Over a decade of Sandy’s weekly written articles on strategies and motivation for your business and your life.
If you’re just starting out in a professional or sales career, you’re probably struggling to get things going.
If so, take heart. If you’re doing the right things, it will get much easier as you continue. You just need to get some momentum going, and momentum is always easier to perpetuate than it is to initiate.
My friend Marv used to tell a story at his sales workshops about being taken, as a small boy, to see the steam locomotives as they pulled in and out of Grand Central Station in New York.
“Not those sissy diesel engines we have today,” he would say, “These were powerful steam engines.” Then he would imitate the sound of them and pound on a table to give his audience a sense of the power of these massive machines—particularly through the eyes of a five-year old.
Marv’s story ended with a lesson:
“You could put a one-inch thick steel bar across the tracks where the train was starting, and as big and powerful as the locomotive was, it would not be able to move,” he told his spellbound listeners. “But let that train get started and put the same steel bar on the tracks a mile out, and that locomotive would slice right through it as if it were made of butter.”
Professional and sales careers work the same way. In the beginning, no matter how powerful you are, it’s a struggle to get over that steel bar. Some of us don’t make it—and end up in jobs where someone else does the prospecting for clients. Those who do make it learn to attract clients—first one or two, here and there—and then more and more, from all over, as the train begins moving along the tracks.
If you’re still struggling to get over that steel bar, try remembering these four rules:
1. Always see the opportunities in any situation. Setbacks are chances to learn. Failures teach you what doesn’t work.
2. Put 100% of yourself into what you’re trying to accomplish. When you’re working, be 100% at work. When you’re playing, be 100% at play. When you’re with a client, be with that client 100%.
4. Be a light in the lives of the people you serve. You’ll get much more steam from a genuine desire to serve your clients than from a focus on your own needs.
As a coach, I help my clients to both initiate and perpetuate their momentum, so that their engines can go pounding down the rails. I know that once you get going, with a little push, you can be unstoppable. So even if you’re starting with huffs and puffs, don’t resign to just chugging along—get the steam you need to give, and keep REACHING…
One of the Internet “gurus” I follow once summed up marketing in three sentences:
Here’s what I got…Here’s what it will do for you…Here’s what I want you to do next…
It struck me that this simple—if grammatically incorrect—triplet is at the core of everything I coach professionals and their sales teams to do in their efforts to attract clients.
1) Here’s what I got… Once we’ve talked about choosing a clear target market for your services, my next question is, “What services or products are you selling?” This is as simple as: a brand new car!
2) Here’s what it will do for you… This is where you talk about the Features of your offering, and two types of results: Advantages and Benefits. Advantages are a description of what’s better about your “what”, which could yield positive results for anyone who bought what you were selling:
This brand new car is equipped with an Acme Soundaround fifteen-hundred jigawatt stereo, which gives the clearest, most beautiful sound you’ve ever heard.
Professionals who don’t sell their services very well tend to stop with mention of Advantages.
Benefits, on the other hand, are the ultimate results that a particular client might be looking for. A Benefit looks something like this:
Having that beautiful, clear music will give you what I know you are looking for in your brand new car: a sanctuary from the stresses of the road. It will soothe you, so that you’re at your absolute best when you arrive at that big appointment, even after battling a brutal rush hour.
But another person might want that clear sound because he needs to follow the guitar riff of his favorite musician while he drives to his next audition. The only way to know what clients consider Benefits is through thoughtful, caring questions about what they need and why that need is important to them. The best professional sales are made not from talking about Advantages, but from finding out about Benefits.
3) Here’s what I want you to do next… This is your “Call to Action”—what the guys in the loud plaid jackets call “the close”. Contrary to what they might tell you, the way you word your Call to Action is just not that important if you’ve helped your prospective client understand, through your questions, that he or she really needs the Benefits of what you’re offering. All you have to do now is explain what they would need to do next:
If you want the brand new car, it’s yours! We’ll just have to get started on the paperwork.
Here’s what I got… A proven system for attracting the kind of clients you want without increasing your workload. Here’s what it will do for you… You’ll soon stop struggling to grow your practice or business, and you’ll get to enjoy your work the way you did when you first started. Here’s what I want you to do next… Reach out to me for a free consultation if these Benefits appeal to you, and we’ll find out if we want to work together.
Just remember that Advantages are for anyone, but you’ll never know the Benefits unless you keep REACHING…
This is a great time to start planning for business or personal growth in 2015. As you do, here are a few tips to help you with the process, which I’ve honed over the years:
1. Put it all in writing. A written plan is more likely to lead you to the results you want than some random thoughts about what you want to happen. Writing it down makes it real.
I’ve often said that New Year’s resolutions don’t work. Just stating a goal (or even writing down the goal), without a written plan to reach it, isn’t enough when it’s March and your heart isn’t in it anymore.
2. Get crystal clear about what you want. Whether it’s a number of enrollments, applications, or new clients, or a dollar amount of assets under management—or a total personal earnings amount—you need to know what it is and have a burning desire to make it happen, or it simply won’t happen. What is your ultimate goal for the coming year?
3. Break your ultimate goal down into process goals. What do you have to do every month, every week, every day, and every hour to generate the results you need to reach your ultimate goal?
4. Get just as clear about what you do and how you tell people about it. My colleague Robert Middleton asks, “If not even your family understands fully what you do, how do you expect your prospective clients to understand?”
The two things you must know in order to answer the question “What do you do?” are:
b. What do they need that you provide? We tend to talk in outcomes: “I do financial planning,” or “I’m a wealth advisor.” These have virtually no emotional impact.
Financial planners might work with people who are serious about saving for retirement and terrified that if they make a wrong move, they may have to go find menial jobs to support themselves when they’re in their eighties and all their money has run out.
Wealth managers might help people who have been fortunate enough to accumulate assets and want to make sure that those assets continue to grow so that Uncle Sam doesn’t end up with the money they want their children to receive.
Descriptions like these are considerably more powerful than results-based statements.
What you say about what you do is your Audio Billboard. If you posted what you’ve been telling people about your work on a local highway billboard, and you drove by it, would you slow down to read it, or would you drive right past it? What you say should get their attention and make them curious.
5. Plan your marketing to address four groups:
a. The people you know already (clients and non-clients)
b. People you meet—both randomly and through networking efforts
c. Introductions from a and b to prospective clients
d. Marketing strategies that work for you
I’m sure you’ve heard that the easiest way to get new business is through existing clients and people you know. These are also you best source for referrals. But all areas—a through d—are worthy parts of the potential sales pool.
6. Focus your networking efforts in two places: your target market, and others who serve your target market. If your market is young families, and you spend a substantial amount of time working within a chamber of commerce where the members are neither young parents nor people who serve young families, plan to change that.
If you answered 4a with clarity, you should know who is in your target market. But where are they? Where are the other professionals who serve them? Your business and marketing plan for 2015 should include these details.
7. Include the development or expansion of a “stay in touch” program. Nobody’s going to remember you or think about you if you don’t stay in touch with them. Don’t be so arrogant as to think people will remember you after one or two contacts. Stay in touch! Serve, surprise, and delight your best clients.
8. Get help with the execution of your plan. Talk with someone about what your goals are and how you are planning to reach them. At this time of year, I coach a lot of professionals to get their plans—whatever they are—off of the ground.
Celebrate the New Year. Rest and rejoice, but remember, ‘tis the season to keep REACHING…
A few days ago, an insurance company branch manager I’m coaching, Brian, was complaining that his agents were not doing what he told them to do.
“I wanted them to talk with their older clients about introducing them to their children,” he told me, “But most of them didn’t do it.”
“How did you ask them? What exactly did you say?” I inquired.
His response was, “I hope you’ll remember to speak with your older clients about those introductions we discussed.”
Hmm, precatory language, I thought. Precatory language is a wish or desire that doesn’t rise to the level of a command and doesn’t have to be granted. I had learned about this when I was practicing law. A client’s father had left him some property in his will, adding: “…It is my wish that he share the property with his nephews.” My client didn’t want to share the property, and the judge ruled that he didn’t have to, because “It is my wish” is only precatory.
Brian’s problem also reminded me about my discussion with Jim awhile back. Jim’s managers did not use powerful words to get the attendance of their advisors at an important meeting. But Brian’s precatory language in addressing his agents here was weak in an elevated way. “I hope you’ll remember…” did not even attempt to mandate anything. It was just a wish or desire.
Brian could have said something like this:
“I want each of you to speak with at least three of your older clients about being introduced to their children and report the results back to me by Friday. Will you all agree to that? Pete? Bill? Joe?”
This would have been a clear request. Even better, it would have created an agreement. Managers who complain to me that their teams aren’t meeting their expectations, are usually not getting agreements from their teams.
Similarly, many sales professionals complain that their expectations with respect to the actions of their clients aren’t being met. But as long as they have only expectations between them and the people they want to take action, they will continue to be disappointed. They need agreements.
Use clear, powerful language, and obtain agreements. The result will be significantly less disappointment. Whatever you do, keep wishing, keep asking, and keep REACHING…
Clients often seek me out hoping that I can help them DO what they need to do, so that they can HAVE what they want in their lives, and then BE the person they always wanted to be.
But this approach is actually in the wrong order. If they get help to BE the person they want to be, they’ll DO what they need to do, and then they’ll HAVE what they always wanted to have.
While a lot of authors (including me) have written about this paradigm, my friend and colleague, Elise Holtzman, who coaches attorneys, put it simply and elegantly in her recent newsletter:
“[T]here’s a question I’d like you to ask yourself before you even reach the question of what to DO differently and it’s this: Who or what do you need to BE in order to get what you want? What state of being or thinking can you start adopting now so that changing what you are doing will be easier and more likely to stick?”
To get them started, Elise gives her clients examples of how they might want to BE:
- Confident about my abilities and the value I provide to clients and colleagues
- Someone who believes in lifelong learning
- Willing to accept help from others
- Kind and patient with myself and those around me
- An attentive and genuinely interested listener
- Accepting of the notion that I don’t have to be perfect
- Open to trying new things and to being a little bit uncomfortable
I often ask clients who they’d need to BE in order to DO the things they haven’t done, so they can HAVE what they say they want. We play the “What would the best [advisor] in [your state] do?” Game. I’m never surprised that they list or talk about things they’re not already doing themselves.
Who we’re being affects everything else—what we do and what we have. If I’m being a needy salesperson, I’ll do and say needy salesperson things and I’ll have…little to show for my efforts. If I’m being a sturdy, trustworthy advisor, interested only in serving my clients, I’ll speak powerfully and do powerful things as their advocate. As a result, I’ll develop fiercely loyal clients.
“Most of us live in a cocoon of personality—the made up story of who we are.[…] We tell ourselves stories about our personality—but these stories aren’t reality. Deep down, we know we’re more than this personality.[…] We could tear open this cocoon if we wanted to. We could push out and see the light of the world. We could learn to fly.”
If we accept Chandler’s premise, who we’re being can be changed at any time. If you don’t have what you want, the right question to ask yourself isn’t “What do I need to do?”. It’s “Who do I need to be?”.
In 2015, plan on BEING whomever you want, and whatever you want will follow from enacting your plan. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
“I don’t know how I got to this point,” Richard told me.
Richard was in his sixteenth year as an attorney. He was still a “Junior” Partner in his firm because he did not bring in enough business to be promoted to Senior Partner. He was still working sixty hours a week and, although he was paid extremely well by most people’s standards, he joked about how little it was if you figured it by the hour.
While I usually work with “independent” professionals, Richard’s challenge is one that is common to almost all professionals—the urgent need for more clients.
“What if I conjectured that you are somewhat comfortable right where you are?” I asked him.
“Comfortable, here?” he responded indignantly, “I’m not where I am by choice!”
Jim Stovall, author of The Ultimate Gift and a former Olympic weightlifter, who lost his sight at age 29 and found a way to change his life for the better, tells his audiences:
“You are where you are because that’s where you chose to be.”
You can blame everyone else and your circumstances for where you end up, Jim says, but regardless, if it’s not where you intended to be, you need to look in the mirror (whether you can see or not) and say, “I guess I didn’t want it that badly.”
“Nothing will happen until you say ‘yes’ to your dream,” Jim proclaims.
“Where do you want to be?” I asked Richard.
“I want full partnership,” he told me.
“What do you need to do to get there?” I asked.
“I need to bring in some really large cases,” he responded.
“How would you do that?” I pressed.
“I don’t know,” was his honest response.
“How badly do you want it?” I queried next.
“It’s practically all I think about,” Richard confided.
“Then I take it you’re willing to learn and do the things you need to do?” I asked.
Richard said “yes” to his dream and with a little coaching, he began to bring in the right kind of business to his firm. To start getting new and better clients, he needed to make new and better choices.
Are you making the choices you need to make to be where you want to be? First, you have to say “yes” to your dream. Then, keep REACHING…
P.S. What dream do you need to say “yes” to? Tell me about it in the comments below this blog.
Tomorrow my American friends and I celebrate Thanksgiving.
It’s a day to be with family, to eat too much, and to reflect on all of those things and people in our lives for which we are grateful.
In my life there are so many: A loving family and dear friends…good health…living in relative peace and safety…never going hungry…being able to do work I love every day with clients who inspire me…and my growing e-letter and Blog community.
This week I’ll take a break from my usual messages, lessons and stories and just simply say…
Have a great Thanksgiving!
Peter is a top financial advisor with annual earnings approaching seven figures. He is a consummate professional devoted to his target market: the “average” American who wants the advice usually reserved for so-called “high net worth” clients.
There is nothing about Peter that suggests “salesman“. His look is “regular guy”. He dresses as his target market might hope for him to dress: in an off-the-rack blazer and slacks, sometimes spiffed up with a very conservative tie. He drives his Altima to appointments and keeps his Mercedes in his garage for weekend outings with his wife. He talks with authority, but plainly, and with only gentle urging for them to do the right thing, he helps clients make important life decisions over coffee and cake.
I once asked Peter to visit a workshop I was running for young financial professionals, so that he could share his words of wisdom.
“How have you become so successful?” one starry-eyed advisor asked him.
Peter’s instant, one-word response was: “Persistence.”
“I know it sounds too simple,” he elaborated, “But that’s it.”
“I’m not smarter than anyone else, I just persist. I had the same problems you are having in the beginning. If you’re doing the right activities, you just can’t give up when things aren’t going right. Each person you talk with has connections to other people who could use your help, and if you treat them right, they’ll want those people to work with you, too. You can’t give up just because you have setbacks.”
Similarly, Calvin Coolidge is attributed with having said:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
Last year, I worked briefly with Ken, an attorney, helping him to grow his practice. His target market was small businesses, and among the potential marketing strategies I suggested he could use to get more clients would be for him to host seminars.
“I tried seminars awhile ago,” he told me, “And they just don’t seem to work for me.”
“Well…How many times did you try them?” I asked him.
“Just once,” he responded, “And it was terrible.”
“And you never tried again?” I asked.
“No…Why would I?” he responded.
Like Ken, most of us give up on a solid plan or strategy way too soon. Choose a path you believe will work and try it several times—hundreds of times if necessary. If you choose to do seminars, choose to do at least a few—learning as you go what works and what won’t. If your target requires you to “cold call” other businesses as part of your marketing mix, plan on a certain number of calls every day for several weeks, again gauging what works and what won’t. If what you’re doing isn’t working, try to figure out why, tweak it, and try again. Once you find something that works well, make it part of your regular activities—a system. If you can’t make a certain activity work, move on to something else.
I love to help people get what they want by holding them accountable to stick to the strategies they’re willing to try…that means, more than once. In more than one great effort, I encourage you to keep REACHING…
“Branding” is just one end of the client-funnel. This week, terrifying as it may be, I’d like to talk about what’s at the other end…the “s” word. You know…“sales”.
Whether you’re marketing your services, trying to get a new job, or looking for a business partner, at some point, you’ll be “selling” yourself or your products, whether you like it or not.
But if that thought scares you, take heart: It’s less daunting than you may realize. Selling isn’t the drift towards doom you’re imagining. It’s not about manipulating someone into falling down the rabbit hole with you, by getting him/her to buy something that you offer.
Selling is the asking of appropriate yet provocative questions such that your prospective client determines for his-/her- self that he/she needs what you offer.
I teach the professionals I coach that anything you can tell a client or prospect you can get him/her to tell you, if you ask the right questions. Contrary to what many of the great sales “Gurus” of the Twentieth Century were preaching, “closing” a sale is, usually, the least relevant part of the process. Closing can only be accomplished at the end of a series of good questions, with something like:
“So, should we try this out?”
“What do you think the next step is?”
“When would you like to begin?”
From the start, ask questions about consequences—questions that elicit emotions and unearth explicit problems—and you’ll convince them early on in your conversation, by no crooked means, that they should be working with you:
“How do you feel about that?”
“Is it important?”
“What’s important about it to you?”
“If we can fix that, how would that affect you in the long run?”
“How would you feel then?”
Then, and only then, can you can demonstrate your value (via your genuine engagement), properly ask for the “closing”, and make the “sale”.
Don’t suppress your interest, and don’t fear your approach of the “s” word. You won’t descend into darkness if you simply ask, listen, and just keep REACHING…
“I want to have some time to think or to plan, or to just take a day off,” Ron, a regional sales manager, recently told me.
“Can’t your assistant help take some of the workload off your shoulders?” I asked.
“Right now,” he responded, “I don’t have an assistant. Terri, my former assistant, left four months ago, and I haven’t had a chance to replace her,” he continued.
“Have you scheduled the time to search for a replacement?” I queried.
“Well, no,” came his reply.
I told Ron that he had just provided me with the perfect example of the distinction between wanting something to happen (a “WANT to”) and choosing to do something about it (a “CHOOSE to”).
“We WANT a lot of things,” I explained. “I want to learn a language. I want to exercise every day. I want to give more of my time to more of my favorite charities…”
“But until those things are on my calendar,” I continued, “It’s clear that I’m not CHOOSING to put them into my life.”
I explained to Ron that while he WANTED more time to think, plan, and play, he hadn’t yet CHOSEN to calendar the search for a new assistant.
“The ‘WANT to’ is there,” I told him, “But the ‘CHOOSE to’ isn’t.”
In the course of my life, I’ve talked with at least a hundred people who have been losing the same 20 pounds for nearly 20 years. I feel for them. There is no doubt they WANT to lose their extra weight, but for many, that want never seems to rise to the level of a powerful decision or choice to let nothing stand in their way. They join programs and then slowly work their way out of them. They monitor their food habits for weeks, but eventually stop. And they’re frustrated because nothing seems to work. Like Ron, they walk around unhappy and tell the story of how they can’t get what they want.
To be happy, they either need to choose to make what it is they want happen, or decide that it’s okay not to have it. If English is my only skilled language, I guess I could live with that. If the unsuccessful dieters can stop beating themselves up and just accept that they enjoy their lives at the weights they’re at, they will be happier! And if Ron could accept that he will never have time to think, nor plan, nor play, he might be happier, too…
Or…Ron can schedule time to recruit and train a new assistant, I can schedule language lessons, and those who want to shed tummy-pounds can find, start, and stick to a weight-loss program that’s right for them, once and for all.
It isn’t always easy, but it’s always up to you how firmly you’ll commit to attaining your goals. Sometimes, it’s as simple as taking the time to find expert help with the stuff that feels impossible. Want something to change? Choose to change it at all costs. Put it on your calendar. Enroll in a program. Seek advice. No matter how challenging, persist until you achieve it. Keep REACHING…