Over a decade of Sandy’s weekly written articles on strategies and motivation for your business and your life.
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…
A few years ago, my fellow coach, Rich Litvin, decided to try speed dating. About a month after his first experience, he went to a second speed-dating event, where he ran into another guy who he recognized from the first event.
“Did you get many dates from the first one?” the man asked him.
“Three,” Rich replied.
“Oh!” the man exclaimed. “Well, how many women’s names did you select on the list?”
“Three”, Rich replied. “Why? How many dates did you get?”
“Not a single one,” the man admitted with a scowl.
“Well, how many women’s names did you check off on the list?” Rich asked him.
“ALL OF THEM!” the man replied, his scowl turning into a look of deep frustration.
“Needy is creepy,” coach and author Steve Chandler tells his clients when they are baffled by why they are not getting more appointments.
As in the speed-dating example, if you are too eager, a prospective client will get the sense that he or she is just one more person you’re trying to sell something to—and nobody who senses that is going to accept your request for a “date”.
I like to say that your need—for an appointment, for a sale, or for a referral—is the ugliest thing you can show a client. (A wise-guy branch manager I know once supplemented that statement by saying, “Yeah, that, or a butt crack.”)
You may be desperate for an appointment or a sale, but prospective clients all have their internal receivers tuned into station WII-FM (What’s In It For Me). They won’t start working with you because you need a client. They’ll work with you because they need something that you might be able to give them.
If you want more appointments, you need to stop looking—and acting—as if just ANYONE will do. Here are some suggestions that will help you develop the kind of targeted laser focus you really need to get more (and better) clients:
1. Get clear on whom you’d like to serve, what they need that you can offer, and what result they’ll get from working with you. The speed-dater in Rich’s story was interested in EVERY woman who attended the event, and as a result, NONE of them were interested in him. Prospects are no different; everyone wants to feel special.
2. Stop talking about you and what you do and focus on learning about others. When you are introduced to someone or meet her at some event, do as Dale Carnegie would have advised: Be impressed, not impressive.
3. Target people who are ideal clients and invite them to talk with you. If you’re clear about whom you want to work with, you may already know of individuals who could be great prospects. Find out their information and contact them directly, or through your existing clients or professional network.
4. Don’t call a prospect unless you’ve already made an effort to learn something about him. While I view cold calling as a last resort for most professionals, even if your calls tend to be “warm”, you need to make sure you’ve found out about the person you’re dialing before you pick up the phone. Use Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook, and use the people you know already to help you learn about your prospects before you reach out to them.
5. Most importantly, SERVE, don’t SELL. If there’s something you believe you can do to help a prospect, offer it with passion. If not, be honest, and let her walk away—or, better still, you do the walking, and keep on looking for a better fit.
I help advisors who have had some success—but feel stuck in a rut—grab onto the prizes that seem just beyond their grasp. If you think I can help you, find the courage to contact me. In the meantime, be selective, but keep REACHING…
My thanks to renowned publicist Wally Cato for his unsolicited, unpaid, over-the-top article about me in this week's Insurance Pro Shop newsletter. Read the Article>>
The other day, I was listening to a very successful advisor and entrepreneur talk about how client “attractors” are so much more successful and less stressed out than client “chasers”.
My book, BECOME A CLIENT MAGNET, is about how to be a client attractor. For nearly fifteen years, I’ve been talking about how attracting clients starts with figuring out how to go beyond satisfying your existing clients in order to create passionate, loyal and enthusiastic clients—referral partners—who go out of their way to bring new clients to you.
You create these advocates and referral partners by paying close attention to three activities:
a. Satisfying them constantly and consistently with your service and your attention to their needs,
b. Creating as many opportunities for contact with them as you can, and
c. Making each of your moments of contact as “magical” as possible.
In other words, attracting new clients is, at least in part, connected to the experience you are giving your existing clients. The more amazing the experience, the more they will be talking about you—to associates, friends, and family members who will want to have a similar experience. And that experience is something you create.
While the number of ways to create magical experiences is unlimited, here are six that come to my mind immediately:
1. Use each opportunity you have to speak with a client (or with your contact at a client’s company) to learn more about him or her. Spend time on every appointment talking about their lives. In his book, Swim with the Sharks, Harvey Mackay lists 66 questions for which every professional should have answers about his customer. Yet, most advisors I work with have never even asked their clients for the dates of their wedding anniversaries, let alone how they met their spouses, how the husbands proposed, or what their weddings were like.
2. Keep track of important dates and make use of them. “Sometimes I send a birthday card,” a client told me. This is someone who will not be able to create advocates to help him attract clients. For your best clients, offer to throw a birthday gathering and invite his friends. Or surprise her with a bottle of champagne when they’re having their anniversary dinner at their favorite restaurant. Or, have your whole office call to sing him Happy Birthday on the phone. “Sometimes I send a birthday card,” just doesn’t cut it.
3. Call your clients for no reason. “I was thinking about you today. How’s that ___ doing? How about getting together for lunch?” These are the moments your clients will remember and tell their friends about—not the moments during which you were advising them.
4. Have something available for children and pets—even if they don’t tend to visit you. A grandfather is in your office to talk about his business and your conversation ends with, “Oh…and here’s something for your grandchildren I think they’ll enjoy…” This is the type of “magic” you can create.
5. Give meaningful gifts. I wrote a while ago about finding a golf ball from a cruise ship in the surf at the Jersey shore and delighting a client whose son collected golf balls from different country clubs. I sent the ball to her for his collection. The cost was the postage, but an expensive holiday fruit basket would not have had anywhere near the impact. Gifts from the heart that show you listen to your clients and care about their lives are a powerful way to elicit referrals—to attract new clients.
6. Get your staff on board. Decide how you want your calls handled and discuss it with your staff. At minimum, they need to be pleasant and helpful, and to identify themselves by name. Trust them, but test anyway. Call your office—or have someone call while you’re listening in—and see how your employees handle the call.
What experience are you creating for your clients? Contact me to analyze whether you can make it more powerful and how you can use this power to grow your practice. Attract advocates, and keep REACHING…
“I think too much business is the worst thing for my practice,” Brandon complained.
Brandon is a financial planner who was working with four or five newer clients. He was worried that he was too busy to be out looking for his next clients, and in a few weeks, he’d have no one waiting in his “pipeline”. Then, there would be weeks of writing letters, making phone calls, and trying to set appointments before he would be busy with real work again.
He was also frustrated with how this “roller coaster” cycle between prospecting and handling cases was causing him so much stress.
“At the end of this month, a lot of money will roll in,” he told me, “But then things will be flat again for four or five weeks.”
I sometimes joke with coaching clients that have a keen grasp of the obvious. Exercising this skill provided me with my response to Brandon: “Don’t stop prospecting just because you’re busy!”
“But it’s not that simple,” he quickly replied. “Either my clients want—or need—their stuff done right away, or I get wrapped up in all the work, anyway, and just don’t get to the prospecting. If I do even think of it, it’s just too hard to switch gears.”
There are two situations in which professionals tend to reduce their marketing activity. The first is familiar to most of us: If people have been turning us down, we get depressed and our client acquisition activities decline…at a time when we most need to increase and improve them. The second situation can be equally damaging: Our calendar becomes full from previous efforts, so we stop looking for new clients.
Our marketing efforts are too often based on how we feel, rather than on a system. But a basic principle of running a successful business is that everything you do needs to be systematized. Prospecting, marketing, sales, referrals, client relationships, and paperwork all need to be processing according to a plan. And a prospecting system requires regular activity, no matter what else is going on in your business.
When there’s a system in place for developing clients, a certain minimum amount of work must be done—regardless of your feelings. Unfortunately, it’s not a choice you can base on your current stress level—it’s something that simply must be done, no matter what.
But then there’s the lie we tell ourselves: “There’s no time.”
“You’re extremely busy,” I acknowledged to Brandon, “but you had time for this conversation, right?”
“Well, we had it in the calendar already,” he replied. “And to be honest, I almost cancelled.”
“And if you had a friend in the hospital,” I continued, “Would you be able to make time to visit him?”
Brandon whined that I wasn’t giving him a fair example, but acknowledged that he could, and would.
“That tells me that if you put some amount of new client-seeking activity in your schedule, you’d be able to make the time for it,” I concluded.
Brandon needed to block out the time to keep prospecting, even if it meant pulling back on some of the day-to-day work that was currently bringing him income. “What gets scheduled gets done,” goes an old cliché. But it’s the truth.
Together, we created a simple system that involved making five phone calls a day, no matter how busy he felt he already was. In a matter of days, appointments were lined up for the weeks after he finished the work he was doing for his current clients.
Are you on the Struggling-Busy-Struggling-Busy Roller Coaster? Contact me today and I’ll help you get off it for good. In the meantime, keep prospecting, and keep REACHING…
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Have you ever been aggravated trying to prove to some “nitwit” prospect that his objection to your offer makes no sense—so aggravated, in fact, that you ended up in an argument with him and, of course, ended all possibilities of ever making him a client?
Why was it so important for you to be right?
When she was little, my daughter Madi used to argue with me constantly.
“No, Daddy, you’re wrong! My teacher told me…”
No matter how misguided she was, she expended exhausting amounts of energy insisting that she was right. I tried to teach her to say, “Maybe you’re right, Daddy, and maybe you’re wrong,” and then follow up with something like, “Let’s see if we can find out”—but it seldom worked.
Then, one day, I just decided to practice what I was preaching with her. I stopped trying to be right.
When she insisted that her misinformation was correct, I responded with, “I never knew that!” or, “I always thought it was the other the way around, but I guess I was wrong.” The result? No more arguments, and a lot more peace.
Yesterday, I watched a friendly conversation between two people at a fast food restaurant in a local mall turn into an argument. The two men had begun to talk about global warming, and one of them was insisting that it was all “a lot of bunk”.
Each man was busy trying to prove that he was right and the other was wrong. What struck me was how easily the interaction had gone from casual to hostile. The conversation became so loud and abusive that an employee of the restaurant had to ask them to leave.
Who was right? What difference did it make if they could not agree? Arguments don’t happen unless someone needs to prove another wrong. What if we could let go of this need—especially when dealing with prospective clients?
When your prospect is objecting, even if the objection is absurd, don’t disagree. You won’t change his mind—and instead, you will alienate him entirely.
Try starting out with something like, “I can see how you might think that…” and then pose a question that might get him thinking further.
“I don’t need any more insurance,” he might say.
“You’re probably right,” you can respond—without argument—although it’s obvious to you that he’s grossly underinsured and may be leaving his family in a catastrophic position. “Can I ask what you’re basing that on?”
“I just know we have enough,” he might reply.
“Well, just in case, would you be open to going through a simple exploration with me to see if you’re missing any coverage you could really use?”
Let go of the need to prove you are right from the get-go. Your life will be much less stressful, and your business will grow. But if you can’t yet stand the thought of letting someone who is dead wrong get away with it, the right choice is to contact me for some help with your perspective. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
“I can’t get any work done,” one of my clients recently complained. “I’m interrupted so many times each day that nothing seems to get finished. I really need your help to manage my time!”
“We can’t really manage time,” I told her. “But we can manage our activities.”
Then, I gave her three suggestions for doing just that:
1. “Block” your daily activities. Create a schedule that has you doing what you do best or what gets the most results at the time that works best for you.
If you need that first half hour of the workday to have your coffee, review the mail, and answer emails, then train the people in your office to wait for you. Post a sign-up sheet on the door for the first people who you’ll see after you’ve had the time to get started.
If you are better at meetings in the morning than in the afternoon, try to arrange them for when you are able to do your best work.
2. Do one thing at a time. Close your door for some of your work periods and have your calls held at those times if you can.
Don’t review and answer emails just because you heard the “you’ve got mail” sound. If you’re reviewing a report, the email can wait! Disable the signal (or turn down the volume) so that it doesn’t distract you.
3. Schedule appointments with yourself—to get things done; to recharge; or even to procrastinate.
Awhile ago, another client complained to me that he started out his morning all charged up, and suddenly drifted into space after a couple of hours. He didn’t have two or three hours to waste and wanted to know why he drifted and what to do about it.
I asked him if he could afford to waste an hour like that every day, and he replied, “Yeah, an hour…but not two or three!” So we came up with the idea of blocking in an hour of time every day for him to defocus and do nothing. After that, he stopped completely falling off his schedule.
Giving yourself permission to disengage is a great way to make sure you are working more efficiently. Take walks, get out for lunch, and contact me if you’re having trouble giving yourself a break. Take the time to manage your activities, and keep REACHING…
How many times have you heard some time-management “Guru” say the words above? If you’re like most people, when you hear them, you nod, as if to say, “Yeah, that’s a really great idea!” But you really want to scratch your head and add, “But how do I do that?”
People often confuse hard work with struggling. To be successful at anything usually means you have to work hard at it. But you should never have to struggle. Hard work may include making multitudes of phone calls or spending long hours creating, preparing, or practicing. Struggling is doing that same work—or extra work—feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or desperate…or with the view that what you’re doing is tedious or distasteful.
If you’re working hard to reach a goal that has meaning for you, congratulations! Don’t let anything stand in your way. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, here are two things you can do:
1. Let go of the outcome. Set a goal, develop a plan to reach that goal, determine the details of the plan, and focus your energy on accomplishing those details. The goal you are pursuing will happen—or it won’t—whether or not you worry, fret, and make yourself sick. Those feelings are optional. The end result only comes from your focused energy and your action—not from struggling.
2. Get help. The “self-made man” is a myth. My father always saw himself as Gary Cooper in High Noon. He was convinced that in order to be successful, he had to do it all himself. As a result, he never achieved the success he wanted. The reality is that most of the people we think of as being successful got where they are because they sought support from (and gave support to) many other people.
To me, working smarter means: Do the things you like the most and what absolutely must be done by you, and delegate the rest. Get rid of the things you hate to do—or that don’t make sense for you to do.
“But how can I afford it?” you may ask. That’s easy. Promise yourself that you’ll earn money to pay for it doing what you do best. Think about this: If you do just one hour of work that generates $300, you’ve earned enough to pay for 15 hours of an assistant’s help. How ridiculous is it to waste time doing the $20/hour paperwork you hate—work that you could much more easily give to someone else? STOP doing it, and hire the help you need.
But don’t stop at the things you hate in your business or practice. Find someone to clean your house or complete those other personal chores that weigh you down. There are people waiting to take the jobs that distract you off of your shoulders—people who love to make a living doing the stuff that you dislike, don’t have time for, or feel you’ve earned the right to stop doing. They’re everywhere!
In most pursuits, strong, independent work is necessary. But the “smart” work is the work you do best and that brings you income. As for the rest, delegate it, automate it, systematize it, or simplify it. Computerize what you can. You can use a simple money management program like Quicken, Quickbooks, or Microsoft Money, and have an accountant or admin take charge of the bookkeeping. Get rid of the clutter that distracts you and have a system for everything that needs to be done, so that you can focus on what you want to be doing.
Start by making a list of the things you’re struggling with, and then, get help. You can check out my no-cost Audio Program on this topic, or explore other complimentary downloads on my Resources Page. Whatever you do, be smart, stop struggling, and above all, keep REACHING…