was able to show how she would be able to help solve their specific problems. She has already doubled her contracts this month—and all because she’s exercised a way of getting to know her prospects before trying to convert them into clients.
If you’d like to learn how to make your sales questions more prominent, let’s talk. I only work with professionals who are serious about getting ahead, and I guarantee that if they do what we agree upon each week, they will.
In the meantime, keep REACHING…
Brad, a financial representative with a major Broker-Dealer, was complaining about email and phone interruptions. He knew he was getting so caught up in playing with his smart phone—trying to figure out how it could alert him only for certain contacts—that he was sacrificing hours of real work.
“If you think you’ve made the wrong choices, don’t beat yourself up,” I continued. “Just make choices you like better going forward.”
“But I just get distracted and can’t help myself,” he responded.
“Well, now you’re creating a story about yourself that you can use to continue being distracted,” I admonished. “We all create stories, but does this particular story—that you can’t help yourself—serve you at all?”
Brad mumbled something else about not being able to help it, but he knew that he was caught.
As author and coach Steve Chandler points out in his book, Reinventing Yourself, the things we say about ourselves—the “stories” that describe our personalities—are made up, and can be altered at any time.
David Ward, a colleague whose coaching and consulting work is targeted on lawyer marketing, wrote these words last week:
You can do anything you want to do in life; you just can’t do everything.
You have free will. You have unlimited choices. But you don’t have unlimited time. So you can do anything, just not everything. You must choose.
As you choose what to do, you also choose what not to do. The word “decide” means to “kill the other option”. When you chose to go to law school, you also chose not to go to medical school.
If you want to accomplish great things, you must focus on great things and let go of things that are merely good. Give up good to go for great.
What is important to you? Family. Faith. Career. Community. It’s probably not a long list. What’s important to you is where you will find your greatness.
Get those things right, and you’ll have a happy and fulfilling life.
Brad and I discussed what he wanted to do about his attention issue: He wanted to power down his smart phone and get away from his computer’s email client for an hour or two every day. He acknowledged that it would be beneficial to simply shut off his devices, rather than spending hours trying to modify them to be “less distracting”.
He replaced his story about losing focus with a more powerful one: “I used to get sidetracked and then end the day without having finished the things that were most important to me, but I’ve taken steps to make sure that I don’t do that any more.”
Some of us allow distractions into our lives as a way of avoiding the parts of our work we’re not totally comfortable with. And often, we don’t change our behaviors because we’re afraid to change our stories about them—the stories we’ve been accustomed to for so long.
If you’ve been choosing to reorganize your files instead of calling that long list of prospects to whom you were referred last month, you probably regret it now. This time, however, don’t be hard on yourself—but do let that behavior go. Make a “better” choice tomorrow. And let your story be that “up until now” you were making poor decisions, but “from now on”, you won’t be.
If you want help creating and sticking to your new story, contact me. Choose to focus on what really matters, and keep REACHING…