Over a decade of Sandy’s weekly written articles on strategies and motivation for your business and your life.
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…
Financial advisors avoid it whenever they can. Coaches tremble at the thought of it. Lawyers pretend it’s beneath them, so they won’t have to do it. Even when I show them how to do it, they find ways to avoid it. What is this unthinkable task? …Asking for referrals.
Why won’t they ask? Either they’re afraid (What if my client thinks less of me for asking? What if she grabs back her retainer check and storms out of the room?) or they just don’t know that it’s okay to ask or how to go about it comfortably.
What these professionals fail to understand is that there are reasons why their clients would want to refer them to others.
Years ago, in my past life as a lawyer, Police Captain Myron taught me about the “hero factor” in the referral process. Myron, who tipped the scale beyond the 300-pound line and was known to consume more than his fair share of alcohol, was at a party to which both he and I had been invited. At one point during the party, he threw one huge arm around both of my shoulders and announced to the room: “You see this guy? I brought him all his business!”
It was true that Captain Myron had introduced me to several of my clients. I thought it wise not to argue that most of my business came from other sources. But what I came to understand that evening was how important it was to Captain Myron to be the champion of my practice—to be a hero. Here’s how it works:
(1) People generally like to help one another. If a client likes you and believes you add value to his businesses or to his life, helping you will make him feel generous and important. In other words, he can be a hero to you.
(2) When your client is referring you to someone she cares about, it’s an opportunity for her to show the people whose opinions matter to her that she makes wise decisions—decisions that could help them, too, if they followed her lead! In other words, she can be a hero to them.
(3) Asking clients to refer you to the people in their lives also gives them something else they need—validation. They’re thinking things like: If my sister uses your services, too, she must see in you what I saw. Then I know I made the right decision in going to you, after all. In other words, they can be heroes in their own right.
So, when you’re not asking clients to introduce you to those business associates, friends, and family members who you might be able to help (in the same way you’re already helping your clients), you’re depriving them of their opportunity to save the day.
If you want to help your clients be heroes, but are struggling to ask comfortably, order my 9-session audio series, Mastering Client Referrals, available as an Instant Download or on USB Flash Drive. Better still, you can contact me and let me help you. Or, if you have colleagues, friends, or loved ones who might benefit, be a hero and let them know about me. Whatever you do, keep REACHING…
Jim is a Senior Sales Manager who oversees a dozen branch offices for a financial services company. Each office has a Branch Manager who oversees 10-20 advisors.
Last week, Jim told me how he had asked each of his managers to bring certain advisors of theirs to a meeting he thought would benefit them—and how several of them didn’t bring the people he had requested. This was only one example out of hundreds wherein the Branch Mangers didn’t do what Jim told them to do.
“I don’t get it,” Jim complained to me. “I have to tell my managers to do something over and over and then they still don’t do it. If my boss asked me to do something,” he continued, “I would just do it.”
“It’s like they accepted their advisors’ excuses and let them off the hook,” he explained, “Instead of telling them that they were required to come.”
“It sounds like your managers may have used some weak words when they asked their advisors to come to the meeting,” I said to Jim. “They didn’t make it mandatory.”
“Exactly,” he exclaimed.
“Now, go over with me how you asked your managers to invite them,” I instructed.
“I told them how great the speaker at this meeting was going to be and suggested that they really should have these particular advisors there with them,” he lamented.
It was clear that Jim had also used weak words when he “told” his managers to bring their advisors. He wanted specific attendances to be required, but he used words such as “really should” and “suggest”—misleading his managers into believing that it might be optional. Powerful words, such as “I want them there” or “make sure they are there” would have accurately conveyed what Jim expected to have happen.
Why, then, did Jim choose weak words for something he wanted his managers to do? As he and I discussed it, we discovered a pattern. Wanting to be liked, Jim learned early on to “sugarcoat” his demands so that no one would feel he was coming on too strongly. This worked whenever he was seeking input from his managers, but not when he had made a decision for them and wanted them to take action.
If you’re an advisor yourself, are you using weak words with your clients, just so that you can be liked? Or are you serving them by clearly and concretely telling them what would be best?
You can’t make everyone like you, but most people will like you more if you actually say what you mean. There are nice ways to go about it, but when you want something to happen—you view it as necessary—make sure you use powerful words when you ask for it to be done.
Russell Conwell, the founder and first president of Temple University, is best known for his famous inspirational lecture, Acres of Diamonds.
At the heart of that lecture was a story about Ali Hafed (now available on my Free Resources page!), a farmer who sold his land in order to go hunting for diamonds all over the world—exhausting all of his money and energy, and eventually committing suicide.
In the meantime, the man who bought his farm soon discovered that the land was on what would turn out to be Golconda, the largest diamond mine in history. Across every acre of that farmland, below each and every inch, there were diamonds.
You can find Conwell’s entire speech online in several different places, and I have used the Hafed story many times before. It tends to come in handy when I’m working with clients who have more than 100 clients of their own (sometimes several hundred), but who are, for some reason, still frantically “prospecting” everywhere to try and find business. They’re cold calling, networking, advertising, sending out mailings, and doing other superfluous activities that might unearth the occasional diamond, but they’re forgetting to first look in their own back yards.
As professionals, the diamonds in our back yards are the people we know already, particularly, our existing clients and the people they can introduce us to. If they are not fully committed to us and are not yet willingly introducing us to the people in their lives, we should start digging here before we wander the globe looking for new sources of business.
These should be your initial steps:
1. Identify your 10-20 best clients and rank them (#1-#20).
2. Starting with your Number 1 client, ask yourself these three questions about each:
Is there a way I can serve her by connecting her with someone in my network?
Is there another way I can serve him beyond what I’ve done already?
What else can I do to make her my advocate?
3. As soon as you’ve done the analysis for a client, set an appointment with him in which you are prepared to serve, surprise and delight him.
4. Also, decide for each client how you’re going to bring up the idea of being introduced to someone in her life.
I would love to help you mine for diamonds without the frenetic prospecting that I see so many professionals fall in to, but you’ll have to find the courage to contact me. In the meantime, keep digging, and keep REACHING…
“When you don’t know what to do next in the process of trying to get a prospective client to hire you,” I told a group of professionals recently, “do what you do best: ask a question.”
A hand went up. “Any question?” asked Ben, a very young-looking financial advisor.
“That was a good question,” I replied, and the group chuckled.
Then, an experienced litigation attorney, Natalie, asked me specifically about what to do when you’ve explained everything to a prospect and you hear those dreaded words—“Let me think about it…”.
“Well, what do you do now when someone says that to you?” I asked Natalie.
“My usual response,” she replied, “is something like, ‘Sure, take your time. When do you want me to check back with you?'” “But,” Natalie complained, “once they leave, they usually don’t respond to my calls, and I’ve lost them.”
“Let me think about it” is a statement that can mean anything:??”I’m not sure about your approach.”?”You haven’t convinced me that your firm is the best one to handle this problem.”?”I’m not happy with your fees and costs.”?”Maybe if ignore my problem, it will just go away.”
As a result, you can’t do much with the statement unless you understand what it means to the person who spoke it. A good response here, once again, involves questions. So, it might look something like this:
Great! This is an important decision and you should definitely think about it. Let me see if I can help you, though:
Are you unsure about the approach I explained? Do you think there might be a better solution??Are you not convinced that we’re the right firm to handle your needs??Is there any issue with the fees we discussed??Is there someone else you need to involve in the decision-making process? Do you agree that you need to start taking care of this right away?
“Your questions will eliminate the non-issues one-by-one, and you’ll find out exactly what your prospect needs to think about,” I told the group. “Then, you can ask more questions about whatever his particular concern happens to be and make sure you’ve satisfied him—if satisfying him is at all possible.”
“At that point, you can ask him again if he wants to get started,” I concluded. “Does that answer your question, Natalie?”
“I don’t know,” she replied, “let me think about it.”
I can help you get more clients and feel more motivated, but you need to reach out and ask. Start with good questions, and keep REACHING…