Over a decade of Sandy’s weekly written articles on strategies and motivation for your business and your life.
If you’re racing toward a curve and you focus on the wall you don’t want to hit–you’ll probably hit it.
Race car drivers like Scott Dixon and Jimmie Johnson know that whether it’s a wall or a wreck in front of you, your focus needs to be on where you want to go, not the obstacle.
This idea has been on my mind lately as the news focuses on America’s political circus. One thing people tend to forget about politics is that you can’t have a show without an audience. The discord becomes a spectacle because people are focused on the drama, rather than on facts and forward movement.
Informed citizens, on the other hand, take the view that they play a part in how the country will shape up, and they know that if they pay attention and contribute wisely, they’ll have a positive impact. They’re looking at where they want to go–not at the “wrecked” political system.
My purpose here, however, is not to give you political advice. It’s to show you that while external events beyond our control–like political crisis or accidents on the racetrack–do throw roadblocks in our way, the people who continue to have successes are the ones who focus on where they want to go and how they can get there, not on the mess right in front of them.
I hear struggling professionals focused on their walls every day:
“Voting this year will be a lose-lose.”
“Recruiting for new salespeople is impossible.”
“No one is buying [my kind of service] right now.”
When you focus on where you want to go instead of the wall, what you say sounds more like this:
“I’m doing all I can to decipher the facts and vote wisely.”
“I’m speaking to more and more people and strengthening my recruiting skills.”
“I’m finding ways to add value so that people buy [my kind of service].”
Don’t hit the wall or become part of whatever wreck is on the road in front of you. Focus on where you want to go, and you’ll have a lot better chance of getting there.
So keep your steering sharp, and keep REACHING…
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In 1973, at the age of 46, Bob Farrell sold his 55-store ice cream business, Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlors, and became a motivational speaker. Some time before that date, he had received a letter from a customer who was very disappointed. She had asked for an extra pickle with her meal at one of his stores, and had been charged for it.
Farrell promptly sent the woman an apology and began teaching his staff to “Give ‘em the pickle!” Bob died last year at the age of 87–but to the very last, the former ice cream king was talking about this principle.
Farrell defined “pickles” as those extra-special things you can do to make customers happy. In one business, it may be walking a customer over to an item she’s looking for rather than just pointing. In another, it may be a handwritten “thank you” note in every order shipped. The trick in any practice or service business is figuring out what the particular pickle is for your particular clients, and then to make sure they each get one as often as possible.
Farrell’s Pickle Principle contains four main concepts:
- Service: Farrell said serving others must be your number one priority. You work in a noble profession–whatever profession it is–so be proud of what you do and where you work.
- Attitude: Every day you get to choose your attitude. How you think about your clients is how you will treat them. “In a way, you’re in show business,” Farrell told his audience, “so play the part!”
- Consistency: Clients return because they like what happened the last time. Set high service standards and live them every day. Tea on a silver platter twice–but not the third time–can rattle a client.
- Teamwork: If you’re working with a team, commit to providing service through together. Look for ways to make each other look good while you’re serving your clients.
Always give your clients or customers a pickle, and keep REACHING…
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One of my coaching colleagues, James G. Butler, shared a story a short time ago about how much fear can cost you:
At the Seattle airport, James was in the security checkpoint lineup, where the wait was likely to be over 2 hours long. James had showed up with plenty of time.
Another man, however, was booked on an international flight to Germany and had showed up with only 45 minutes to get to the gate.
After a failed attempt to sweet-talk the security guard in the first class line, that man found himself behind James on the regular people’s line. As James saw it, the man’s only option was to ask everyone in the normal line if he could to go in front of them.
But he wasn’t doing it.
Even though over $1000—the cost of having to rebook—was on the line, the man told James that he would not ask 300 people if he could advance ahead. It was clear that he was afraid to ask so many people for their help; afraid of putting himself in the vulnerable place of possible rejection, over and over and over. In that moment, he was paralyzed by his fear.
James suggested that he did not have to ask 300 people for anything. He just needed to ask one person at a time. He was letting the enormity of the entire journey cripple him from starting with just one step.
James asked him if he was willing to just ask one person at a time, and the man acknowledged that doing it that way sounded much easier. He asked the person in front of James if he could move ahead, so that he could make his plane. And then he asked the next person, and the next…
James watched the man as he made it to the front of the line in 10 minutes flat, now certain to make the flight.
The lesson here is simple: REMEMBER THE POWER OF “1”. When you’re overwhelmed, or fearful about the enormity of a goal or project, focus on one tiny part of it. Do one thing. And then do one more.
Instead of compiling a list of 50 people to reach out to, think of one person and reach out to him or her. Then another. Then another. Before you know it, you’ll have contacted 50 people.
Use The Power of “1” to change your view of the tasks that overwhelm you, and little by little, keep REACHING…
“I most certainly did not need a lecture!” Marie, an internet consultant, wrote me this week.
Last week, I had asked for proposals for help with an internet project I’m working on, and Marie had been the first to respond. Her email had specifically addressed my request and was filled with enthusiasm, and she appeared to have experience in both of the areas in which I needed help. Each of the other consultants who responded only had skills in one area or the other.
When I spoke to Marie a few days ago, we got a little more into the details of the project, and I told her that I still wanted to talk with the three other experts who responded, but that I would get back to her after my conversations and after reviewing her detailed proposal.
Marie then called me on Monday to make sure I had received the proposal, and to find out if I had reviewed it.
Yesterday, just one week after our initial contact and two days after her follow-up call, she wrote:
I’ve yet to hear back from you, so I guess it’s safe to assume you’ve decided on hiring someone else.
Regardless of your intention, a note like this conveys a neediness and negativity that can make a prospective buyer of your services run for cover. There were several good reasons why Marie didn’t hear back from me this week. What basis did she have to assume I had gone elsewhere? Was her intention to “guilt” me into reassuring her that I hadn’t made a decision yet, or to decide to use her?
Upon receipt of Marie’s note, I could have: (a) decided that the negative, needy tone was a turnoff and simply made Marie’s message a self-fulfilling prophecy, or (b) ignored the negative and needy tone. But because my work is helping professionals get more clients (something about me Marie needed to know), I chose option (c), to tell her how her letter might appear to a prospective client:
…It’s a giant and negative leap to assume that because a week has gone by, I’ve decided to work with someone else. A better approach might be to ask if there’s any way you can help a client decide.
I haven’t made my decision yet–let’s talk again next week!
Marie’s response is above. She also said,
Perhaps we would not be a good fit after all.
When you’re trying to attract clients, your need for their business is the ugliest thing you can show them. Perhaps I shouldn’t give my advice where it hasn’t been requested–a good lesson for me! But perhaps the reason “we’re not a good fit after all” is that I was right about my sense that Marie had shown me that her need to have another client was more important than my need as a prospective client.
By the way, had Marie understood why I was giving her advice on dealing with prospective clients, it would have shown me she completely understands the work I do, and she would have surely had the job. She could have disagreed with my interpretation of her email, or on my tone, and we might have discussed it–but none of that can happen now.
Marie wanted more clients…but she didn’t want help. If you do want to attract clients to your practice or service business, welcome help, be gentle, assume the best, and keep REACHING…
Almost everyone knows that to succeed at anything, you need:
- A clear, specific goal
- A step-by-step plan to reach that goal
- Immediate and massive action on the steps of that plan
- A willingness to persist until you reach the goal.
If you’ve read Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich or are familiar with Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, you know that you need to put out into the universe your desire to make your goal a reality. But you also know that you can’t just wish your way to what you want; you need to be taking action, too.
In the course of my coaching and training work, I’m asked a lot of questions about the basic principles above. For instance:
If we’ve all heard these things before and we “know” them, why are so many of us no closer to where we want to be this year than we were last year? Why are some of us actually further behind? Is it because this stuff only works for a few people? Are we not doing it right? Is luck an essential element that some of us just don’t have?
For a long time, I believed that people didn’t get what they wanted–and professionals didn’t have the practices they wanted–either because
(1) they didn’t know what to do or how to do it, or
(2) they knew how, but were afraid to do it.
My friend and mentor, Steve Chandler, started our relationship by sharing an even more fundamental reason with me: they haven’t decided to pursue it. Whether or not they know what to do or have fears about it, they simply haven’t chosen it. They haven’t made the commitment to get past their fears or to learn what they need to learn.
Of course, the hesitation to make that commitment might itself be caused by fear, but then, they haven’t made the commitment to take steps to overcome that fear. So, while most people know how to be successful (however they define success), they are, in essence, choosing not to be it.
In the wake of the Academy Awards, I’ve been thinking about what got most of the people who took the stage all the way to the point of receiving that coveted prize.
Yes, a little luck and some great connections were involved in them getting those noteworthy jobs in the first place. But for each person, when it came to doing the job itself—the work that resulted in the nomination and, ultimately, the win—it was about having had total intense focus on his or her chosen career.
Whether it was in acting, directing, set design, costume design, editing, or any other category, the winners were talented people who had been totally immersed in their work for many, many years.
What’s your category? If you’re a CEO, are you a contender for an Oscar in running a company? If you’re a sales rep, an advisor, or an attorney, would you ever be nominated for Outstanding Service in your field?
Imagine if there were Academy Awards for the work that you do. If you wanted to be nominated, what would you need to do that you’re not already doing? Where would you have to intensify your effort or learn something you don’t already know?
Here are three ideas to help you earn your Oscar:
- Think and act like you are a contender. In a pre-Oscar interview, Robin Roberts asked actor Louis Gosset , Jr. what advice he’d give to someone starting out. His response was, “Do the very best you can. Bring your A-game wherever you go.”
- Master your craft. Some professionals are incredibly adept at the technical side of their businesses—whether it’s watching their company’s financials, knowing which investments are best for their clients, or knowing how to produce a superior product. But these same people often lack leadership and people skills. Conversely, professionals can be great leaders or sales people, but be weak in their business or product knowledge. Oscar contenders must work to strengthen their weaknesses, and many of my clients have sought out a coach to do just that.
- Keep at it. Nelson Mandela advocated for a multiracial democratic government in South Africa, from a tiny prison cell, for 27 years. Dozens of actors who have won Oscars worked for fifteen years or more before their big break. Your effort to win your Oscar for what you do is not likely to be as much of a challenge. You just have to persist.
- Get help. Fledgling actors attend workshops to network, hire coaches to help them with their business tasks, and take classes to strengthen their performance skills. If you need training, find it. If you need a coach, hire one. It starts with having the courage to open up to someone else and admit you don’t have all the answers. Having even one conversation with a coach could shine the spotlight on what’s holding you back from your Academy Award.
A NEW FACEBOOK GROUP: THE PROSPEROUS ADVISOR
While many of my subscribers are not financial and insurance professionals, I am asking even you to share this information with someone who can use it. I’ve started an exclusive Facebook group called “The Prosperous Advisor”, in which advisors can ask questions and share strategies in a closed forum only shared with other members.
This won’t be a place where vendors will be posting…just an arena for advisors to help one another grow their businesses.
Anyone who is interested can request membership here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1569962283322404/
Do what you need to do to get the success you want, and keep REACHING…
A few weeks ago, I invited Marc–an IT consultant who had worked with me for a few months last year and gotten some very good results–to lunch. We set the date, and then Marc said: “I’ll be there…unless someone calls me with work that needs to be done that day…I mean, business comes first, right?”
After I hung up the phone I thought about how Marc’s response to my lunch invitation actually hinted at the work we both knew still needed to be done: Marc’s agreements were often statements without substance. In this case, his loose commitment was actually a non-promise.
Marc would tell clients he could probably finish a project in a day, even when he knew that was impossible. He told creditors that he’d try to have them paid by Friday, and the check wouldn’t be sent until the next week.
I coach my clients to “under-promise and over-deliver”. Marc was so worried about pleasing his clients and vendors that he had taken to over-promising and under-delivering—making shaky agreements up front, and ultimately, not being able to deliver on them.
But this isn’t just an issue of using the wrong tactics–it’s an issue of integrity. An old sales mantra goes: “Clients need to know you, like you, and trust you in order to agree to do business with you.” The “trust” part of that know-like-trust triad is based, in large part, on a sense that you will keep your promises.
Marc needed to follow this simple rule:
Make only promises you can keep…and keep them.
Non-promises, like “I’ll see you for lunch, unless something else comes up,” could actually be insulting (how important is that lunch with me?), but more importantly, they violate the first part of this rule. I have no doubt that if Marc is making non-promises to me, he’s making them to clients, as well.
If you want to grow your practice faster, make promises you can keep…and keep them. Once you have that down, you can keep REACHING…
When you look at your practice (here you can also insert “business”, “career”, or “life”), what are you seeing?
Is there a picture of how you want it to be? A compelling vision that drives your work and interactions with people? Are you on a mission to bring your message or your help to more people–seeking clients for your cause? Is your mission to help your clients–or your loved ones–in more ways, even if this only means making more money so you have more time to give to friends and family?
In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill tells us that nothing happens in the absence of a “burning desire”, which would lead some people to say that to be successful, you must be passionate about the results you want to achieve.
But my coach and friend, Steve Chandler, warns people that “passion” is too overwhelming a concept. If you make a commitment to grow, you can be passionate or not; it’s keeping the commitment that makes it happen.
On opening day of Disney World in Orlando, a reporter remarked to Roy Disney, “It’s too bad Walt didn’t live to see this.”
Roy is said to have replied, “Walt saw it first; that’s why you’re seeing it now.”
What’s your Disney World? What are you seeing? Will others get to see it, too?
Have you made the commitment to make it happen, or is it just something you’d like to see happen? Take a few minutes this week to think about and write down what your Disney World looks like. See it. Then, if you really want it, commit to it.
Don’t forget that if you need your “vision” checked, you can hire a coach. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
This week’s article was written by my friend and colleague Elise Holtzman in her lawyer newsletter Tuesday Morning Counsel, but it will benefit anyone who thinks he or she has too much to do:
How do I get past my run of bad luck and get my practice back on track?
It seems that every time I get close to landing a big client, something bad happens to kill the deal: My alarm clock doesn’t work and I oversleep; I forget an important document I needed for the meeting; I even have a “fender bender” and miss the meeting altogether. Is there anything I can do to change my luck?
-BL in Phoenix
There may be such a thing as bad luck, but there’s also something called self-sabotage–which might arise from a fear of success. I devote part of a chapter to this problem in The High Diving Board. Maybe, some things go wrong because you’re afraid of newer, bigger clients. You don’t consciously oversleep, omit a document, or smash up your car, but your fear may have you doing–or not doing–something that causes those things to happen. Could these big accounts be too important to you?
What if your client base, as it stands, were so strong that a “big” account would be something great to have, but just not that important? Do what you need to do with your practice to make the big accounts you’re having “bad luck” with less important, and the likelihood is, your luck will improve dramatically.
Keep things in perspective, and keep REACHING…