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DRAW Them a REFERRAL DIAGRAM!

“I found a new way to talk with clients about referring me,” Ryan, a financial advisor, once told me excitedly on the phone.  “I use a diagram!  I’ll show it to you.”

Ryan emailed me a little while later with this:

Of course, I was interested, and I called him back right away to have him explain how it worked.

“First, I draw a circle in the center of a yellow pad, where you see the ‘Joe W’, representing the client,” he started.

“Then,” he continued, “I draw circles surrounding the first circle for people they’ve already referred to me.  I thank them for the ones that worked out and tell them that these referrals are happy; I also point out the ones that didn’t work out, explaining how it just wasn’t right for whatever reason.”

“Finally,” Ryan exclaimed, “I ask them who’s missing from the chart!  I say, ‘Who haven’t we talked about yet?’”

Ryan told me that the client at the center of this drawing, Joe, looked at the chart and said to him, “I wonder why we never talked about my niece, Barbara, and her husband.”  He gestured to the open circles on the page.  “Add Barbara in there.”

Ryan was very proud of his piece of “referral technology”—and so was I!  I went on to suggest to him that any time a client or prospective client volunteers information, his next response should be a magical question—either “who else?” or “what else?”  Once Joe volunteered Barbara, for instance, a “who else” could identify another person for Joe and Ryan to discuss, and with whom Ryan could go on to arrange an appointment.  Asking  “who else?” again might have brought to light a third—and then even a fourth—potential client for Ryan.

Most professionals are terrified of the referral conversation and they either avoid it entirely or approach it so awkwardly that it doesn’t end up working for them at all.

Tim, one of my current clients, told me earlier this week that he was uncomfortable “switching” from being a professional to asking for referrals.  The goal, I told him, is to be a professional while asking for referrals.  There shouldn’t be a difference.  If you’re helping someone by providing a service, why not offer the same service to someone else in his or her life who might also really need your help?

If you have your own method of talking about introductions or referrals that works for you, please share it with me, and with the other professionals in your life!  If referrals aren’t yet working for you, contact me now, and I’ll let you in on a few of the ideas that have worked for me and countless others in my network of clients and colleagues.  No matter what strategy you implement, one technique is certain: ALWAYS be sure to keep REACHING…

Sandy

Boo! Serve, Surprise, and Delight

Growing a practice or a business is way easier than most professionals and service entrepreneurs make it out to be.

Their problem is that they’ve been taught that they need to be frantically and furiously networking, buying and then contacting members off of “hot lists”, writing press releases and making public appearances, and bombarding social media outlets to get their brands “out there”.

All of these practices may have some value, but the most powerful and too often overlooked way to grow a professional practice or service business is to focus first on the clients you already have.  You do this by serving them with all of your ability and in every way you can, and by surprising and delighting them along the way.

If you make your interactions with your past and existing clients as powerful as they can be, they will want to tell stories of their interactions with you to other people.  Fiercely loyal working relationships begin with providing unparalleled service.

SERVE

Great service starts with making “good lemonade”.  In his now-out-of-print 1998 children’s book, Good Lemonade, author Frank Asch tells the story of a boy who starts out with a busy lemonade stand because he offers a better price (with lots of discounts) than his competitor, the boy up the street.

The boy up the street is charging more for the lemonade at his stand.  As the summer days roll on, however, the higher-priced competitor is becoming busier and busier, and fewer people are coming to the less expensive stand.

In the end, our little boy visits his competitor’s stand and learns that the lemonade there is simply much better than his.

How’s your lemonade?  Are you giving your current and past clients enough personal contact?  Are you serving them in every way you can?  Are you doing your best job for them?  These are the minimum standards for great service.

SURPRISE AND DELIGHT

Clients tell stories about you when you do special things to show you care, such as:

~Calling them on their birthdays
~Knowing when their anniversaries are and surprising them with timely gifts
~Sending them articles or books that you know they’ll find interesting or helpful
~Bringing their kids face-painting kits on Halloween or pies on Thanksgiving
~Remembering their favorite flavors of ice cream
~Bringing chew toys for their pets
~Stopping by or calling for no reason at all—just to see how they’re doing.

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In my past life as a lawyer, I would arrive at a real estate closing with a bottle of champagne for my clients and present it to them when all the papers were signed and the money had finally changed hands.  Not only did I delight my clients—who came back to me again for other reasons and who referred their friends and associates to me—but sometimes I also delighted the people on the other side of the transaction, who would hire me the next time around.  Was it just so they could get a bottle of champagne at their closing, or had they seen how well I worked with my clients all along?

I remember one realtor saying, I should have thought of that!”  (And she should have.)

If going out of your way like this seems too much to fathom, remember that there’s a huge difference between doing things so that your clients will think you’re “a nice person”, and doing things to acknowledge and value your clients as human beings—to thank them for their continued relationship with you.

Make an effort not only to serve, but to surprise and delight your best clients, and they will tell stories about you to their friends and associates.  Those listeners may just want to have good stories to tell about their service provider, as well—and they’ll know where to find one the next time around.

Learn to send chills with your spookily-good service, and keep REACHING…

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Register for My Webinar Today!

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Take advantage of my 17 years of experience working with financial and insurance advisors at all levels by attending my webinar: How to Triple Your Qualified Leads in 30 Days

If you want more clients with less stress and without spending a lot of money, you’ll want to tune in NOW!

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And don’t forget to join us for our PowerMinutes Coffee Break!

TODAY, November 1st
And every Tuesday at 10 AM Eastern.

Get answers to your questions about prospecting, sales, marketing, time management, practice management and more.

Just grab your brew and come to http://sandyschussel.com/conference

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Want more info?  Email issues?  Please, contact me here!

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The Guilt-a-Beast

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been busy producing material that you may find useful.

Two weeks ago, Postema Marketing Group sponsored a Webinar I presented called Making Client Referrals Easy.  The entire program is now available on YouTube, just by CLICKING HERE.

This week, Sabrina-Marie Wilson released my interview on her acclaimed radio show “Abundant Success”, and it’s already getting lots of attention.  It includes my personal story about leaving my “safe neighborhood” and overcoming my fears.  You can listen to, or even download, the podcast on iTunes by CLICKING HERE.
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In my coaching work this month, several of my clients have been talking about the stress of trying to balance their family lives with their work lives.  In my articles, I write a great deal about FEAR, but I more rarely snag the opportunity to write about a related, but equally insidious monster: GUILT.

Years ago, I was helping a child psychologist who ran a busy private practice, made rounds at a local hospital daily, and made himself available to testify in all sorts of court cases.  During one of our conversations, he mentioned that he himself had five kids.

“Five kids?” I gasped.  It seemed to me that this must be a guilt-ridden man, whose excessive work with neglected children had to have fueled a certain degree of his own family’s neglect.  “How can you possibly manage to give them the time you know they need with a schedule like yours?”

With true calm, the good doctor explained to me that the first appointments he put on his schedule each week were with his family—in blocks of two or three hours each.  “I’d like to give them more,” he told me, “but I take comfort in the fact that I treat my appointments with them as being my most important.”

“I don’t allow interruptions—except for dire emergencies—of my family time, just like I don’t allow interruptions when I’m working with a patient.  When I’m with them, I’m with them one hundred percent.  I don’t feel guilty about not getting work done.  When I’m working, I know they’re in my schedule, so I don’t feel guilty about not being with them.”

Like the doctor, most of my clients who struggle to balance family and work time are in practices for themselves.  Unlike the doctor, most have somehow chosen to be their own worst possible bosses.  These bosses could give them more time with their spouses and children…but they don’t.

In his book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber points out that most of us go into our businesses backwards.  We don’t start by figuring out what kind of life we want—what Gerber calls our “Primary Aim“—so we are forced to accept whatever life our business or practice pushes us into.

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You don’t have to work 70 hours a week to be a successful professional.  Thirty-five hours—or even four—could get the same results, if you are focused.  Fear and guilt can affect this focus.  The fear often comes from being overwhelmed by the number of steps we see on the way to the success we picture—from forgetting to focus on just a few steps at a time.  The guilt usually comes from not having clear boundaries set around our family and work time.  Here are some ideas to keep things from getting muddled:

  1. Decide where you want your practice—and your personal affairs—to be in the next three years, and write each down in as much detail as you can.
  2. Just as the doctor did, create a Master Weekly Schedule that starts with your family time and time off.  Leave open spaces for all of the things that might pop up during the week.  Then, put blocks of time into the work portion for: a) the things you need to do on a regular basis, b) three important projects, and c) thinking and planning.
  3. Honor your family time as if it were a major professional commitment.  Make “appointments” with your spouse and children.  When you are on work time—barring emergencies—be on work time.  But when you’re with family, be truly with them, so there is no guilt.

You can design your work and professional life around the personal life you want.  If you want a sense of how balanced (or imbalanced) you may currently be, take a look at the “Wheel of Life” on my Free Resources page.  Before you know it, you’ll be doing the things you need to do and feeling much better about where you are and how you’re spending your time.

If you’re already doing what you love and making separate time for those you love, keep that pesky guilt beast at bay, and just keep REACHING…

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*Image courtesy of tech.co.

You Can’t Count the Time You Spend Washing Socks

Many professionals complain about the long hours they work.  For some, at least, all those hours are being compensated.  These professionals are moving and shaking because they want to make as much money as possible—even at the cost of family time, recreation, and often, their own health.  It’s difficult to be sympathetic about their complaints, since their situation is a choice.

But many professionals are plagued with long days and long workweeks for which they are not being adequately financially compensated.  Some of these people are simply not charging enough.  They have priced their services at a low rate, believing this to be the only way they can compete in their market.  They have not learned how to create value for clients so that they know they deserve—and then, can request and receive—better compensation.

Still others in this latter group may be confusing attendance at the office with productivity.  They feel “busy” at work, but hours are spent each day performing tasks that aren’t actually making them money.  Someone in this situation may spend an hour or two each workday involved in non-business conversations.  Maybe there’s another half hour or so spent trying to resolve computer issues.  Then, there are those lunch plans with someone he or she already sees every day…

Don’t confuse being present with being productive.  You may spend an hour and a half at the gym or health club, but how much of that is talking sports, waiting for an exercise station instead of using a different machine in the meantime, and “resting between sets”?  You could even count washing your socks—which is something you do have to do in connection with your workout—but none of this time really counts.

“The only time that counts is the time you spend with the weights,” says Corey, a financial services sales manager I work with.  “You do have to wash your socks, but you can’t count that time.”

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When you’re selling and providing services, the only time that counts is the time you spend face-to-face or on the phone with clients or prospects.  If you’re not doing one of these things, you can’t claim you’re working a twelve-hour day.  You may be at the office or on the road for that much time, but a lot of that time, you’re just washing socks.

Some experts call the time you’re actually performing income-generating activities “green time”.  If you’ve been feeling that you are working long hours and not making enough money for the time you put in, try this for a week: Write down everything you do, all workday long, every day, for all five-to-seven workdays.  Don’t change what you do, just record it.  Then, go back and see how much time you’re actually spending “with the weights”—that is, how much of that time is actually green.

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If your green time is six to eight hours daily, and you’re putting in ten-to-twelve hour days, too much of your time is being spent on socks.  If this non-productive time is somehow work-related (follow-up phone calls and paperwork someone else could be doing for you), get some help.  If it’s not work-related, either accept the fact that you’re at the office longer by choice, or choose to save non-work matters for after hours.

Another financial advisor I’ve worked with greets everyone in his office in the morning, and then spends the next 8 hours on green time.  He makes it known that while he’s unavailable during the day to discuss pleasantries, at 6 PM, he’ll be happy to go for a beer with anyone who wants to spend time with him.

Stop the load of socks, and make room for green time instead.  Once things are really shaking for you, keep REACHING…

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Put Referrals on Your Agenda

A few years ago, I presented a teleseminar for advisors throughout the U.S. on referrals.

During the live Q and A, Paul, an advisor in the Midwest, expressed frustration with his efforts to grow his practice by asking for introductions.

“I ask my clients about people they know who could use my help,” he told us, “But it feels awkward, and then my clients get all awkward and put me off.”

“Who gets awkward first?” I asked him.

“Well, I guess I do,” was his response, “But it’s because I know that they’re going to be uncomfortable.”

“Did it occur to you that maybe they get uncomfortable because you’re awkward, and your discomfort actually triggers theirs?” I asked.

“I never considered that,” he admitted.

We then went through 3 Steps Paul could use to take the discomfort out of the act of asking for referrals:

1. Start your client meetings by giving your clients (verbally or in writing) an agenda, that includes as the final item a discussion about friends, associates, and family members you might be able to help.  Don’t surprise a client with a sudden request at the end of an appointment to talk about this important subject.  If a client is going to be uncomfortable with this agenda item, let him or her tell you right at the beginning, and spend a few minutes either then or at the end discussing why this item makes him/her uncomfortable.

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…The last thing I’d like to talk about this morning is some of the people in your life who you would want to have my help.  I’d much rather be working with someone you want me to work with than someone whose name I took off a list somewhere.  We’ll talk about some of the people you have in mind, and, if we decide it makes sense, we’ll figure out the most comfortable way for us to get in contact…

2. Always ask about the value you’ve given them—either on that particular appointment, or in your professional relationship over time.  Ask him what he got out of your meeting, what he learned, and what he will get or has gotten out of his relationship with you.  Ask him to tell you something specific that he found particularly helpful.  Then utter the magic question: “What else?”  Keep getting feedback until he can’t think of anything else, and then direct him to the ideas that you wanted him to find helpful, and ask if he did.

Did you find our discussion this morning helpful?…Was there one specific idea that you found particularly useful?…What else?…What else?…How about when I explained…

3. Now, you can ask them about people they know who could be helped in the same way.  Remind her that this was one of your agenda items and ask who came to mind.

Mary, I’m glad you found the work we did here today so helpful.  The last thing I promised you we’d do this morning is discuss some of the people you care about who might want the same kind of help, and decide whether it would make sense to arrange an introduction—and how we would go about that.  Who is the first person who came to mind?

Speak with confidence, I told the group. If you don’t feel confident, act as if you do.  Paul admitted that part of his problem was that he had not practiced being firm, clear, and self-assured when he brought up the subject of referrals…and practice is essential.

If you want to attract more clients, put talking about the people in your clients’ lives on your appointment agenda and get it out into the open, right up front.  Act assuredly, and keep REACHING…

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A TALE OF TWO ADVISORS

A favorite hypothetical of mine:

Let’s imagine two professionals in the same field.  We’ll call them Advisor A and Advisor B.

We’ll give them the same educational background, the same training, the same resources and connections, and even similar personalities and work ethic.

But when we put them out in the field, I can promise you that one—let’s say, Advisor A—will do better than the other—our unfortunate Advisor B.

If we made them practically identical in every aspect, the only factor that could account for the difference in their performances is that Advisor A would be taking more of the kind of action he needs to take than Advisor B is taking.

But if their work ethic were the same, how could their actions be any different?

The simplest explanation is that for each, the way his world is occurring to him will be different: the way he views his work, the way he views the people he interacts with, and, of course, the way he views himself.

Advisor A might see his work as being important to the people he works with—something they need in their lives.

He might see the world as a safe and friendly place where what he has to offer is welcome.

He might see clients and prospective clients as open and interested in doing what they need to do for their families.  And he might see the people he works with as good people, who are there to support him.

Advisor B—the less successful advisor—might have a different view of his world:

 Dangerous

Maybe it’s a difficult, unfriendly place, where you have to struggle to succeed.

Maybe he sees himself as a “salesperson”, who “bothers” people.

Perhaps he sees clients and prospects as closed and deceitful, and he sees the people he works with as being there to make his life difficult.

When Advisor B feels he is not succeeding, he tries to imitate what Advisor A is doing, or he enrolls in yet another course to learn another way to do what he already knows how to do.  He experiments with the latest and most advanced strategies and language nuances, and finds that none of it works for him.

Of course it doesn’t.  All of his effort is like trying to take the apples off of someone else’s tree and tape them to his own, withering tree stump.  It’s not the same, and it won’t yield any new, ripe fruit.

If you identify with Advisor B in this hypothetical, you should understand that it is a mistake to try to solve your work performance problems with more information.  You already know enough to succeed.  What you need is a transformation—an alteration in how your world is occurring for you.  Your “inner game” needs fixing, not your “outer game”.

Strategies and language nuances may help a little, but until you view the world as a place where taking action is easy and fun, you will continue to struggle.

If you’re not taking enough action because you are uncomfortable or overwhelmed, don’t spend your time, energy, and money on another course to learn new ways of doing the same thing.  Instead, get to work on your view of your world.

How different would your practice be if you believed that finding new prospects is easy?  That people are grateful for the help you offer?  That it’s OK to tell them what you believe, even if it might upset them?  That you bring value to everyone you speak with?

Change your inner game and you automatically change your results—but only always.

I always believe in game-changers, so contact me if you’re in need of one.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…

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Are Your “Gatekeepers” Killing Your Client Relationships?

I had been limping around for three weeks with a pain across the top of my left foot that didn’t seem to be getting any better.  I made it through five straight days on my feet for two workshops and an active vacation, but the pain did not subside.  So, I finally decided to visit a local orthopedist.

It was good for me to go through this experience, because as often happens, it reminded me of why I do the work I do.

I called the doctor’s office and an unhappy-sounding scheduling assistant treated me as if I was a huge interruption to his day.  He was abrupt, unsympathetic, and annoyed when it took me a couple of seconds to give him precisely the information he demanded.  He advised me that the doctor I wanted wouldn’t be available in this century, and offered me some alternatives.  And he became noticeably agitated when I wasn’t satisfied with the first available appointment.  After all, who did I think I was?  HE worked for a DOCTOR and was VERY busy.  I was just one more bother in his bothersome day.

The Gatekeeper

Actor Frank Morgan as “The Gatekeeper” in The Wizard of Oz (1939)

When I arrived at the office, the staff was annoyed that I didn’t notice the big hand-written sign at the window on the right that says “Sign In Here”, and that I thought it was okay to approach the busy person sitting behind the desk on the left instead.  When I got back to the person on the right, she handled our entire transaction—from the clipboard to the insurance card and picture ID—without ever looking up to see my face.

Believe it or not, your staff may be treating people like this—and no matter how good you are at what you do, or how kind and considerate you might be, your clients are thinking, “I’m not coming here again.”

Maybe, as it was in the case of this doctor, there are so many people waiting to see you that you can afford not to know how your staff is behaving.  But if you’re like most professionals, it matters to you that clients who have experienced something like this aren’t staying with you, and that they will tell others to stay away, as well.

If you want to grow your practice or business, you need to be certain that you’ve spelled out for your staff how to handle the phones and how to greet people, and you need to be sure that they’re following your system.  This means listening in on a prospective client or patient call, and having someone report to you about how they are treated while they’re waiting for you.  Don’t assume because you’re being treated well by your assistant that he or she is treating your clients in the same way.

It also means spelling out the basics for your team with a formalized procedure that includes, at least, all of the following points:

1. Identify the office and yourself.  Everyone who answers a phone should use his or her name.

2. Be pleasant.  No matter how frenetic your office might be, every caller deserves to feel that he or she is not an interruption in someone’s busy day.

3. Offer to help.  The identification should be followed by “How may I help you?” or “How may I direct your call?” or—well—anything that’s genuinely helpful.

4. Don’t rush the caller.  No matter how busy you are, clients want to ease their stress, not to confront yours.

5. Own the call.  Until the caller is connected elsewhere, the person answering the phone is responsible for the caller’s experience.

These are just some of the basic rules.

Nearly an hour later, when I finally got to see the orthopedist, I found him to be extremely competent, and a genuinely nice human being.  He advised me that I had fractured a bone, but I wasn’t willing to face his staff for the follow-up appointment.  I ended up taking my foot elsewhere.

Referrals come from clients who tell stories about the “magical” service they are receiving.  If you’re not certain that you and your staff are making magic in your practice—right out of the gate—you can always contact me.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…

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.

Small Talk, BIG SALES: Lessons from a Master Moneymaker

Mehdi Fakharzadeh is one of the most successful insurance sales agents in history.  At 92, he is still taking on and servicing clients.

Mehdi achieved his success despite starting out with a severely limited grasp of the English language and American customs.  Now, at the top of his industry, he is famous throughout the world—with a following in over forty countries.  A Chinese admirer changed his own first name to Mehdi, and at least one other inspired insurance agent gave that name to his son.

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At an Insurance Pro Shop seminar a few years ago, I had the honor of being asked to speak alongside Mehdi and the renowned publicist Wally Cato.  Here are some of the Lessons I learned from Master Mehdi that day:

1. Doing the right thing for your clients results in more business and referrals.  Mehdi does not attribute his success to any skill of his own—he believes it is his karmic reward for giving what he can to everyone he comes into contact with.  His belief in this regard, and how it humbles him, shines through him as he speaks.

2. Love what you doMehdi told his audience that selling insurance is his hobby.  He is up at 4 a.m. eager to start his day and doesn’t stop until his wife calls him to tell him to come home for dinner.

3. Be prepared to give them what they ask for, but always show them what you believe they should have.  Mehdi talked about how he increases the size of his sales, and helps clients at the same time, by presenting insurance policies at signing time for amounts greater than what he had previously discussed with them.

“They always try to buy less than they should,” he told his audience. “I present to them what they really should have, and often, they agree when they see it.”

4. Make them clients first.  What do you do when a client doesn’t want what you believe is right for him?” a workshop attendee asked.  “I give him what he does want, of course,” was Mehdi’s reply.  But he continued:

“I wait two or three years [until we have a good relationship and my client trusts me],” he explained, “And then I show him a chart that has on the left side what he bought, and on the right side, what I believed was right for him.  I ask him which plan looks better now…and he always points to the one on the right.”

None of this can happen, Mehdi told his audience, unless the person in question becomes a client first.

5. Never give up!  A consistent theme in everything Mehdi spoke about was his persistence“Whenever there is a problem,” he told his audience, “I sit down and create a solution.  There’s always a solution.”

6. Talk “Nonsense”.  That’s what Mehdi calls his delightful way of engaging people in conversation.

“If I’m going up in an elevator and I push ‘4’, and the other man pushes ‘8’, I say, ‘You must be twice as good as me’.  When he asks me why I say that, I tell him that 8 is twice as good as 4.”

Mehdi reminded his audience that day that it makes people feel good when you’re having fun.  As further proof that Mehdi walks his talk, he invited me to spend an afternoon with him at his office to pick his brain, and bought us lunch at his favorite Chinese restaurant—asking nothing in return.

Give first, talk small, and think big—and contact me for help with doing the right thing.  Love what you do, and keep REACHING…

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Client Retention: They Changed Their Minds!!!

After two visits—a total of six hours—advisor Marianne had gotten an enthusiastic “thumbs up” from her new “almost clients”—a young professional couple with small children—to prepare a financial plan for them.  The plan would specifically include some much-needed life insurance.  There was no doubt the mission was going forward!

couple

But a few days later, just before Marianne’s scheduled return with her specific proposal, the couple called to tell her they had decided to hold off on doing anything.

“I needed that sale,” Marianne complained to me during our coaching session.

“And that’s probably why you lost it,” I responded.

Our need is the ugliest thing we can show prospective clients.  If they believe that your need to make money is more important than your delivery of the service they would be hiring you to do, they’ll back away.  Retaining you or buying what you have to offer has to be their idea, not yours.

Even when—especially when—you need the “yes”, make sure that your prospective clients sense only your devotion to bringing them the best and most appropriate service.

Blake, an attorney in Michigan, wrote me last week about his problem in getting prospective clients to engage his services.

“I find out what their situation is,” he writes, “and then I explain very carefully what I’ll be doing for them.”

“Then they ask about price.  I tell them my hourly rate, which is competitive, but they say they want to think about it…and then, I don’t hear from them again.”

Professionals like Blake often don’t spend enough time developing a relationship with their clients, customers, or patients.  They know their work.  They know how to diagnose problems, and they know what the most likely solutions are.  But they don’t know what their prospective clients really need: someone to hear them out; sympathy, empathy, and validation.

Here are some suggestions that might help you “close” more clients:

1. Ask more and better questions.  “Situational” questions are essential for you in order to enable you to do your work, but they have relatively low value to a prospective client who already knows his or her own situation.

How does the situation make him or her feel?  Why does he/she feel that way?  What result would this person like to get from working with you?  How will that make him/her feel better?

These kinds of questions don’t necessarily add any information to your business stats, but they help you to create a bond with your new client.

2. Find out if they’re committed to change before you talk about fees.  Ask if she’s receiving value from the discussion and if she has any questions for you.  Ask if she’d be interested in working with someone who could alter her status quo.

3. Find out what is causing them to hesitate.  If he says, “Let me think about it,” find out what he agrees with and narrow down what his concerns are.  Does he have reservations about your abilities?  Is he looking for a better price?  It’s okay—and important—to ask these questions.

If you want more clients to say “yes” and stick to it, start by making sure you spend the time to ask compelling questions, and base the solution you offer directly on their answers.  Whether it’s in asking for the sale or asking for introductions, make it about themnot about your need.

If you want help learning better ways to ensure that prospective clients become actual clients, contact me.  In the meantime, let them change their minds, and just keep REACHING…

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