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A “Story of Power”: WHO More Than YOU?

Once again, I was inspired by a recent article written by my friend and colleague, Steve Chandler, leader of the Wealth Warrior Movement

Steve was responding to a question from a business/life coach who was afraid to reach out to someone he perceived as a “powerful person”—beyond his ability to benefit, or to attain as a client.

The advice Steve gave is the same I give my professional clients who are afraid to go after the “whales” in their target markets, telling themselves they have nothing to offer such wealthy, influential people and making the excuse that the biggest fish are probably “all set”.  Here is my adaptation of Steve’s response, as it might pertain to financial and insurance professionals:

YOU are powerful, my friend.  People would NOT be paying you fees and entrusting their financial futures to you were you not already powerful for them.  YOUR power is not in question.

I would question whether THEY are as powerful as you think.  How do you assign them power?  According to past income?  Years of experience or notoriety?  I don’t see power in them at all.  Not compared to you.  Can they call forth checks when someone is disabled or dies?  Can they match your ability to understand and keep eyes on financial markets?  Can they think on their own of legal ways to minimize their taxes?  Not even if their lives depended on it.  Who’s more powerful than YOU here?

Whale's Mouth

So “powerful people”, “whales,” or “elephants” are stories made up by you that get placed between you and these people—and so you have a hard time contacting the little girl or boy inside one of their bellies, needing help with his or her finances, and terrified of making a mistake.  Why?  Because you’ve thrust a “Story of Power” in between the two of you.

There’s a cardboard cutout of your prospect that you place between you and him, and by doing that, it’s hard to connect with the real person who may very much want your advice.

NO ONE is powerful (in the intimidating way you think that they are).

So focus on the work you do best and the SERVICE you can give anyone.  Remember your value, and stay with that.  And don’t get lost in the personalities at play.  Or in a comparison of who, between the two of you, is more successful, has more prestige…or any of the nonsense we superstitiously assign to each other.

Just keep being a person—a powerful personhelping another.

And, of course, keep REACHING…

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Imagine You Couldn’t Prospect

My thanks to David Ward, a colleague who helps lawyers grow their practices, for this week’s hypothetical, which applies to all professionals:

Imagine that a law were passed today, to take effect in three months, prohibiting you from purchasing and using lists, outlawing advertising or promoting yourself on social media, banning seminar-hosting or writing about what you do—a law mandating that all of your business would have to come through existing clients.

Imagine further that under this law, you could serve your existing clients all you wanted, and if they referred you to a friend or family member, you would be permitted to take on that prospect as a new client—but that would be the only way you were allowed to bring in business.

What would you do during the next three months, until the law took effect?  What would you do after it took effect?  Would you continue to have success, or would your business fail?

Selling-To-Prospects

First, I would imagine, you’d want to do everything you could to grow your existing client base through whatever means were available during the next three months.  What steps would you take that you hadn’t been taking already to quickly expand your client base?

At the same time, you’d want to strengthen your relationships with your best clients.  If there were ways in which you hadn’t yet served them, you’d want to start enacting those types of services immediately—even if the extra work would not generate any immediate income.

You’d want to let them know how important they are to you, by astonishing them with just how thoughtful and giving you could be.  After all, once our imaginary law were to take effect, they’d be all you’d have to work with.

Could you survive and keep growing your practice solely on additional and repeat business from your current clients, and their referrals?

Of course you could!

Even if you only had 15 clients right now, you could make your practice work—unless all 15 were hermits, with no interest in helping anyone they’d ever known.

When you had finished serving each of your best clients in every way you could, you could safely ask them to introduce you to people who weren’t already getting the same kind of support and attention.  One introduction from each of 15 people would give you 15 new, highly qualified leads.  Five introductions from each during the course of the year would give you 75 highly qualified leads.

This is all very figurative, though.  Or is it?

What would happen to your practice right now if, instead of focusing on cold calling people from targeted lists, or on doing seminars or increasing social media efforts, you made your primary effort to upgrade your relationships with your best clients and to parlay those relationships into great introductions?

Make your own new law today: throw away your chilly “lists”.  Start stretching further the warm, rich resources that are right in front of you, and keep REACHING…

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*Image courtesy of tweakyourbiz.com.

The Curiosity Factor

“What’s the main reason your calls and emails are not getting returned,” I asked a group of advisors recently.

Hands shot up throughout the room.

Value,” one of the advisors responded back.  “They’re not getting enough value from the call or the email.”  Heads nodded throughout the room in agreement.

But the answer was wrong.

People aren’t returning calls or responding to emails because they’re not “getting enough” CURIOSITY.

Curiosity

In the old days of manipulative sales, some trainers taught their people to leave a message that sounded like it got cut off:

“…My number is 555-1234.  The reason that I’m calling is [indiscernible noise, then click].”

The idea, of course was to arouse enough curiosity to get the sales-victim to call back.

But this was just wrong on so many levels.  I wrote an article a while back blasting a tactic that some financial representatives and their managers were applauding: an advisor leaving a message confirming an appointment for “later today” that she hadn’t actually made with the prospect.  Her effort did get the prospect to call back—to ask that he never be called again.  I DEFINITELY DO NOT CONDONE THESE METHODS OF CREATING CURIOSITY.

Call Back

Unfortunately, for those of us attempting earnest service, there are three types of calls that aren’t being returned:

1) Cold calls
2) Calls to referrals, or people you know or have met but who aren’t yet clients
3) Calls to existing clients

Cold call messages are rarely returned, but they are 100% certain not to be returned if the message you leave is generic.  Many advisors don’t leave a message at all—but you’re there already, so why not try?  Leave a message that might peak his interest:

“Mr. Jones, I’m calling because I have some ideas to help people who are worried that they might not have enough money to retire.  If this means something to you, please call me back at _____.  I promise that I won’t waste your time.”

Earnest

Calls to people you know, but who aren’t yet clients, need to genuinely spark the same Curiosity Factor:

“Joe!  I’ve been thinking about the conversation we had at John and Mary’s party last week and I have a couple of ideas for you.  Give me a call if you can…”

Finally, calls to a current client that aren’t being returned suggest a less-than-satisfactory relationship.  Here, it’s not usually about curiosity any longer—it’s about improving that relationship, or firing the client.  Still, sending a hand-written note hinting at some ideas to further improve his/her situation might create just enough renewed curiosity to generate a response.

If you don’t have the interest of those you want to work with, light a genuine spark, and keep REACHING…

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The Guilt-a-Beast

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been busy producing material that you may find useful.

Two weeks ago, Postema Marketing Group sponsored a Webinar I presented called Making Client Referrals Easy.  The entire program is now available on YouTube, just by CLICKING HERE.

This week, Sabrina-Marie Wilson released my interview on her acclaimed radio show “Abundant Success”, and it’s already getting lots of attention.  It includes my personal story about leaving my “safe neighborhood” and overcoming my fears.  You can listen to, or even download, the podcast on iTunes by CLICKING HERE.
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In my coaching work this month, several of my clients have been talking about the stress of trying to balance their family lives with their work lives.  In my articles, I write a great deal about FEAR, but I more rarely snag the opportunity to write about a related, but equally insidious monster: GUILT.

Years ago, I was helping a child psychologist who ran a busy private practice, made rounds at a local hospital daily, and made himself available to testify in all sorts of court cases.  During one of our conversations, he mentioned that he himself had five kids.

“Five kids?” I gasped.  It seemed to me that this must be a guilt-ridden man, whose excessive work with neglected children had to have fueled a certain degree of his own family’s neglect.  “How can you possibly manage to give them the time you know they need with a schedule like yours?”

With true calm, the good doctor explained to me that the first appointments he put on his schedule each week were with his family—in blocks of two or three hours each.  “I’d like to give them more,” he told me, “but I take comfort in the fact that I treat my appointments with them as being my most important.”

“I don’t allow interruptions—except for dire emergencies—of my family time, just like I don’t allow interruptions when I’m working with a patient.  When I’m with them, I’m with them one hundred percent.  I don’t feel guilty about not getting work done.  When I’m working, I know they’re in my schedule, so I don’t feel guilty about not being with them.”

Like the doctor, most of my clients who struggle to balance family and work time are in practices for themselves.  Unlike the doctor, most have somehow chosen to be their own worst possible bosses.  These bosses could give them more time with their spouses and children…but they don’t.

In his book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber points out that most of us go into our businesses backwards.  We don’t start by figuring out what kind of life we want—what Gerber calls our “Primary Aim“—so we are forced to accept whatever life our business or practice pushes us into.

Family-vs-work

You don’t have to work 70 hours a week to be a successful professional.  Thirty-five hours—or even four—could get the same results, if you are focused.  Fear and guilt can affect this focus.  The fear often comes from being overwhelmed by the number of steps we see on the way to the success we picture—from forgetting to focus on just a few steps at a time.  The guilt usually comes from not having clear boundaries set around our family and work time.  Here are some ideas to keep things from getting muddled:

  1. Decide where you want your practice—and your personal affairs—to be in the next three years, and write each down in as much detail as you can.
  2. Just as the doctor did, create a Master Weekly Schedule that starts with your family time and time off.  Leave open spaces for all of the things that might pop up during the week.  Then, put blocks of time into the work portion for: a) the things you need to do on a regular basis, b) three important projects, and c) thinking and planning.
  3. Honor your family time as if it were a major professional commitment.  Make “appointments” with your spouse and children.  When you are on work time—barring emergencies—be on work time.  But when you’re with family, be truly with them, so there is no guilt.

You can design your work and professional life around the personal life you want.  If you want a sense of how balanced (or imbalanced) you may currently be, take a look at the “Wheel of Life” on my Free Resources page.  Before you know it, you’ll be doing the things you need to do and feeling much better about where you are and how you’re spending your time.

If you’re already doing what you love and making separate time for those you love, keep that pesky guilt beast at bay, and just keep REACHING…

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*Image courtesy of tech.co.

Don’t Throw the “Quit Switch”

At the beginning of his classic self-help book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill tells the story of R. U. Darby and his uncle, who went out to Colorado from their homes in Maryland to strike it rich digging for gold.

After finding a carload of ore, their mine ran dry.  They dug on for a few more weeks and then quit, selling their rights, their equipment, and their maps to a junk man.

The junk man consulted an engineer to take a look at the maps, and after digging another three feet, struck one of the richest veins of gold in Colorado history.

In their book, 100 Ways To Motivate Others, Steve Chandler and Scott Richardson call what Darby and his uncle did throwing the “Quit Switch”.  The gold-diggers threw the switch just three feet away from incredible wealth.

Every day, I speak with professionals who have either thrown the Quit Switch or have one in hand.

throw switch

Asking for referrals never worked for me.”
“I tried doing seminars a few times, but they never did anything.”
“I tried running my own practice, but it was just too hard.”
“You can’t make a living as a [financial advisor, insurance agent, small town attorney, realtor—you insert the category]…Well, I know some people do, but I can’t.”

It was difficult, or it wasn’t instantly successful…throw the Quit Switch!
It was going along, but too slowly…throw the Quit Switch!

NFL Coach George Allen said, Most people succeed because they are determined to.  People of mediocre ability sometimes achieve outstanding success because they don’t know when to quit.”

If your career or practice isn’t where you want it to be, stop thinking that you know when to quit.  You may be only three feet away from your vein of gold.  Don’t throw the Quit Switch.

panning-Miner

One of the points Napoleon Hill makes in his story about Darby is that the junk man was smart enough (or humble enough) to call in an engineer (an expert) to look at the mining maps.  That option was always open to Darby and his uncle, but they either didn’t think of it or they ignored it, and they chose to stop digging instead.

The only real question is: Do you want to be successful in this career or not?  If you do, get the help you need to succeed.  Don’t wait until you feel it’s hopeless and you already believe you have no choice but to give it all up.

In other words, if you really want it, swallow your pride, and keep REACHING…

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Many professionals complain about the long hours they work.  For some, at least, all those hours are being compensated.  These professionals are moving and shaking because they want to make as much money as possible—even at the cost of family time, recreation, and often, their own health.  It’s difficult to be sympathetic about their complaints, since their situation is a choice.

But many professionals are plagued with long days and long workweeks for which they are not being adequately financially compensated.  Some of these people are simply not charging enough.  They have priced their services at a low rate, believing this to be the only way they can compete in their market.  They have not learned how to create value for clients so that they know they deserve—and then, can request and receive—better compensation.

Still others in this latter group may be confusing attendance at the office with productivity.  They feel “busy” at work, but hours are spent each day performing tasks that aren’t actually making them money.  Someone in this situation may spend an hour or two each workday involved in non-business conversations.  Maybe there’s another half hour or so spent trying to resolve computer issues.  Then, there are those lunch plans with someone he or she already sees every day…

Don’t confuse being present with being productive.  You may spend an hour and a half at the gym or health club, but how much of that is talking sports, waiting for an exercise station instead of using a different machine in the meantime, and “resting between sets”?  You could even count washing your socks—which is something you do have to do in connection with your workout—but none of this time really counts.

“The only time that counts is the time you spend with the weights,” says Corey, a financial services sales manager I work with.  “You do have to wash your socks, but you can’t count that time.”

sock

When you’re selling and providing services, the only time that counts is the time you spend face-to-face or on the phone with clients or prospects.  If you’re not doing one of these things, you can’t claim you’re working a twelve-hour day.  You may be at the office or on the road for that much time, but a lot of that time, you’re just washing socks.

Some experts call the time you’re actually performing income-generating activities “green time”.  If you’ve been feeling that you are working long hours and not making enough money for the time you put in, try this for a week: Write down everything you do, all workday long, every day, for all five-to-seven workdays.  Don’t change what you do, just record it.  Then, go back and see how much time you’re actually spending “with the weights”—that is, how much of that time is actually green.

washing-machine-green-clothes

If your green time is six to eight hours daily, and you’re putting in ten-to-twelve hour days, too much of your time is being spent on socks.  If this non-productive time is somehow work-related (follow-up phone calls and paperwork someone else could be doing for you), get some help.  If it’s not work-related, either accept the fact that you’re at the office longer by choice, or choose to save non-work matters for after hours.

Another financial advisor I’ve worked with greets everyone in his office in the morning, and then spends the next 8 hours on green time.  He makes it known that while he’s unavailable during the day to discuss pleasantries, at 6 PM, he’ll be happy to go for a beer with anyone who wants to spend time with him.

Stop the load of socks, and make room for green time instead.  Once things are really shaking for you, keep REACHING…

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Put Referrals on Your Agenda

A few years ago, I presented a teleseminar for advisors throughout the U.S. on referrals.

During the live Q and A, Paul, an advisor in the Midwest, expressed frustration with his efforts to grow his practice by asking for introductions.

“I ask my clients about people they know who could use my help,” he told us, “But it feels awkward, and then my clients get all awkward and put me off.”

“Who gets awkward first?” I asked him.

“Well, I guess I do,” was his response, “But it’s because I know that they’re going to be uncomfortable.”

“Did it occur to you that maybe they get uncomfortable because you’re awkward, and your discomfort actually triggers theirs?” I asked.

“I never considered that,” he admitted.

We then went through 3 Steps Paul could use to take the discomfort out of the act of asking for referrals:

1. Start your client meetings by giving your clients (verbally or in writing) an agenda, that includes as the final item a discussion about friends, associates, and family members you might be able to help.  Don’t surprise a client with a sudden request at the end of an appointment to talk about this important subject.  If a client is going to be uncomfortable with this agenda item, let him or her tell you right at the beginning, and spend a few minutes either then or at the end discussing why this item makes him/her uncomfortable.

client-relationship

…The last thing I’d like to talk about this morning is some of the people in your life who you would want to have my help.  I’d much rather be working with someone you want me to work with than someone whose name I took off a list somewhere.  We’ll talk about some of the people you have in mind, and, if we decide it makes sense, we’ll figure out the most comfortable way for us to get in contact…

2. Always ask about the value you’ve given them—either on that particular appointment, or in your professional relationship over time.  Ask him what he got out of your meeting, what he learned, and what he will get or has gotten out of his relationship with you.  Ask him to tell you something specific that he found particularly helpful.  Then utter the magic question: “What else?”  Keep getting feedback until he can’t think of anything else, and then direct him to the ideas that you wanted him to find helpful, and ask if he did.

Did you find our discussion this morning helpful?…Was there one specific idea that you found particularly useful?…What else?…What else?…How about when I explained…

3. Now, you can ask them about people they know who could be helped in the same way.  Remind her that this was one of your agenda items and ask who came to mind.

Mary, I’m glad you found the work we did here today so helpful.  The last thing I promised you we’d do this morning is discuss some of the people you care about who might want the same kind of help, and decide whether it would make sense to arrange an introduction—and how we would go about that.  Who is the first person who came to mind?

Speak with confidence, I told the group. If you don’t feel confident, act as if you do.  Paul admitted that part of his problem was that he had not practiced being firm, clear, and self-assured when he brought up the subject of referrals…and practice is essential.

If you want to attract more clients, put talking about the people in your clients’ lives on your appointment agenda and get it out into the open, right up front.  Act assuredly, and keep REACHING…

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Even a DOG Can Do It…

My fellow coach Amir Karkouti shared a story with some of his colleagues recently that I want to share with you now:

Some time ago, a team of scientists took a dog and put him in a cage where the floor had a very mild electric current running through it—just enough to make the dog a little uneasy.

As soon as the dog was put in and felt the current, he bolted out of the cage through the open door.

They returned the dog to the cage and this time shut the door.  A week later, when they opened the door again, the dog had no interest in leaving.  He had become accustomed to the discomforting cage.

Stuck 

While the dog stayed sitting there, with the electric current running through the floor, the scientists brought in another dog, and opened an adjacent cage with an electrified floor.  As had originally happened with the first dog, as soon as the second dog felt the current, he jumped right out.

Here’s the fascinating part: Seeing the second dog bolt, the first one suddenly realized that he, too, could leave the dissatisfying space he was in and, after a few seconds, again ran through the open door.

Escape Artsy

Only after seeing the second dog escape did the first dog remember that he didn’t have to stay in that less-than-happy place.

Most professionals find themselves in a dissatisfying cage of their own: not earning enough money, being overwhelmed by work, being otherwise unhappy in their situation.  But, like the first dog in the study, after awhile they become “comfortable” with being uncomfortable, and they make no big moves to change the current.

In my book, The High Diving Board, I refer to what most people call the “comfort zone” as the “safe neighborhood”.  Staying where you are is not necessarily “comfortable”.  Sometimes it’s downright UNcomfortable.  But it is familiar.  And because the unknown—stepping up your game, hiring a coach, etc.—might be more uncomfortable, you stay where you are.

With humans, even seeing someone escape from his or her cage doesn’t always inspire us to leave our own.  That requires a decision—the decision to get out.  Once you’ve made the decision, knowing what to do becomes much easier.

If you’re in a cage of your own making, or feel that you’ve ended up in someone else’s, don’t wait until you’re in so much pain that there’s no choice but to leave, or be there forever.  Make the decision to do it now, and then find the help you need to run free.

Hey, even a DOG can do it.  So if you’ve been stuck, pick a new direction, and just keep REACHING…

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Be YOUR Valentine…Take PASSIONATE Action

I’ve taken to sharing a line with attendees at my workshops that I borrowed from my colleague, Mitch Axelrod:

“Imperfect action beats perfect inaction every single time.”

Too many of the people I talk with are waiting…waiting until they have their next license…waiting until their legal knowledge or product knowledge or some other knowledge is perfect…waiting to ask for introductions until their relationships with clients have reached a certain depth or they’ve perfected their skills in asking…waiting until they have all the money in place to get the help they know they need in order to grow their practices.

Their inaction is perfect—and nothing is happening in their businesses and practices.

But all of this waiting is not really about depth of relationships, or lack of money, certificates, knowledge, or skills; it’s about being too paralyzed by fear to take action.

Pat, the top financial advisor in his company, has a simple formula for success:

“Show up and do it with passion,” he tells new advisors. “Listen and try to turn every conversation into an opportunity.”

Every time I look at a professional or sales person who is successful, I see the same thing: Someone who is passionate about what he or she does, and does it.  People want to follow people who are passionate, and who do what they’re passionate about.

If you’re not passionate about what you do or what you offer, maybe it’s time to reconsider your career.  If you are passionate and have been afraid to show it, remember what Zig Ziglar said:

“For every sale you miss because you’re too enthusiastic, you will miss a hundred because you’re not enthusiastic enough.”

One of the messages of my first book, The High Diving Board, is that taking some small action in the direction you want to go—any dedicated action, however imperfect—will start (and keep) you on your path.  The end of paralysis starts with an awkward, barely perceptible, wiggling of a finger or toe.

Wiggle Toes

Yet, many of the people who attend motivational and sales workshops would rather wallow in their perfect inaction, than work to create that first, tiny, passion-induced movement.

If your business or practice is not growing, and you recognize that the cause is your perfect inaction, try just a tiny bit of passionate action, and let me know what happens.

Soon you’ll be ready to move from wiggling your toes…to walking…to running…to flying.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…

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Get Clients to Tell Stories…

“I’ve been at this for five years,” James, a financial advisor with a small solo practice, told me last week.  “How do I get people to proactively send me referrals?”

“Deserve them,” I told him.

“But all my clients are already satisfied with my service,” he protested.

“Satisfying your clients isn’t enough to turn them into passionate, loyal referral advocates,” I told him.  “It’s the minimum you need to do to keep a client and maybe pick up a referral or two.  If you want more, you need to get them to tell stories about you.”

I then shared two stories with James:

A while ago, I dropped into a well-known department store near my home to buy a new shirt.  There was a good selection of shirts in my size and the shelves were neatly arranged.  The sales assistant was friendly and professional, and the shirt I bought was on sale.  The entire experience was satisfactory.

I was completely satisfied…but I had never actually told anyone this story before.  I hadn’t even told anyone I saw later that day about the satisfactory experience I’d just had.  It had left my mind as soon as I left the store.  So, why didn’t my experience render me a passionate, loyal, referring customer?  The lesson is the same for a retailer as it is for an entrepreneur or a professional: There was no story to tell.  The salespeople had just done what they were supposed to do.

Contrast that story with this one:

Once upon a time (a long time ago now), my wife Hannah and my daughter Stefanie went shopping for a prom dress.  They found the perfect blue gown at Nordstrom.  But when they opened the bag and looked at it that night, there was a ballpoint ink stain on the skirt of the dress.  It was Thursday night, and the prom was on Saturday night.

First thing Friday morning, Hannah called the store frantically from work in the hope that they would have another blue gown she could pick up at the end of the day.  The department manager informed her that there were no more blue gowns in my daughter’s size, but offered to call around to other Nordstrom stores to see if she could find one.

worried mom

*Getty Images

Hannah hung up the phone and fretted over what she was going to tell my daughter and what they were going to do with only one evening left to find another gown.  But, half an hour later, the department manager called her back with news that she had located the identical gown at another location.

Then, she gave Hannah a story to tell.  She offered to leave her store at the end of the work day, drive the twenty miles to the store where she had located the new gown, and drive another 20 miles back in the opposite direction to Hannah’s business to make the exchange.  By evening, my daughter had her gown, and Nordstrom had another loyal customer, willing to tell this story over and over again—even over a decade later.

To make your clients loyal and willing to refer you, you need to take every opportunity to give them stories to tell.  Doing a satisfactory job for them isn’t enough.  Create a Client Service Plan that distinguishes you from your competitors.  Serve coffee and pastries on a silver platter when they visit your office.  Find out where they’re celebrating their anniversary and have champagne or dessert delivered to them at their table.

If you astound them—exceeding their expectations so far that they want to tell everyone your story—you’ll have more referrals than you can handle.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…

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