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REACHING…

Over a decade of Sandy’s weekly written articles on strategies and motivation for your business and your life.

Happy New Year!

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:

a.  Who do you work with?  If your answer is usually “anyone”, rethink it.  Most people have come to believe that if you claim to be everything to everyone, you might not be the best at any one thing.

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 planTalk 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.

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Celebrate the New Year.  Rest and rejoice, but remember, ‘tis the season to keep REACHING…

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WISHING NEEDS WORDS

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.

If you want your employees or your clients to do something, ask for it clearly and be very specific.  Then, ask them to agree and offer your help if they need it.

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.

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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…

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Start by BEING

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.

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Who we’re being is also something we can change.  In Reinventing Yourself, author Steve Chandler teaches us that our personality is something we create:

“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…

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Say “Yes” to Your Dream

“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:

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“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

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P.S. What dream do you need to say “yes” to?  Tell me about it in the comments below this blog.

Two Simple Words…

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…

THANK YOU.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

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Persistence Means Trying MORE Than Once…

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.

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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

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Approaching…the “S” Word!

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”.

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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…

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WANT To or CHOOSE To?—Revisited

“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…

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QUALITY, Not Quantity: Leverage Existing Relationships

“I need to learn some new prospecting strategies,” Erin, an advisor in the Midwest, was telling me.  “I’ve done okay,” she continued, “But what I’ve been doing doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere lately.”

I asked Erin about her practice.  “How many clients—households—however you measure it, do you have now?” 

“About 300,” she advised.  “A few are what I would consider clients, but most are really just one-time ‘customers’.”

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“Then you don’t really need to learn new prospecting strategies at all,” I suggested.  “What you need is to turn some of those customers into real clients and some of the ones who are already clients into fiercely loyal advocates.”

Most sales training programs for professionals are based on the theory that sales is a “numbers game” and nothing more.  While the quantity of people you reach out to is important, the quality of your contacts is equally—or more—important.

If our work is really finding a lead, making a sale, and then going to look for another lead to make another sale, then going to look for another…and so on, it can be exhausting.  We’re starting at the beginning every time.

Leveraging existing relationships is a more efficient, more powerful way to grow any service business.  Leveraging involves two actions: (1) Finding more ways to serve existing customers and clients, and (2) Being referred to new clients, through them.

“If I went through your notes or ‘fact finders’ on all of the people you’ve identified, would I think of things that you could offer them, that you haven’t yet?” I asked Erin.

“Probably,” came her honest response.

“Would that be true even of the ones you’ve identified as real clients?”  I continued.

“Actually…it was them I was thinking of,” she replied.

“What stands in the way of your approaching them to talk about some of those things you haven’t talked about?”

“Nothing, I guess.”

We then went through and discussed each client she identified as being in her “Top 20”.  Several of them hadn’t heard from her in months—or, in a couple of cases, more than a year.  Here’s what we agreed upon:

1. Finding more ways to serve existing customers and clients.  She’d start with the clients she’d most want to replicate and truly serve them.  This means making sure that anything they might need that she is equipped to provide must be discussed.  They can, of course, choose not to take her advice, but she wouldn’t be serving them by avoiding or forgetting to cover those topics or products.

Truly serving them also would mean that she’d refer them to other professionals in her network to meet needs that she herself is not equipped to help with—even if she’d make no money from it.  Unsolicited referrals will start to come in from existing clients the more you position yourself as the “expert” in all of their needs.  And it won’t be coincidental that as you refer your clients to other professionals, you will begin to receive referrals from those professionals, also.

2. Being referred to new clients through them.  When Erin thinks she’s done everything she can for them, she’ll have to confirm that…with them.  She’ll need to let them articulate to her how great her service is and ask them if she can similarly help someone else in their lives.

Her first step in getting referrals is to EARN them.  When that’s done, she ought to tell clients she has the time to add to her roster someone they care about who might not be getting the same level of service elsewhere.  The odds are good that in most cases, someone will come to mind.

“Figure out how many appointments you want to keep each week,” I told Erin, “And when you don’t have enough prospects through the methods you’re already using, fill those meeting slots with service to your existing clients and requests for referrals.”

Serve your existing clients by providing quality in every way you can.  Then talk with them about helping their business associates, friends, and family members.  Leverage your best, and keep REACHING…

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Simple Pictures Are Best

When my daughters were little, I used to love to read them a particular book.  The book is so seemingly outdated that it has only recently been revived from out-of-print status by the miracles of internet shopping (and used copies now sell for just a cent).  It’s called Simple Pictures Are Best.

It’s the story of a farmer and his wife who decide to buy each other a photo session with a professional photographer for their anniversary.  The fun begins when the photographer comes and the couple can’t decide what to wear, where to sit, or what to include in the picture.  The farmer ends up wearing his new shoes on his feet while showing off his old shoes on his ears with arms full of farm produce.  His wife wears both of her hats, brings all of her pets, and stuffs her hands and pockets with kitchen and gardening utensils.

Each time the couple decides to add something to the picture, the photographer warns, “Simple pictures are best!”  But the couple continues to ignore him and assembles everything they can into the picture.  Finally, the commotion causes their bull to charge at the photographer, and the only picture taken that day…is of the bull.

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Recently, I worked with Ryan, a client whose company provides computer graphics packages to financial services companies.  Ryan was running two huge, expensive half-page ads weekly in a local paper with a broad-based readership.

“How much business do these ads generate?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” was his reply.

It turned out that he had been running these ads for years, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars over time, but had never asked his new clients how they found out about his company, and had never asked existing clients whether they had even seen the ads.

“If you don’t know whether there’s any benefit to running these ads,” I asked him, “Why do you keep running them?”

His real answer took several minutes to get to.  He told me about how he had started these ad campaigns along with several other very broad marketing efforts years before.  He also disclosed that he was still paying for a lot of other advertising and marketing efforts, without knowing whether any of them were working.

I thought of the farmer with the shoes on his ears and his feet and arms full of produce.

“Simple pictures are best,” I said to Ryan.

Science often adheres to Occam’s Razor, a theory which tells us that when there are several competing explanations for something, the simplest explanation is probably the right one.  More or less, it says, “The simplest of all possible solutions is preferable.”

Similarly, the “Simple Pictures” rule tells us that if you have a practice you’re looking to grow, the simplest marketing picture is probably best:

1. Be very clear on your target.
2. Choose strategies that are designed to reach that very clear target.
3. Test to see whether and to what extent those strategies are working.
4. Keep using the ones that work until you have the kind of business or practice you want!

Another principle I like to fall back on is K.I.S.S.

Create a simple picture that works for you.  If you want to climb high…get a ladder, and then, keep REACHING…

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