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REACHING…

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

Success Is a Choice

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.

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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.

Which choice are you making?  I hope you commit to your own success, and keep REACHING…
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What Will You Earn YOUR “Oscar” Doing?

Nate D. Sanders Auctions Collection Of Academy Award Oscar Statuettes Set To Be Auctioned

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:

  1. 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.”
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

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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/

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Do what you need to do to get the success you want, and keep REACHING…

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Stop Making “Non-Promises”

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.

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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…

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What Are You Seeing?

When you look at your practice (here you can also insert “business”, “career”, or “life”), what are you seeing?

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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…

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Too Much to Do? Eliminate THIS…

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:

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You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage– pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically–to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is to have a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.” -Stephen Covey


If you are overloaded, exhausted, and burning the candle at both ends, here’s a newsflash: You don’t have to do everything! I know–it’s hard to accept. You may believe you have to be all things to all people and say yes to everyone so you won’t miss an opportunity or run the risk of offending someone. Perhaps you think that hard work and an unyielding devotion to your employer, clients, community, family, or friends is necessary to merit the respect of others.

If that’s the approach you are taking, you are either burnt out, or on your way there. And rather than earning you brownie points, your inability to say no may mean that you are undermining your future.

No matter how efficient you are, how hard you try, and how well-meaning your efforts, you simply can’t do everything. Something has to give, and it should not be the health of your practice, the future of your career, the well-being of your most important relationships, or your own physical or mental health. In order for something to give, some things have to go. And it’s up to you to make that happen.

Why Eliminate? 

As author Jack Canfield says, If you are constantly saying yes to other people, then you are constantly saying no to yourself and your goals.”

Your inability or unwillingness to say no to others is interfering with your ability to achieve what you want! You may think you are working hard to create the career, practice, or life you deeply desire, but you are unwittingly working against your own self-interest by taking on tasks and responsibilities that aren’t serving you. It’s a bit like trying to drive with the emergency brake on.

Ask yourself whether what is being requested of you aligns with your goals and desires. Will it benefit you and move you forward in achieving success, or are you spending your time fulfilling someone else’s goals? Consider how much time you may be wasting with projects and activities that you don’t enjoy and don’t serve you simply because you are uncomfortable saying no. As Canfield says, “Success depends on getting good at saying no without feeling guilty.“

What to Eliminate

On a regular basis, ask yourself the questions: What can I eliminate? and What can I say no to? Start with the following categories:

  • Stop doing things you don’t have to do,
  • Stop doing things you don’t want to do, and
  • Stop doing things that don’t serve you and your goals.

You might cancel your membership to an organization you’re not really getting much out of even though you joined because your friend is on the board. You’re not saying no to your friend, you’re just choosing to spend your time on your goals.

Perhaps it’s time to cancel a subscription to that magazine you never read. You know…the one that’s piled up 6-issues high in the corner of your office and stresses you out every time you look at it.

Maybe you are still volunteering for a cause you cared deeply about many years ago because you feel guilty. Allow others to take up the cause and, if the organization’s mission is still meaningful to you, make a financial contribution instead.

Only you know which activities are dragging you down, overwhelming you, and creating obstacles to your success. Make the tough choices. Remember–saying no to others is really saying yes to yourself.

How to Eliminate 

Once you’ve decided that an activity, project or event doesn’t serve you, how do you say no? Try some of these tips for getting the message across:

  • Don’t give a lengthy explanation. You need not justify yourself.
  • Don’t lie or make up a story. It will only make you feel guilty later, which is what you’re trying to avoid in the first place.
  • Be direct: “I’m sorry, but I have to pass.” “I wish I could, but I’m maxed out right now.” “I appreciate the opportunity, but I’m not taking on any new commitments right now.”
  • Be polite: “Thanks so much for asking.”
  • Don’t say: “I’ll think about it” if you know you don’t want to do it. That just prolongs the agony and makes the situation more awkward.
  • Make it clear that it’s not about them. “I’m not saying no to you, I’m saying yes to me.”
  • Practice saying no if you have to.

Get out of the habit of people-pleasing and into the habit of taking care of yourself, protecting your time, and empowering yourself to work on what really matters to YOU.

(And always, keep REACHING…)
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About Elise Holtzman, JD, ACC

Elise Hotzman

Elise Holtzman, The Lawyer’s Success Coach, is an experienced lawyer and certified business coach who specializes in helping attorneys generate a steady stream of clients using a simple system she designed based on extensive study of best practices used by leading marketing experts and rainmakers.

Coach and Speaker. An experienced lawyer and the founder of The Lawyer’s Edge, Elise is a business development strategist who coaches individual attorneys, offers unique CLE courses, and is a frequent speaker for law firms, bar associations, and law schools.  Organizations for which she has spoken include Columbia, Cardozo and Rutgers Law Schools, the New York State Bar Association, the New York County Lawyers Association, the New Jersey State Bar Association, the New Jersey Women Lawyers Association, and Lawline.com.

Legal Experience. Elise practiced law in the New York offices of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, concentrating in the area of commercial real estate transactions.

Legal Education. Holtzman earned a BA in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and her JD from Columbia Law School, where she was an editor of the Columbia Law Review. She is currently a Board of Trustees member of the Columbia Law School Association.

Coach Training. Elise earned her coach certification from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC).  She is a past president of the New Jersey chapter of the International Coach Federation (ICF), is accredited by the ICF, and holds an ACC certification (Associate Certified Coach).

Elise lives with her husband, who is a practicing attorney, and their three children in central New Jersey.

“Bad Luck”: What’s TOO Important?

Dear Sandy,

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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

BL,

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…

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Are You “Recommendation Worthy”?

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“I talk to my clients occasionally about introducing me to someone they know who might need my help,” expressed Art, a matrimonial attorney I work with. “But they always tell me that they can’t think of anyone.”

“Maybe that’s true,” I suggested. “Do you have a value discussion before you get on the subject of recommending you?”

“A value discussion?” Art asked. “You mean, like, asking them what they think of my services?”

“Exactly,” I replied.

“No way, man!” Art protested vehemently. “Most divorce clients are angry at everyone. They hate being in the situation they’re in, they hate paying me, they hate the whole process. If I ask them what they think of me or my services, I can’t imagine what would come out of their mouths.”

“Try it,” I suggested. “On all of your appointments this week, ask your clients how they feel about the service they’ve been getting, and see what happens.”

Art was skeptical, but he agreed to do what I asked.

When we spoke again the next week, I could hear Art trying to hold back his excitement.

“Every one of them said very positive, very flattering things,” he blurted. “The only negative comment had to do with me not checking in when nothing was going on with her case, so I promised to fix that and she was happy.”

“But here’s the real kicker,” he continued. “After we talked about how she felt, without my even bringing the subject up, one of them started to tell me about a friend who might need my help.”

One of the best ways to grow a practice of any kind is through referrals. Most professionals make the mistake of asking for referrals—or for the retainer, for that matter—before they have made sure not only that they’ve given value, but that the client has recognized it.

Discussions about your relationship with clients should come up often. Check in with them. Get them to tell you what is working and what isn’t. Don’t be afraid to hear the bad news. Studies tell us that only one in twenty-seven unhappy clients tell us they are unhappy. They just don’t use us anymore and they don’t recommend us.

Think about that figure. It means that if just one person does complain, twenty-six others were unhappy and didn’t tell you. If you don’t believe the statistic, think about the last time you went to a restaurant, were dissatisfied with the food or the service, and vowed never to come back, but didn’t tell the manager about it.

Most importantly, though, before you talk with your client about other people or companies he might know about who could use the same kind of help you are providing to him, make sure he tells you just how great your services are.

Start with a general question, like:

“Peter, I just want to make sure you’re getting the best service we can possibly give you, so I wanted to ask you how we’re doing.”

The answer to a question like this is likely to be positive, but without any detail. So next, get specific:

“What’s something that we’ve done that you’ve found to be particularly helpful?”

When he mentions one thing, ask him, “What else?” Keep asking this question until he’s out of answers.

Then, continue the value discussion by asking directed questions:

“Did you like how we jumped on that mistake and got it out in the open?”

Finally, ask “Is there anything more I can do for you now, or in the future?”

If the client assures you that she’s really happy, ask her if she knows someone like her (or her company) that could use the same kind of service. If she’s not happy, fix your service.

Asking clients about your value can have some great results. Start doing it immediately.

In the meantime, keep REACHING…

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It’s All in the Follow-Up…

Follow Up

Quick Note: I’ve made a new resource available for you. This recording of my one-hour webinar, 11 Tips to Help You Stay Focused on Your Goals, will clear the path to success in your business by showing you how to minimize distractions and delegate side-tracking tasks. (There’s absolutely no charge.) So, enjoy!

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You met someone at a party who is in a position to use your services. You had the “What do YOU do?” conversation, and you exchanged business cards.

If she’s interested in learning more about how you might help her, you can just assume she’ll call you, right? I mean, if you contact her to try and learn more about her situation and tell her more about your work, she’ll think you’re needy or pushy, or that you have some ulterior motive, won’t she?

So, you don’t try to approach her and, although you’d hoped she was impressed and interested, she doesn’t call.

We give ourselves many reasons for not following up with the people we meet. We tell ourselves:

~If they’re interested, they’ll contact me
~If I contact them, I’ll be seen as pushy
~If I contact them, they’ll think I’m desperate for business
~I have more immediate and more important things to do

But all of these “reasons” are the work of the “But” Monster–they’re simply excuses you make because you’re afraid of being rejected.

Let’s look at these excuses more closely:

If they’re interested, they’ll contact me. On occasion, this does happen…but maybe they’ve misplaced your card and forgotten your last name, or maybe they just got too busy with their own work–especially if they could use the help! If they really seemed interested when you met, shouldn’t you contact them now before you’re sure that they aren’t?

If I contact them, I’ll be seen as pushy. If you’re pushy, you’ll be seen as pushy. Contacting them is just a way of asking if they’d like to continue the dialogue you started with them.

If I contact them, they’ll think I’m desperate for business. Most people view a follow-up contact as an expected business practice. They may or may not be receptive to it, but they will not see it as needy unless you make it appear that way.

I have more immediate and more important things to do. How many of the things you’re doing are more important than bringing in new clients?

Follow-up contact works best when you do it right away; then, it’s easy. You can choose to make a phone call, which is the most effective way; to send a hand-written note, which is viewed as special and personal, but involves a precious investment of time, including waiting for delivery; or to send an email, which is not as personal, but can be done instantaneously, either the next day, or over the weekend.

Here’s an example of an email or hand-written note:

Tom,
It was a pleasure meeting you at Pete’s party last Friday night.
You mentioned your son was sick. I hope he’s feeling better!
I had the sense from what you told me about your situation that I might be able to help. If you’d like to get together soon and talk more about it, let me know.
Either way, I hope our paths cross again.

–Sandy Schussel

A call might sound something like this:

Hi, Tom. This is Sandy Schussel. We met at Pete’s party last Friday…I had the sense from what you told me about your situation that I might be able to help you. We could talk more about it now if this is a good time, or if you’d prefer, we could pick a time to get together in person. What do you think?

Follow-up contacts, especially phone calls, open opportunities you might never have expected to come through. Create a mindset that following up is one of your most important jobs and that it can truly help you grow your business.

In the meantime, keep REACHING…

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Choose to Make Time for YOU

I received this letter recently from a real estate broker:

Dear Sandy,

Perhaps you can do an article on finding time to make appointments with yourself and your loved ones; that is, the ones who aren’t too busy?

When and why did this happen?  We have more “time savers” than ever before, but there is no need to look for storage for this ‘saved’ time.  On the contrary, we could use one more day added to our present 7-day week.  Perhaps that could be our personal day.  I am feeling very stressed and my patience is stretched to the limit, which I know is affecting my work.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way…

Annette

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Here’s how I answered her:

Annette,

While my focus is on helping salespeople and professionalsmake more money, the time issue is one that comes up often in my work.

But it’s largely a ‘made-up’ issue.  I’m hoping this never happens, but what if you needed to take one day off each week for some medical treatment like dialysis or to spend it with someone you really cared about that was seriously ill?  Would you be able to do all your work the rest of the week and still take that day off?

Most people say they’d find a way, and that yes, if forced to, they could do it.  So, it’s not impossibility that keeps us from taking a day off to recharge our batteries; it’s a choice we’re making.  And most of us make the wrong choice.

Our best ideas come from slowing down and taking time to think.  Our greatest bursts of energy and productivity come after we’ve taken some time away from what we end up calling the daily ‘grind’.  (It shouldn’t be a grind; it should be a joy—and one of the reasons it’s not is that we don’t step away from it enough.)

Start with scheduling a half-day a week to do whatever you like: get that massage, have lunch and dinner with  friends.  Don’t answer your calls; make some alternate arrangement.

Tell me how that feels after a month.  I know it’s counter-intuitive, but you’ll eventually start making more money by taking structured time off than you do now by working around the clock…

If you run your own schedule, you don’t need an extra day–you need to make the decision to take time for yourself.  Try it as soon as possible, and tell me what you think afterwards.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…

Make Referrals About THEM

Anita, an advisor in her mid-thirties, was terrified about talking with her clients about introducing her to friends and family members who might need her help.

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“What are you afraid might happen if you talk to them about introducing you to the people they care about?” I asked her.

“Well, I don’t know…,” she began. “Maybe they’re going to think I’m needy and have to beg for clients.  And they’re going to get all awkward and tell me they can’t think of anyone, because they’re not going to want to bother their friends.  It’s happened to me before.”

“If you make it about you–about your need for clients–you’re probably right,” I explained, Your need is about the ugliest thing you can show a client.”

“But if you make it about the people they care about–family, friends, people they work with,” I continued, “you’ll be less awkward, and they’ll be more receptive.”

Referrals are an excellent way to grow virtually any professional practice or service business.  In a practice like Anita’s, where the service is very personal, referrals are often the best way.  Surveys in several industries show that most people would prefer to be introduced to a provider, rather than to respond to an ad or an internet search, and talking with your clients about introducing you to someone who might need your help gives them an opportunity to be a hero–to make a difference in the life of someone they care about.

So while referrals will definitely benefit you, they also benefit your clients and the people they refer you to.  The solution is to stop asking for referrals–an act that may be awkward because it’s all about you–and start asking your clients to help the people they care about by introducing you to them.  Ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I provide excellent service to my clients?

2. Do my clients have people in their lives who might need that service?

3. Do I deserve to be the one to help those people?

If the answer to all three of these questions is “yes”, start talking to your clients constantly about introducing you to the people in their lives who might need your help.

Keep REACHING…

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