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SERVE, and Grow Rich

My friend and colleague, coach and author Steve Chandler, recently wrote this:

“Most people try to move toward wealth in embarrassing, clumsy ways.  They have cynicism programmed into them from an early age.  So they want a course called Manipulate and Grow Rich, or Network and Grow Rich or Win People Over and Grow Rich.”

“They see companies like Apple, Amazon, Nordstrom, Whole Foods, Southwest Airlines, and Google, and they think ‘I need a big, clever idea like that!’ or ‘I need diabolically opportunistic branding and positioning!’  When that doesn’t work, then they think it’s time to suck up to powerful people…polish some apples and lick some boots!  Why?  Because it’s Who You Know that makes you rich!”

Yet all the while, there is a spirit that runs through all radical wealth creation…and we’ll keep it simple by calling it service.  All the individuals and companies I have worked with in the past 30 years revealed to me this underlying truth: wealth comes from profound service.”

If you’re working on your Business Plan for 2014, make sure it includes serving your clients profoundly.  If it does, this will be a great year for you.

To get specific, here are a few of Steve’s (and my) tips:

1.  Stop Pleasing and Start ServingAs children, we are conditioned to please.  “Were you a good girl, today?” Daddy asked, and what he meant was: Were you sweet, passive, obedient and not too vocal about your opinions?  Never did we hear him ask: “Were you bold and powerful?”  Or, “Were you courageous?”

Adults were the people with the money and power.  If we pleased them, we’d get that ice cream or that allowance.  As a result, too many of us learned to default to pleasing.  We want our clients to think we’ve been a good little boy or girl, so if we think there will be resistance to what we believe serves them best, we choose what will please them instead of what we believe they should do or have.

If we served instead pleasing, we would astonish our clients, instead of simply being “a nice guy”.  We would be making a real difference in another person’s life.

2.  Create Agreements, Not Expectations.  We become anxious because a client or prospect hasn’t done what we think they “should have” done.  Expectations belong in the recycle bin, along with ideas like a “no” answer being a rejection.  To fully serve and grow rich, you don’t need those anymore.  In fact, they will slow you down and give you a life of disappointment—even causing nagging and persistent feelings of betrayal.

If you want a client to do something, create an agreement.  Agreements serve because they are creative collaborations that honor both people.  They are like a co-written song.  Expectations, on the other hand, live and grow in us like cancer.  Nothing good can come from them.

3.  Don’t tell a client she’s wrong.  Proving that your client’s or prospect’s view or understanding about the world is wrong—no matter how ridiculous her opinion might be—is not serving.

Listen for the value in what she is saying before you respond.  Recognize the merit, and acknowledge that you see it.  Agree with the “objection” rather than trying to overcome it with a humiliating argument.  Instead, agree with her, and find a way to “reframe” how she’s seeing it.

“I understand that you don’t believe in life insurance, and if I saw it the way you’ve explained you do, I wouldn’t believe in it either.  What I do believe in is making sure my family has money at the most critical time that I won’t be able to help.  If we didn’t call it ‘life insurance’, wouldn’t that be something you’d want your family to have?”

Make 2014 the year of profound service, and it’s bound to be your best.  In the meantime, 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:

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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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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!

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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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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.

Did Your Prospect Make Her SECOND DECISION?

I’ve shared a good deal of information with you recently on being willing to brand (and speak up about) the special service experience that only you offer.  Consider this a prequel to all of that.  Good; so, you’re special!  But before we get into it…

The last time you sat down with a prospect, you probably went through some awkward small talk while you anticipated getting down to fact finding, when you could relax a little.  After all, you’ve helped clients like this many times before.  You’ve listened to them answer your questions and waited patiently until it was your turn to talk about insurance or financial concepts and strategies.

Then, as you got into your prepared interviews and well-practiced presentations, your confidence would grow a little, because now you had the opportunity to show your stuff.  You were able to explain what you might do for each of these prospective clients.  You told them why you love your work.  You told them why your approach is unique—and it is—and that always felt great to share, didn’t it?  And they always seemed really interested in the conversation you were leading.  So all that was left was for you to ask them to get started—to “close”.

I mean, after all, potential clients only have one decision to make, right?  It’s simple: Would you like to work with me—yes or no?

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.  Prospects actually have Three Decisions in front of them, beginning at the time when you first approach them for an appointment:

(1) Whether to spend some of their precious time with you.  If you’re sitting down with them, they’ve already made this decision in your favor.

(2) Whether they want to change their status quo.  A prospect may have no particular regard for his current advisor, and he may fully recognize the need for more or better insurance or professional advice, but he may still not want to do anything about it.  This is the concept of inertia: A prospect at rest tends to stay at rest.

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(www.themarketresearcheventblog.com)

(3) Finally, the prospect has to decide that if he is willing to change, he wants that change to be with you.

If you’ve ever heard the words “I’d love to work with you…” and then couldn’t get the prospect back to hear your proposal, then you were probably short-changing yourself on appreciating the magnitude (and rarity) of the Second Decision.  It’s one of the biggest mistakes advisors make in the sales process.

Deciding to change—from no advisor to having an advisor, from one advisor to another, from no insurance to having insurance, from one investment to another—is actually the most difficult of the Three Decisions.  The prospect is weighing the status quo against what a change will mean, what the issues are, what his or her competing commitments are and what new commitments (financial, medical, legal, and mental) will involve, and who else might be impacted by this change.

She may have an advisor she doesn’t like.  She may actually know she needs help, or more insurance, or some other change in her financial or insurance situation.  But she just hasn’t yet made the commitment to do it.  If a potential client has not yet decided she is ready to work with someone new, and you charge in with your “solutions” and your “methodology” and your “training, experience, and credentials”, you have launched an irrelevant conversation.

You might think they need to understand the benefits of what you’re proposing, but in the absence of the Second Decision, prospects have no interest in hearing your Third-Decision Discussion—the “why you”.  Until a prospect has made the Second Decision, Third-Decision behavior (discussing the solutions only you can provide) is futile.

Talking about your unique services with someone before the person has decided to change is one of the biggest reasons you’ve often heard those positive comments about your work, and then are surprised [yet again] when the prospect cuts off communication.  He or she may have truly been enthusiastic about the idea of working with you, even if he or she hadn’t made the commitment to do it.  A single contradictory conversation with a brother-in-law, an accountant, or even a plumber could have been enough to send your shaky prospect back into hiding.

Ask questions to make sure the prospect is ready to hear solutions.  The reward will be more meaningful commitments to hearing you out and moving into the Third Decision—in other words, fewer wasted presentations, and fewer lost sales.

If you could use help moving your potential clients into their Third Decision, you only need to decide you’re ready to make a change before you contact me.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…

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*This article was inspired by a recent writing shared with me by my coaching colleague, Rich Litvin.  I admit to “borrowing” some of his ideas and language.

STOP SELLING!

Are you aggressively selling your services and finding that few prospective clients—even those who are clearly in your target market—are buying?

Or, maybe you’re struggling to find new clients because you’re afraid that if you reach out to people you’ll appear to be selling—something you just can’t bring yourself to do?

STOP IT!

“What is selling?” I ask at the beginning of many of my programs.

This question elicits a variety of answers that provide a window into the thinking of the professionals and entrepreneurs in attendance:

“Trying to convince someone to buy what you offer,” says one.

“Saying things that persuade someone to agree to buy your services,” says another.

Manipulating someone into feeling he or she has to have what you offer,” a third might say.

“If your view of ‘selling’ your services is something along these lines, it’s no wonder that you can’t fill your practice or find enough clients for your businesses,” I tell them.

“STOP SELLING YOUR SERVICES!”

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Courtesy of www.Entrepreneur.com

After pausing for effect, I explain, “If by ‘selling’ you mean some kind of noisy, pushy, aggressive ‘hawking’ of your services, you’ve already either sensed or discovered that ‘selling’, as you’ve defined it, doesn’t work.”

“But what if you had a different view of selling?” I ask them.  “What if selling was asking appropriate questions so that your prospective clients understand that they need what you offer?

“Stop selling,” I tell them.  Start attracting business instead.

For the rest of the seminar, we usually discuss the distinction.  Among the points I ask them to consider are these:

a) How to develop an “attraction” mindset.  What you offer is something valuable—something that people want or need.  If you have any clients at all, you’ve already proven that.  People ought to know about your practice or business.  You should be proud to tell them about it.  But you don’t have to “push” it on them.

b) How to resist the urge to “sell” and ask great questions instead.  The “selling” that doesn’t work usually involves identifying a potential client and then trying to “close” him or her on a meeting with you or on the purchase of your services.

Tell a prospective client what you do and then ask his permission to explore his situation.  The conversation might end right there, but since people do like to buy—and you’re not selling—he’s likely to agree to let you explore.  Once you have permission, ask questions designed to unearth some specific need or desire.

c) How to address the specific need or desire.  Then, instead of talking about generic features and advantages of your services, discuss how what you do meets the specific need or desire uncovered by your questions.

To learn how to stop selling and start connecting with clients, contact me.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…

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Sales Skills for Financial Professionals: Ask Provocative Questions

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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Ask More Questions FIRST

Cheryl, an advisor who consulted me to help her find and keep more clients, was questioning why I told her to spend most of her appointment times asking questions, rather than telling her potential clients about her knowledge and abilities.

“In the past,” she protested, “I spent as much time as I could telling them why I’d be a great fit for their needs!”

Like many professionals and salespeople, Cheryl assumed that, in most cases, she had adequate information before her meetings to allow her to match what she was offering to what she believed her prospects wanted.

But your prospective clients are looking for something specific that doesn’t always come up in their requests for your services.  For that reason, leaping into the discussion of the benefits you offer—dumping it all out there—without knowing what that specific need is might be a huge mistake.

Ask more questions first.  Find out what they’re already doing, who they’re doing it with, what’s working for them and what isn’t.  Find out why you’re there.  Then, talk about what you can bring to them—directing what you say to the explicit needs you’ve uncovered.

Even if they lead with something like, “Tell me what you can do for me,” don’t do it without trying first to turn it around—asking them what they’re looking for.

“You will be telling them about your knowledge and ability,” I explained to Cheryl, through the questions you ask.”

After a few new appointments, Cheryl called me to tell me how well it all had gone.  She told me how comfortable she felt using the specific needs she uncovered in her face-to-face conversations as the basis for a later discussion of her skills, and eventually, her offer.

Instead of telling these people how she could help them generally, Cheryl was able to show how she would be able to help solve their specific problems.  She has already doubled her contracts this month—and all because she’s exercised a way of getting to know her prospects before trying to convert them into clients.

If you’d like to learn how to make your sales questions more prominent, let’s talk.  I only work with professionals who are serious about getting ahead, and I guarantee that if they do what we agree upon each week, they will.

In the meantime, keep REACHING…

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Ask a Thousand People!

My friend and colleague, Julie Blake, recently related this story to a group of coaches to which we both belong.  She was talking with her son Josh on the way back from YMCA winter camp:

Josh: Mom, I asked a girl to dance with me at the camp dance.

Mom: What did she say?

Josh: She said no. 

Mom: What does that mean?  Will you never, ever ask a girl to dance again? 

Josh: (rolling his eyes) No, it means that she probably did not want to dance with boys.

One of the biggest obstacles preventing professionals from having enough business is the reluctance to submit a proposal for fear that the answer will be “NO”.  They make up stories about “what if” someone says “NO” to their proposal, and then they start making up stories about what each “NO” they get means.

We all do it sometimes.  I’ve caught myself avoiding a direct proposal to help someone just because I assumed, ahead of time, that the answer would be “NO” and started making up stories about it.  But what would a “NO” actually mean?

It could mean:

“I have other commitments right now that take precedence, at least for awhile.”

“I’m not really committed to changing my situation—at least, not at the moment.”

“I want to do this, but I’m in debt, and it’s not important enough to me at this moment to make the investment.”

“I’m filing for bankruptcy, and I need that money to pay my lawyer and the court fees.”

Or, it could mean:

“I don’t really think you have the right solution for my problem.”

“I don’t believe that working with you is a worthwhile investment.”

“I don’t like you.”

“You’re worthless.”

This second, darker place is where all too many professionals tend to go.

In actuality, “NO” might not mean either of these.  Or—wonder of wonders—he or she might actually say “YES”.

If you talk yourself out of asking too often, you won’t ever have the business you deserve.  Remember, a “NO” could simply mean that she probably doesn’t want to dance with boys.

Byron Katie says, “You can have anything you want if you are willing to ask 1,000 people for it.”

Start working towards getting everything you want by asking me for help today.  Then, keep asking, and keep REACHING…

Magically REACT

Several years ago, I appeared as a guest on the BlogTalkRadio program Greenpath to Wealth, hosted by Coretta Fraser.  At that time, I shared my Seven Strategies to turn yourself into a Client Magnet.  At least one listener from among my e-subscribers, Barbara, had questions that never made it onto the program.  But I’d like to share one of her thoughts with you here:

“Sandy, you noted the importance of building relationships.  One of my pet peeves is ‘customer service’.  What would you consider to be some key ‘best practices’ for providing excellent service to existing customers while maintaining profitability?”

For as long as I’ve been doing this work, I’ve maintained that how you treat existing clients or customers is critical for your growth.  This is particularly true if your service is one that allows you to work continuously with the same clients, either repeating what you do with them or offering different services to them as time passes.  But it’s also true even if yours is a “one-time” service.  The people who have experienced working with you even once are an important source of referrals, recommendations, testimonials, and introductions—and you are responsible for staying in touch with them, and on the forefront of their minds, after the job has been done.

“Best Practices” start with an understanding of what great customer service is.  It’s not just how well you perform the technical aspects of the service you provide.  Doing that will satisfy your clients, but it won’t make them loyal, proactive advocates.  They won’t go out of their way to use you again and they won’t tell stories about how amazing you are.

Great customer service involves the feelings that customers or clients get when they experience working with you.  Certainly, if there is no technical proficiency, they’ll have some bad feelings, but you can also make a lot of mistakes and still leave them feeling great about you!

Their feelings, ultimately, depend upon two elements:

1.  How much contact you have with them, and
2.  How magical your contacts are.

The more contact, the better.  The more magical the contact, the more clients will remember you and want to share this magic with their friends and loved ones.

When I was practicing law, if I handled a real estate or business closing, I always brought a bottle of champagne to give to my clients—whether buyers or sellers—when the deal was consummated.  It produced smiles and a sense of gratitude that instantly put all of the emotional ups and downs of the previous weeks or months behind us.  Realtors who came to my closings to pick up their checks were envious.  “I should have thought to do something like that!” one of them once confessed to me.

My small, relatively inexpensive gesture helped to ensure that those same clients would come back to me for additional services and would recommend me to their friends in the meantime.  On a few occasions, the clients of the other attorney would call me to handle their next transaction.

Build these with every client, and you’ll watch your business thrive:

Respect.  Every client wants to feel like he or she is your only client and the most important person in the world to you.

Empathy.  Every client needs to feel you have truly listened to him or her.  As Dale Carnegie might have said, “Be impressed, not impressive.”

Action.  Do what you say you will do.  The smallest action on your part is far more powerful than the greatest intention.

Communication.  Be proactive.  Don’t make the client call you to find out something you could have told him/her first.

Trust.  In part, trust comes out of doing all the other parts correctly.  As too often happens, however, you yourself have great empathy and communication skills, but these traits have not fully assimilated into the culture of your company or office.  Your associates and every member of your staff need to be in this with you.

Everything you do—and don’t do—with a client should be thought of in terms of “Moments of Truth”—opportunities to make an impression.  Every Moment of Truth should be as special, unusual, and magical as you can make it.  That’s the “Best Practice” that Barbara could possibly implement.

For more business tips like these, you can always visit my Free Resources Page, or contact me and allow me to REACT as magically as I can.  Keep practicing your best service, and keep REACHING…