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Even a DOG Can Do It…

My fellow coach Amir Karkouti shared a story with some of his colleagues recently that I want to share with you now:

Some time ago, a team of scientists took a dog and put him in a cage where the floor had a very mild electric current running through it—just enough to make the dog a little uneasy.

As soon as the dog was put in and felt the current, he bolted out of the cage through the open door.

They returned the dog to the cage and this time shut the door.  A week later, when they opened the door again, the dog had no interest in leaving.  He had become accustomed to the discomforting cage.

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While the dog stayed sitting there, with the electric current running through the floor, the scientists brought in another dog, and opened an adjacent cage with an electrified floor.  As had originally happened with the first dog, as soon as the second dog felt the current, he jumped right out.

Here’s the fascinating part: Seeing the second dog bolt, the first one suddenly realized that he, too, could leave the dissatisfying space he was in and, after a few seconds, again ran through the open door.

Escape Artsy

Only after seeing the second dog escape did the first dog remember that he didn’t have to stay in that less-than-happy place.

Most professionals find themselves in a dissatisfying cage of their own: not earning enough money, being overwhelmed by work, being otherwise unhappy in their situation.  But, like the first dog in the study, after awhile they become “comfortable” with being uncomfortable, and they make no big moves to change the current.

In my book, The High Diving Board, I refer to what most people call the “comfort zone” as the “safe neighborhood”.  Staying where you are is not necessarily “comfortable”.  Sometimes it’s downright UNcomfortable.  But it is familiar.  And because the unknown—stepping up your game, hiring a coach, etc.—might be more uncomfortable, you stay where you are.

With humans, even seeing someone escape from his or her cage doesn’t always inspire us to leave our own.  That requires a decision—the decision to get out.  Once you’ve made the decision, knowing what to do becomes much easier.

If you’re in a cage of your own making, or feel that you’ve ended up in someone else’s, don’t wait until you’re in so much pain that there’s no choice but to leave, or be there forever.  Make the decision to do it now, and then find the help you need to run free.

Hey, even a DOG can do it.  So if you’ve been stuck, pick a new direction, and just keep REACHING…

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The GREAT Little Marketing Secret: Send a Note Card.

Thank clients for their business.  Thank them for referrals.  Remind them about their appointments.  And do each of these…with a handwritten note.  Find an excuse to send a note card to people you meet, people who provide services to you, and people who you serve.

We have all become so accustomed to communicating by email, text, and other electronic and social-media means that the lowly note card—handwritten, hand-addressed, hand-stamped, and delivered by “snail mail”—has actually become an item of immediate interest and delight when someone is shuffling through her junk mail or bills.

While there is a cost-factor, and a small amount of labor in selecting stationery, buying stamps, writing, and posting the card—not to mention tossing an occasional mistake into the trash—the potential rewards are great.

One of my clients—Peter, a financial advisor—was telling me a story about how he thought his light gray suit was ruined when someone spilled red wine in his lap at a networking event.  He was amazed that the Dry Cleaner was able to get the stain out entirely, leaving the suit as good as new.

“Send him a note, thanking him for getting the wine out,” I told him.

Peter protested that a handwritten note was overkill.  He had thanked the owner personally when he picked up the suit.

I explained to him that the owner probably received dozens of complaint letters each year—people sending letters to complain about damaged shirts and demanding reimbursement.  The seemingly outdated “Thank You” note, I told him, would surprise and flatter the owner and, in the long-term, help Peter’s business.  Peter was skeptical, but he sent the Thank You note, with one of his business cards enclosed.

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A week later, Peter called me, unable to hide the excitement in his voice.

“When I walked in with my shirts yesterday,” he started, “My note and the business card I enclosed were taped up on the wall near the counter.  The owner thanked me for my note and asked me about my business—something he’d never done in the three years I’ve been bringing my clothes to him.”

“But wait!” he exclaimed, “It gets better.  I told him what I did, using the audio billboard you helped me to develop, and he asked me if I’d be willing to talk with him about his situation.  And all because I sent him that note!”

Peter eventually started working with the Dry Cleaner, who turned out to have other businesses, and a significant amount of assets.

“It won’t always work like that,” I warned him during one of our later sessions, “But it will open doors for you if you keep doing it.”

Make it a point to write three note cards a week—to anyone you can think of, and for any reason.  Enclose a business card, and don’t be afraid to follow up when the opportunity arises by asking if your note was received.

You don’t need a note card to contact me for help.  However you go about it, reach out, and keep REACHING…

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P.S.  Peter sent me a handwritten note to thank me for helping him land this new client.  I was thrilled to receive it, and would be just as thrilled to refer him to anyone who needed his brand of help.

Throw Away Your “To Do” List

Every week, I try to provide you with a message of value—either to keep you motivated, or to help you hone your skills to get more clients—or for whatever else you want in your life.  Today’s message has an almost Shakespearian relevance:

“To Do” or “NOT to Do”…That is the Question!

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During my workshops, when I ask participants to describe their biggest challenge, “Time Management” is often ahead of getting or keeping clients.  But since we can’t really manage time—only our activities—thinking in this way can get us stuck in an approach-avoidance tango—with ourselves.  So, this week, I want to see if I can shift your perspective.

If you have created a traditional “To Do” list that is now 31 pages long and leaving you feeling overwhelmed, throw it out!  Or, at least, put it away in your drawer for a moment.

Before you do, however, pull from it the Six Things you believe are the most important and put them on a sheet of paper that you can keep on top of your desk (perhaps, pin it right next to that Memo to Self: Learn to Let Go!).

Prioritize those six things—and only those six things—from most important to least important, and only then, begin working on Number One, taking it as far as it can go.  Tomorrow, maybe move on to Number Two…and so on.

In the early 1900s, the industrialist Charles Schwab paid consultant Ivy Lee $25,000 for this one idea.  At first, Schwab did not believe that ignoring his huge list and focusing on just six things could possibly work.  After a month, however, he was excited to find he had finished more projects in those four weeks than he had in any previous month.  Try this strategy for just one month, and see for yourself.

While you’re at it, make another list of things “Not to Do”.  As my colleague David Ward describes:

“You have unlimited choices.  But you don’t have unlimited time…As you choose what to do, you also choose what not to do.  The word “decide” means to “kill the other option”…If you want to accomplish great things, you must focus on great things and let go of things that are merely good.  Give up good to go for great.”

A “Not to Do” List might look something like this:

1.  Check my smart phone.
2.  Turn on my email client.
3.  Go on Facebook.
4.  Reorganize my files.
5.  Be hard on myself.
6.  Procrastinate!

Remember: this is only for now.  Set the hours between which you choose to abide by your “Not to Do” List.  Then, schedule in the time slots when you’re allowed to break the rules, and put this “Not” list back in your drawer for the evening.  Suddenly you’ll feel like you’re Managing Time.  Your story about your own ineffectiveness will change.

You’ll be thrilled with how much less you Procrastinate when it’s one of the six items on your new “Not to Do” list.

If you need help simplifying what To Do and Not to Do, contact me.  In the meantime, do what you can to keep REACHING…

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TEN TIPS for Boosting Year-End Numbers

With fewer than ten weeks to go in 2013, I’ve put together a list of the most effective ideas for my financial advisor friends to boost their holiday sales.  Even if you’re not a financial or insurance professional, I know you’ll find at least some of these ideas useful.

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1.  Keep your schedule filled with appointments.  If your goal is 8 appointments, don’t “try” to keep 8—keep them.  If you need to fill your time slots with existing clients, turn those visits into referral opportunities.

2.  Look through the information you’ve taken from existing clients to determine if there’s any way in which you haven’t yet served them.  Maybe you need to discuss converting an existing term policy, or increasing their 403(b) contribution.  Maybe you haven’t discussed long-term care with them.  Is there a client who wouldn’t be helped by increasing his or her monthly contributions into retirement savings?  Find out!

3.  Use the holidays as an excuse to surprise and delight them.  It takes a little extra time and few extra dollars, but the rewards can be incredible: a face painting kit or a barrel of pumpkins for Halloween, a fresh baked pie or a bowl of homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving.

4.  “Up” your offers.  A client who needs $300,000 in life insurance might agree to $500,000 if given the option.  A client who can put aside $300/month for investing might be able to stretch that to $500, if you explain the benefits.  Just ask.  If 1 in 4 prospects says “yes”, your year-end numbers will increase dramatically, just like that.

5.  Ask for referrals as a way of helping someone start next year with a bang.

“Joe and Betty, thanks for letting me know how helpful I’ve been to you in getting your finances in order and in building toward the retirement you want.  With the end of the year coming, I’ll bet you have at least a couple of friends who might like to get a new start on their financial situation for the New Year and may want the kind of service you’re getting.  Who comes to mind that could use a hand?”

6.  Ask for referrals as a way of giving a gift!

“Joe, how about giving your friend you mentioned the gift of a session with me to talk about his finances?  It won’t cost him anything and I won’t pressure him to work with me if he doesn’t want to, but you’d be giving him an opportunity to get something life changing that will last…”

7.  Focus on reaching out to people with whom you already have a connection.  How many people attended a seminar or gave their names to you at a Home Show who you couldn’t reach right afterward, so you then just dropped those leads?  Instead of cold calling people you’ve never met, revisit those “failed” contacts, starting with the most recent.  If you can’t reach someone by phone, try a quick email, or drop a short message on social media.  If you do connect, those people who you have met at least once are far more likely to agree to make an appointment with you than total strangers are.

8.  Slow your fact-finding interviews down.  It may seem counter-intuitive, but you’ll turn more first appointments into [first and] second appointment sales if you ask more questions, especially about consequences of acting and not acting.  It’s not good enough to ask how someone feels about a million dollar insurance need.  Dig deeply into the consequences of not having that insurance in place.  (If they can’t keep the house, where will they live?  Is that okay with them?)  Then, make sure your presentation addresses the consequences that they brought up in response to your questions.  (This will ensure that they can stay in their house, at least until the kids start college.)

9.  Keep your need out of it.  You have numbers you want to reach, but the days of the “Contest Close” have long passed.  Do they need your help, or not?  Is what you’re offering them the best thing for them, or would something that gets you a smaller fee actually be better for them?

10.  When it comes to services they need, don’t please your prospects or clients, and don’t sell to them, serve them.  If they’re telling you that they’re going to put off applying for the insurance they need, and you believe that the delay does not serve them, tell them passionately that they’re wrong.  Be proud of being in sales, but don’t sell, and don’t put having them like you above doing what’s best for them.

If you need help putting these tips into action, contact me.  To make these ten weeks count, focus on serving, and keep REACHING…

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*Image courtesy of Mint.com.

Holiday Sales are Easy as Pie

For most advisors, the Fourth Quarter means a year-end blitz to improve their production numbers, hours billed, and company or office standings.  Realistically, there are only a few ways to do this:

1) Find more clients
2) Find more ways to serve existing clients
3) Make more sales
4) Make bigger sales

The majority will focus on the first of these, squeezing in as many cold calls, workshops, and client-appreciation events as they can.  They’ll rush around, becoming exhausted and frazzled—but not necessarily maneuvering themselves into a better position—by the time the holidays hit.

Many top producers, however, will slowly and meticulously examine their top clients’ files to see if there are more ways they can serve them, planning out their referral discussions, and looking for ways to surprise and delight them enough that these advocates will tell their friends and family members about the magical experiences they are having.  More business from existing clients and more quality referrals—without the frazzle and exhaustion.  Their Strategy is Simple:

1. Serve them.  Set appointments with your best clients.  Review their files first to see if there’s any way you can help them that you aren’t already—whether it will produce immediate income for you or not.  If they need an introduction to an accountant or a good podiatrist, serve them by being the source.

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Nightmare Before Xmas (’93)

2. Use the holidays as an excuse to surprise and delight them.  Fortunately, while the upcoming season may feel like crunch time, it also presents some great opportunities to get your clients talking about you.  The first of these opportunities is actually Halloween.  Just think of all the ghoulish possibilities!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do your best clients have children who will be dressing up?  How about investing in the Klutz Face Painting Book?  It comes with easy-to-remove face paints and detailed instructions for creating characters.  Or, pick up and deliver some great pumpkins and bring them to their homes.

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Courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel

For Thanksgiving, find out if your best clients will be traveling and, if not, order them a wonderful pumpkin or apple pie from a local bakery or pie company.  Hand-deliver it a day or two before the Holiday—or on Thanksgiving morning.

Two years ago, my coaching client, Don, was invited in to meet his financial client’s family when he showed up at the door with pie.  In the presence of her relatives, his grateful client announced how much she enjoyed doing business with her advisor—how much they had accomplished and how much more they would have to do.  A few days later, one of her guests contacted Don about starting to work together.

If pies aren’t your thing, be creative.  It’s about astonishing your clients in a way that gets them smiling about their relationship with you and raving about you to the people they know.  Brainstorm with your team.  Is there something unique and special you can do to show them how important they are to you?

3. Talk about helping their families and friends.  With another financial year coming to a close, do your clients have friends or family members who might need your services?  If you can specifically identify someone in their circles, ask about him or her.  If not, ask them if they know someone who might need your help before the quarter’s done.

You can still go ahead and make those cold calls, book those workshops and events, but put your emphasis on existing clients—the people who already do business with you and will be joyous to rave about you to those they love.  If you need more tips on serving up the right surprises, contact me. Either way, keep delivering what you do best, and keep REACHING…

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GIVE SOMEONE THE GIFT OF SELF/SALES HELP

Send someone a thoughtful and thought-provoking gift this season:

Autographed copies of my books, The High Diving Board and Become a Client Magnet.  I’ll even include a personal note that you can customize.  There’s no extra charge for the signing, nor for holiday gift-wrapping.  Simply click here to order the 2-book package, and make sure to edit the Gift Options and/or Add a Comment or Request to let me know your needs.

The Keys to an UPGRADE Are in Your Hands

Nine coaches, myself included, were sitting in a hotel meeting room in Scottsdale, Arizona, mesmerized by Master Coach Steve Hardison, the guest speaker at our workshop.  To have Hardison coach you exclusively, you have to be willing to pay $150,000 up front, plus all of your travel and lodging to, from, and in Arizona (no refunds!) in order to meet him in his office at your appointed time every week.

Extending his fingers out into the room and gesturing above and all around us, Hardison urged: “There is no work to do out there, anywhere…Zero!”

Our minds complicate the whole thing,” he continued.  “Listen to what you say here (pointing to his head) and here (pointing to his heart).”

Everything is from the inside.  Nothing is from over here (pointing to the outside world).  Dial the right station.  When you tune in to what you really want, it will show up.  You are god with a small ‘g’.  You are creating your life.”

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*expensivecarhd.blogspot.com

“What could you speak into the world that would upgrade your thinking from a Ford Escort to the car of your dreams?” Hardison asked.  “We are the sum total of what we speak about ourselves and the world.  Our entire world is what we’ve spoken and thought.  I speak it, and my world begins to occur for me.  This is what’s going to happen.  Every action we take is based on how the world is occurring for us.”

Hardison then told a story about once attending a movie, right before which he stood up and announced to the entire theater that he’d be giving away his client Steve Chandler’s new book after the film to anyone who promised to read it.  The people he’d come to the show with slinked down in their seats in fear of being associated with the crazy guy making a self-help announcement in the movie theater.  One friend asked him, “Can you do that in a movie theater?”  But after the movie, people lined up at the trunk of his car to pick up one of his client’s new books.

“The way the world occurs to me,” Hardison told us, “Is that I can ask anyone for anything if I choose to.”

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Imagine how successful you would be if the way your world occurred to you was the way the world occurs to Hardison: that you can ask anyone—anyone you choose to ask—to meet with you; you could ask anyone for a referral, or to buy whatever you’re offering.  And their answer wouldn’t matter.  It doesn’t mean anything.  It’s just an expression of a preference.

“Would you like one of my client’s new books?”
“No thanks.”

“Would you like to upgrade that popcorn to a Large for 50 cents more?”
“No thanks.”

“Would you like to sit down and talk with me about your financial situation?”
“No thanks.”

The world-renowned insurance agent Mehdi Fakharzadeh, now in his nineties, asks the underwriters in his insurance company to issue two insurance policies for a new client: one for the amount they discussed, and one for double that amount.  When he goes to deliver the policy, he shows his client both and explains the difference in the monthly fee.  More often than you might think, the client takes the larger policy.  The client has more protection and Mehdi earns a larger commission.  Everybody wins.

But this only happens because the way the world occurs to Mehdi, he can comfortably offer a surprise, double-sized policy to his client while he is delivering what he or she expects, and without worrying that he has overstepped.

If you’re not where you want to be in your career (or in your life), it’s probably not because you need more information.  What you need is a transformation—an alteration (or, an upgrade) in how your world is occurring to you.

To have me coach you exclusively, you just have to be willing to make the changeContact me, and whatever upgrade you desire, I’ll help you find the keys.  You’ll have to know they’re somewhere inside, but until you’re sure they’re in your hands, we’ll keep REACHING…

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Sales Skills for Financial Professionals: Listen with FOCUS

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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You WEREN’T Too Direct, YOU JUST DIDN’T SERVE.

“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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Be Your Own Tree

Last week, I read an article by Dan Waldschmidt in the publication LifeHealthPro that inspired me to sit down and write this article of my own.  The gist of Dan’s piece was that just because some technique or strategy works for someone else doesn’t mean that it will work for you.  Not everything works for everyone all the time, Dan expressed, and you can’t underestimate the importance of how a strategy is being executed.

Jamie Smart, author of the new book Clarity, refers to the same concept in this way: It’s like taking the fruit off of someone else’s tree and trying to glue it onto your own.  It just doesn’t work that way!

Over the past fourteen years, I’ve studied just about every strategy a professional can use to grow his or her practice.  I’ve seen countless methods that were hugely successful for one professional that were terrible disappointments for others.

That’s because your success isn’t necessarily going to come from any of the strategies you employ, as much as it will come from how you employ them—or, in other words, from how you show up in the world.

How do people—particularly clients, prospects, and referral sources—see you?  Do they see you as someone who is there to serve them…or to sell them something?  Do they get the sense when they meet you or talk with you on the phone that you are someone with whom they can share their most intimate secrets…or someone around whom they have to be careful?

Conversely, do they see you as a friend…but not as an accomplished professional?  Do they understand how you serve and support them…or do they see you as needy, pushy, and uncaring?

A timid, weak, uncertain, distracted advisor can put on an expensive suit and learn some powerful marketing and sales strategies, but he will still be seen as timid, weak, uncertain, and distracted.  For him, the magical techniques that worked so well for the million-dollar producer from whom he learned them will ultimately prove to be ineffective.

Growing a business or professional practice is about reaching people who might need your help, and then “converting” them by getting them to engage your services.  We can spend months developing strategies to reach prospects and techniques to convert those prospects into clients—which are both things we definitely need to do—but in the end, our successes will depend largely on who we are being, not on what we are doing.

If you aren’t getting the kinds of clients you want, it’s possible there’s nothing wrong with your strategies.  The question you need to ask yourself is: “Who do I have to be (who I’m not being) to have all the great clients I can handle?

If you can answer that question, be who you need to be.  If you’re not sure what your answer is, let’s talk.  In the meantime, try to engage the clients you want by branching out to grow your very own fruit, and keep REACHING…