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BE the Red Crayon
(NOT the “SALESMAN”!)

As a coach, I work with all kinds of already successful people looking for help to bring their careers—and lives—to the next level.  Most are selling professional services of one kind or another, and much of the time, they are doing so as part of an independent business or practice.  Their next level is getting more clients, getting better clients, or simply turning the clients they have already into fiercely loyal advocates who will keep working with them for years to come.

Many of my clients come to me with an idea—a paradigm—that the only way they can grow is to do something they dread: marketing, prospecting, or (horror of horrors): “selling”.

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Danny DeVito in Matilda (1996)

“But I’m an advisor,” my client Bob protested a few years ago, not a SALESMAN.”

The picture Bob had in his mind of someone who “sells” is the pushy salesman on the used car lot with the loud plaid sports jacket, the phony smile, and the bad toupee.  Who wants to be that guy?

Matilda-matilda-4452154-640-480

Like most professionals who are not precisely where they want to be, Bob couldn’t fill his day working with quality clients for two reasons:

1. He didn’t know how to attract more business; and
2. He was apprehensive about cold calling, making presentations, and other “salesy” things he was sure I’d be making him do.

“What if instead of worrying about marketing, prospecting, and selling, you just positioned yourself to attract the clients you want?” I asked Bob.

“I don’t know what you mean,” he responded, “but that sounds a lot better than selling.”

If you’re just another financial advisor, insurance producer, or attorney, you’re faced with competition from dozens—or hundreds—of people doing the same work that you are.  You’re just another “white crayon”.  You will get business, but your ability to get more and better clients will be limited.  Sending out mailings and refrigerator magnets, making cold calls and other marketing and sales activities might pull in the occasional new client, but what will work faster and better is having a way to distinguish yourself from all of the other white crayons.

Instead of struggling to sell your services, position yourself as a provider who can fulfill a specific need for a specific type of client.

Every day, I speak with people who are telling their prospects they are brokers, or consultants, or coaches, entrepreneurs or service providers, without differentiating themselves from all of the other people who do “the same thing”.  Each of them is just one more white crayon in a box filled with white crayons.

The point they’re missing is that clients are more attracted to experts and specialists—to someone unique—than to general practitioners who look like all the other general practitioners in any field.  Your prospective clients are looking for the Red Crayon.  Start attracting them by giving them what they’re looking for.

Red Crayon

When I explained this to Bob, he protested that he couldn’t be a Red Crayon.  He was “just another financial advisor”.  When I connected with him on social media, however, I found several posts he had written about putting four of his kids through college.

His expertise on this subject was already a way he could attract clients.  But as we spoke, he mentioned how he had put himself through college, because his own parents couldn’t afford to help him.

These were two powerful personal stories that made Bob a Red Crayon, which would, if properly displayed, comfortably attract many more new clients than any “sales” effort ever could.

Why wasn’t his practice already as full as he would have liked it to be?  Until now, Bob had always chosen to be “just another financial advisor”.  Like many of us, on some level, he was afraid to be an individual in order to have the kind of success he deserved.

If you recognize that what holds you back is fear, try my book, THE HIGH DIVING BOARD: How to Overcome Your Fears and Live Your Dreams.  If you know your hang up is not wanting to be a “pushy salesman“, look out for my upcoming workshop on MASTERING CLIENT REFERRALS without even having to ask for them, or contact me to find out more.

In the meantime, be your own Red Crayon, and keep REACHING…

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Why Should I Buy It from YOU?

I have written before on the Three Universal Marketing Questions that anyone selling his or her services needs to know the answers to:

(1) What are you offering?
(2) To whom are you offering it?
(3) Why should they hire you?

The third point—the “why”—seems to be the most troubling for many people.

“You should work with me because I really care about my clients,” Terry, a 2-year veteran financial advisor, posed in a role-play sales conversation with me.

“But that’s exactly what [your competitor] said to me,” I responded.  “Why should I choose you over her?”

Terry was stumped.  “If we’re all white crayons in a box,” I continued, “What difference does it make which crayon I pick?  All of them would tell me, if they could talk, that they are really good at coloring inside the lines.”  Once again, Terry could not answer.

“What is different about you,” I asked him again, “from all the other people who do what you do?”

“Well, I’m not really different in any particular way” he started, “we all provide the same kinds of planning services and give advice aimed at the same goals…I just know I would be more caring than anyone else.”
“What makes you think so?” I pressed.

Terry thought for another moment, and finally responded, hesitantly.  “My father died when I was just a teenager and left us with no money, so I know how important having money is—and I made up my mind that I would spend my life helping people prevent that from happening to their families.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Terry’s face brightened.  He realized he had stumbled onto the perfect answer—for him—to the “why you” question.

Red Crayon

When you can tell people why they should hire you or use your services in a way that distinguishes you from the other crayons in the box—perhaps by using powerful, personal stories or strong metaphors—you’ll get more business.

If you don’t have a clear answer to the third, or any of the Three Universal Marketing Questions, contact me for help.  Don’t be afraid to stand out of the box, and keep REACHING…

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Rejection Therapy

Be sure to check out my recent interview on entrepreneurship, sales, and success at Letsmote.com!
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If you fear rejection—in your telephone conversations, or when you ask a prospect to engage your services—you’ll definitely want to spend just 24 minutes viewing the following Video Lecture by Chinese-American entrepreneur Jia Jang at the World Domination Summit.

Jang talks about the fear of rejection that almost caused him to give up his dream of creating his own company.  He mentions going online to a site where he learned about “Rejection Therapy”.

When I saw this, I was intrigued.  I had given countless workshops wherein I challenged participants to purposely ask for things that they were previously sure would be denied to them, but I had not yet heard of “Rejection Therapy”.

After one of my Manhattan workshops, two of the attendees who had flown in from the Midwest went to a bar together and asked the bartender for free drinks, expecting a “no” response.  They told the bartender that this was their first time in New York and that they wanted to make sure the drinks were good.

To their surprise, the bartender gave them the drinks they requested, making it clear that he would allow them just one each.

When they excitedly shared their adventure with our group the next day, the point was clear:

Ask.  You may just get what you ask for.

I wondered if there really was a website about “Rejection Therapy” and if it was anything like what I was already doing in my workshops.

It turns out that Canadian Jason Comely is the founder of rejectiontherapy.com, where he defines a real life game with only one rule:

YOU MUST BE REJECTED BY ANOTHER PERSON AT LEAST ONCE, EVERY SINGLE DAY.

“Please notice the wording of the rule,” Jason tells us.  “It doesn’t say you must attempt or try to be rejected.  The rule is you MUST be rejected by another human being.  In this game, rejection is success.  No other outcome will meet the requirement of Rejection Therapy.”

If you want to play the game, visit his site, and read about what counts as a rejection attempt and a successful rejection.  Jason freely shares his game and offers a game card you can use (not required) for just $10.

In his talk, Jang tells us that in “playing” Rejection Therapy, he asked a police officer if he could drive the police car and a pilot if he could fly his small plane.  To his surprise, both let him do it—just because he asked.  In fact, in my workshops, many of the outlandish requests made by my attendees are granted.  Some have told me they found it difficult to actually be rejected.

If you often don’t ask for appointments or referrals, or a sale, because you’re afraid of being rejected, spend 100 days playing Rejection Therapy.  You’ll learn the lesson that Jang did: that it’s OK if someone says “NO”.  It’s just his or her reflex, capacity, or opinion—nothing more.

Contact me today for help, and if I have availability, give me an opportunity to surprise you with a “YES”.  Either way, keep REACHING…

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Last week, we discussed the second of three basic yet essential skills that will help you get, and keep, more and better clients:

(1) The ability to ask provocative questions
(2) The ability to listen with total focus on your client
(3) The ability to relate compelling stories and metaphors

At last, we’ve made it to the Third Skill:

3. The ability to relate compelling stories and metaphors.  Testimonials about your service help you get clients, because human beings are hard-wired to believe and love stories.  Even before people developed a fully-spoken language, they could tell stories with cave paintings.  As language progressed, one of its first uses was to communicate tales of great exploits, while sitting around the campfire…


Painting by George Strickland, courtesy of the Witte Museum.

But even when there are no clients around to give Testimonials—or campfires to sit and chat around, for that matter—stories of your service exploits can assist you in turning uncertain prospects into ready clients.

My client Michael, a financial professional, is a Master at “sales” stories:Joe, your situation is very similar to that of another client I’m helping at the moment.  He approached me a few years ago, having lost a bit more money than you did…but what his last advisor did to him was almost identical to what yours did to you.  He also struggled with whether he should get back into the market or not.  But after we talked that first time, he decided that he couldn’t let a past mishap get in the way of his retirement, and we’ve been working together successfully ever since!”

It’s a rare instance when a prospective client doesn’t come on board in the face of stories like these.

Michael also uses metaphors.  I remember our discussion about a client of his with a small retirement fund, who asked him whether he thought she could handle it herself, without an advisor.  “Sure you can,” Michael told her, “But you’d be like a leaf on a rushing stream.  With no rudder and no one to steer, you’d be rushing toward whatever result the system had in store for you.”

Michael delivered the “steering” service he promised, and the woman remained a fiercely loyal client.

One of my favorite Masters of Metaphor was Ben Feldman, who is considered possibly the greatest insurance salesmen in modern history.  Ben could look prospective insurance-purchasers in the eyes and say things like, “with the stroke of a pen, you create an estate,” and the prospects would pick up their pens to sign the application Ben had brought with him.

Another client of mine, Larry, is a financial advisor, as well.  To explain a Roth IRA to his clients, Larry uses a farming metaphor:

“If you were a farmer and you had to pay taxes,” he asks, “would you rather pay taxes on the seed, or on the crop that you harvest?”

“The seed, of course,” is the prospect’s usual reply.

“Why is that?” Larry asks.

“Well, the tax on a huge crop is probably a lot more than the tax on the seed would be,” goes the response.

“That’s why I want you to make this investment,” Larry tells his prospect.  “You’ll have already paid taxes on the seed—and you’ll be able to harvest the crop tax-free!”

As this plays out in real life, Larry manages to put all Three Sales Skills together in his presentation to prospects.  He asks provocative questions, listens with focus to their answers, and reacts empathetically by relating compelling analogies that help explain in clear terms how he is able to serve his clients.

Contact me, and I’ll help you develop these fundamental skills—or take them to the next level.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…

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Last week, we discussed the first of Three KEY Skills that will help you master the art of getting and keeping clients:

(1) The ability to ask provocative questions
(2) The ability to listen with total focus on your client
(3) The ability to relate compelling stories and metaphors

In this article, I’ll discuss the second of these skills:

2. The ability to listen with total focus.  Anyone who is married knows that we often neglect to really listen to one another.  I could call my wife, Hannah, from my office and say something like:

“Honey, you wont believe this!  I got to work fifteen minutes late this morning and when I looked out the window there was a flying saucer with two little green men in it.  They waved and flew off into space…”

Hannah would then probably ask:
“Why were you late?  You left on time.”

We tend to listen to one another, surf the Internet, and watch television—all at the same time.  When we do, the “listening” part of this multitasking ends up being pretty passive.

Some of my clients and friends have taken courses on active listening.  They’ve been told:
“When you’re speaking with a client, stop everything else, put your papers aside, turn away from your computer, make eye contact with the client, concentrate on the words he/she is speaking, and don’t interrupt!”Focus

All of these tips are truly important, but they can’t prevent us from the problem of being “Waiting To Talk” listeners.  Even when we stop all activity and elect to listen actively, our minds often cannot help but race through responses to whatever it is that our client or prospect is saying.  Because those wheels in our heads are turning, we may miss the most important component of communication—the emotions behind our clients’ words.

Listening with total focus on your clients requires all of the skills you need for active listening, but adds the requirement that you let go of the need to ready a response.  Listen to their words, listen for the emotions behind their words, and observe their body language.  Step outside of yourself, and pay attention without standing at attention, ready to pounce in and solve problems.  Take in what your clients are saying, but also, absorb what they aren’t saying.

Professionals who are totally focused on their clients and prospects are always more likely to win—or keep—the loyal advocates who give them business.  But cultivating this level of focus takes practice.  Contact me if you think you want some help in becoming the best listener you can possibly be.

Next week, I’ll shift focus to the third skill you’ll need to build your client base: the ability to relate to your clients through powerful words and compelling stories.  In the meantime, stay active, let go, and keep REACHING…

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To be truly successful at getting clients, your passion for your work must be accompanied by Mastery of Three Skills:

(1) The ability to ask provocative questions
(2) The ability to listen with total focus on your client
(3) The ability to relate compelling stories and metaphors

In this article, I’ll focus on the first of these skills:

1. The ability to ask provocative questions.  If you’ve found that your prospective clients  (we’ll call them “prospects”) are backing away, it is likely that you have made the common mistake of cutting the questioning process short.  You may have jumped to the solution you provide too early.  If you’re like most professionals, before talking about your services, you do ask informational questions—who, what, where, when, how, and why.  While you need this information to understand how you can help your prospects, it is more valuable to you than it is to them.  Your prospects already have this information!  Situational questions are more likely to help you get to the bottom of your prospects’ deeper needs.

Sometimes, your simple informational questions will bring up a relevant concern—maybe even one that a prospect didn’t know he or she had.  Maybe the prospect is already working with someone in your field and is having some problems with that relationship, or with the results he/she is getting.

Well, there they are: problems!  And that’s what we do, isn’t it?  We solve problems.  So, we’re done here, right?  Isn’t it time to move on, and into the solution?

As soon as you identify this little bit of trouble in Paradise, you may want to pounce with your offer of services…but if you do, more often than not, your prospect will start squirming.  Here’s an example of a conversation my client, Lisa, a financial advisor, experienced with a prospect who had already been working with another advisor:

Lisa:  So, you haven’t heard from him in over a year and he didn’t return your call the last time you tried to reach him?  He also hasn’t explained any of these things we’ve been talking about today, right?  It sounds like you’re not getting the service you need from him.  I can promise you that I’ll check in with you once a quarter and I always return calls immediately.  How about we go ahead and transfer your accounts…

Prospect:  You know, actually, I’ve been working with this guy for almost eight years.  I think I should try to talk to him again first and, if he doesn’t return my call, I can get back to you.

One reason this conversation may have ended as it did—with the prospect’s objection—is that the problem Lisa identified is also one that she had to imply.  Your prospects are always weighing whether their need for change is explicit and urgent enough for it to be worth their while to do all the work required to make that change.

When there’s only a vague sense of a problem, the scale tips in favor of leaving things as they are.  To avoid running into a brick wall, you need to move from implied problems to explicit problems.  And you can only get your prospects to see explicit problems by asking more [situational] questions first.

Here’s how Lisa learned to handle her next conversation, after working with me on asking better questions:

Lisa:  So you haven’t heard from him in over a year and he didn’t return your call the last time you tried to reach him?  He also hasn’t explained any of these things we’ve been talking about today, right?  How is this level of service affecting you?

Prospect:  It’s a little annoying that he doesn’t return my calls, but I guess I’m doing okay.

Lisa:  Does it worry you that there’s no one reassuring you about your retirement, or letting you know the status of your accounts?

Prospect: Well, actually, that’s the reason I agreed to sit down with you.  I am concerned that there might be more I should be doing, or that I might need to change my strategy.

Lisa:  And if you try him again, and maybe he responds this time, but doesn’t respond again the next time you have a concern, will that be okay?

Prospect:  Well, no.  I need to feel like someone is watching out for me.  Maybe my account is just too small for him.

Lisa:  Well, how small is it?  What’s at stake here?

Prospect:  I mean, this is my life savings we’re talking about!

Lisa:  Yes, it is.  So, I guess the only question is, does it make more sense for you to wait and see what happens with this guy—or to start working with someone who definitely has availability for you, and does not think your life savings is “no big deal”?

Prospect:  I probably shouldn’t wait around to be disappointed again.  Can you tell me more about how you work?…

To get more clients, ask provocative questions.  And contact me if you’d like to explore how I might be able to help.

Next week, I’ll discuss the second skill for getting clients: the ability to actively listen.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…

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Learn This “Secret” from Victoria

“It seems like you’ve already got nearly as many clients as you can handle,” I declared to Victoria, a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) who had just started working with me.  “So, how can I help you?”

“Well, the truth is, Sandy, that none of them have any money,” she confided.

Victoria is 27 years old and has managed to grow her practice to its current level by giving terrific service to small retailers, most of whom are as young as she, and are either just starting out or within their first two years in business.

These clients are often struggling and can barely afford basic accounting services.  Invariably, after working with her, Victoria’s satisfied clients recommend her to their budding-entrepreneur friends.  While she is grateful for their loyalty, she is frustrated about starting work with still more struggling small-business owners.

I explained to Victoria that you can’t attract what you want into your life—clients or anyone or anything else—unless you have a clear picture of it that you can share with people.  “It’s hard for you to make the kind of living you want on these small clients,” I acknowledged, “but who do you want to take on as a client?”

Victoria thought for a moment and then replied.  “Well, I do like to work with ‘Mom and Pop’ business owners, but I wish I could be working with some that are larger and more established.” 

“Then tell your clients that that’s who you’re looking for,” I challenged.

“Just like that?” she asked.  “I don’t know…”

Two days later, Victoria called me.  With excitement rushing her words, she related a conversation she had had with one of her small-business clients just the day before:

“I was finishing up paperwork with Tom, and he told me he had recommended me to a friend of his who had just opened a deli.  So, I thanked him for the referral, but then I did what you told me to do.  I said ‘Tom, you know I always appreciate your faith in me and will always take good care of anyone you recommend me to, but I do my best work with people who already have bigger, more established businesses.’
Tom’s wife, Marie, happened to be walking by while I was explaining this and said, ‘Why don’t we send her to see my uncle?’  Well, Marie’s uncle owns a large, well-known furniture store the next town over.  And, I have an appointment to see him next week!”

Victoria’s accounts knew she wanted more clients, but they all thought she wanted more clients like them.  Victoria learned that people don’t know what you want until you tell them, and asking for what she wanted resulted in her landing exactly the kind of client she was hoping to reach.

If I can help you learn how to get more of what you want, contact me to talk about how we might work together.  I’ll let you know if your concerns would make you the type of client I can currently serve best.

Ask for what you need, and whether or not you get it right away, keep REACHING…

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What’s MY Value?

How are we doing?
What are you getting out of our work together?

Anyone in a business or professional practice should be asking clients questions like these on a regular basis.

A sincere discussion about your value—and the places where you could give more value—can help you keep the clients you have already and obtain referrals to many more.  If the feedback you get is positive, it can do four things for you: Read more »

Focus on the SERVICE,
NOT the STANDINGS.

Two years ago, Karen became a “Top Ten” representative out of the several hundred agents at her financial services firm.  She received a certificate, a $15,000 bonus, and a great deal of attention from her peers.

Last year, she barely made it into the Top Thirty…

In January, Karen called me for help.  “I didn’t do anything differently this past year than I did the year before,” she told me.  “Maybe it’s the economy,” she continued, “’Cause it just seems like fewer and fewer people are saying ‘yes’ to me.”

“When you made the ‘Top Ten’ two years ago, were you consciously pursuing it?” I asked her.

“Well, no, actually,” she responded.  “I was totally surprised by it.”

“What were you focused on, then, that year?” I continued.

“I guess, my total focus was on helping as many people as I could in as many ways as I could,” she explained, with a note of pride in her voice.

“Well, did your focus change this past year?”

There was silence on the other end of the line.  After what seemed like minutes, Karen responded:

“I wanted to make it to the Top Ten again, and I guess my focus was on that, and not really on helping anyone,” she realized, “But would that really have made the difference?  I was helping people, either way!”

“There’s a way to find out,” I hinted.  “Start focusing again on helping as many people as you can in as many ways as you can, and see what happens.”

Karen called me a few weeks ago to let me know she had already made it back into the Top Ten, but that she was no longer focused on either getting there or staying there.  Her focus was, once again, on what got her into the Top Ten in the first place.

“But what about the economy?” I teased.

Karen laughed.  She knew that this had been a lame excuse for her slip from great standings to less-than-exceptional service.

Stop worrying about your standings, your income, or the number of cases you’re opening, and instead focus your energy as Karen has remembered to do: on serving.  If you do, you’ll undoubtedly find the personal success and satisfaction you’re after, no matter what your numbers are.

If you’re having trouble with your focus, contact me, and I’ll help you get back in [the front of the] line.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…

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“I think I ought to go back to the way I was doing it before,” Ron, an advisor in Nevada, asserted to me in his weekly coaching check-in email.  He had just taken advantage of an opportunity to teach a one-session evening class on financial concepts for a local college’s adult education program.

One of Ron’s challenges was that he rarely asked directly for an appointment.  Instead, he would passively talk around offering to sit down with someone, hoping they’d get the hint—something that just wasn’t working.

In anticipation of this event, I had coached him to announce to his attendees that he had already set aside two days the following week during which he could meet with any of them who wanted to explore their situations.  He would instruct them to approach him right at the end of his program in order to schedule their appointments.

Ron continued his report to me:

“I tried being more direct with everyone about setting an appointment with me afterwards, but nobody did.”
And, he concluded, People don’t want me to be so direct.”
A few hours later, Ron received this email from one of his attendees:

Ron,

I wish you had given us more valuable information, and not spent so much time promoting your business.  I would have liked to get some beneficial information along with stories and facts to illustrate your subject.  Then, you could have asked for questions before letting people know you were available to make appointments.

Disappointedly,

Betty

Ron sent this email to me as his proof that the direct approach isn’t a good one for him.

But Betty wasn’t complaining about his “direct approach” at all; she was upset that there wasn’t enough substance to the program and that Ron was selling his services instead of giving the attendees value.  If you read her last sentence, you see that she concluded that had Ron provided the service the attendees had expected, it would have been okay to be direct about appointments.

What Ron couldn’t see was that his direct approach to appointments wasn’t the issue.  He needed to have given extraordinary value first.  And from the tone of Betty’s email, he clearly did not do that—at least, not for her.

Ron wants to build his business through seminars and programs like this one.  If he does go back to his coy little dance around his invitations and he continues to give too little value, his results will be even more disappointing.

On the bright side, there are two clear lessons here for professionals who do presentations:

(1) Give extraordinary value and don’t spend all your time trying to sell attendees on using your services, and

(2) Only then—but alwaysbe direct about the next step you want your attendees to take.

Every seminar should end with a clear “Call to Action”.  But you can’t ask for your prospects’ action if your seminar did not move anyone to take action.  Deliver value, and then tell your attendees, “Here’s what I want you to do next.”

Don’t choose to go backward before taking a direct leap forward.  Contact me, and let me help you make your presentations—and your results—extraordinarily more powerful.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…

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