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

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

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

Danny DeVito in Matilda (1996)

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red Crayon

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rejection Therapy

Be sure to check out my recent interview on entrepreneurship, sales, and success at Letsmote.com!

If you fear rejection—in your telephone conversations, or when you ask a prospect to engage your services—you’ll definitely want to spend just 24 minutes viewing the following Video Lecture by Chinese-American entrepreneur Jia Jang at the World Domination Summit.

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

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

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

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

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

Ask.  You may just get what you ask for.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Learn This “Secret” from Victoria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What’s MY Value?

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

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

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

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…

“And How Are You Today?”—Yuck!

Call me Crazy (or maybe just call me “Coach”) but when someone rings to try and sell me something, I usually don’t hang up on him.  I listen and respond to his inquiry, and then I make suggestions to him on how to improve his approach.

For most professionals, cold calling for new clients is the strategy of last resort.  Who wants to call someone up to be lied to, cursed at, or hung up on?  Still, many of my clients are in businesses where some cold calling, at some point, is necessary.  And most of the others need to be comfortable on the phone calling referred prospects.

Do people hate to receive calls at home?  Do busy managers and executives hate to be bothered by callers trying to convince them to buy their products?  The answer to both of these questions is yes…but no—at least, not entirely.

“If I were calling you to tell you that you just inherited a million dollars and I needed to arrange for you to pick up the check, and there wasn’t a lie or a catch,” I ask in my workshops, “would you be angry that I interrupted your dinner time?”  “No,” my attendees agree.

“If I were calling you at your place of business with a truly low-cost, truly guaranteed way to make more money, while simultaneously reducing your overall expenses for the future,” I ask, “would you be upset that I got past your ‘gatekeeper’ to reach you?”  “No,” they agree again.

“So, then,” I ask, “what do you and your prospects actually hate?”

The answer usually comes down to “sounding like a telemarketer”, or a “salesman” (or saleswoman).  There are, of course, successful telemarketers who sound natural and comfortable.  But you know the type we’re talking about…

~They mispronounce your name with no apology and no effort to get it right.

~They sound like they’re reading directly from a script.

~They come on strong, forcing a big “salesy” smile through the telephone.

~They try to warm up the call by pausing to say or ask something disingenuous like, “And How Are You Today?” when you know they don’t care about your health or well-being in the slightest.

~They use “salesy” language like, “This is an exclusive offer.”

If part of your work is making calls to people you don’t know, the “telemarketer type” provides you a great guideline for how not to do it.

But here are some suggestions for making a perfectly pleasant call to the ideal client you simply haven’t met yet:

1. Get the name right beforehand; or, apologize and fix it!  If you can’t find out how to pronounce the prospect’s name ahead of time, ask immediately if you got it right.  Apologize and try again.  Continuing to call me “Mr. Skuzzel” won’t ever help your cause.

2. Learn the script and put it aside. Scripts themselves are okay.  Some of the best actors use them.  But you change the channel on a show quickly when the actor sounds like she is reading her lines.  Either learn your script so well that you no longer sound like you’re reading, even if it’s in front of you, or toss it away and keep only an outline with bullet points of the things you want to make sure to say.  It’s not a bad idea to keep this near you, but never just read it to your prospect.

3. Forget about the rule that you should sound “up”.  Coming on too strong—even too positive or bubbly—can be a turnoff.  Don’t be timid, but start gently—and adjust your mood and tone to the person with whom you’re speaking.

4. Don’t do AHAYT.  For most of us, “And How Are You Today?” raises an instant red flag that we’re going to be sorry we took this call, so we better just not.  Say why you’re calling and get to the point right at the outset.  Telemarketers use the “AHAYT” greeting to catch their breaths before jumping into their long scripts—and we “prospects” know it.  Another killer is “actually”, as in “Actually, the reason I’m calling is…”.  Just don’t.

5. Stay away from “salesy language”.  Phrases like “one-time, limited offer” and “I’m going to be in your neighborhood,” are business killers.  You have a much better chance of making a sale or getting an appointment if you avoid trying to make a “pitch”.  Simply describe your products or services and their benefits, and don’t try to clinch a deal with urgent ultimatums.

6. Go for rapport.  Make marketing more fun for you and less painful for your prospects by aiming not for the appointment or sale, but to connect with them—maybe even to engage them in conversations.  While this may, at first glance, seem like the long way to go about it, I promise that it will be much more effective in the long run.

If I can help you get more clients in this (or any other) way, call me your “More Clients Coach”—and first, just call me.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…

Work Smarter IV: A Fear of Success?

While most people think that the biggest fear we face in our professional lives is the fear of failure, the fear of success is actually much more insidious and damaging.

Lisa, age 28, had been earning $40,000 a year at her corporate job and switched to a straight commission financial job working for one of my clients—the sales manager of a company that offers clients mutual funds—because it promised her unlimited earning potential and flexible hours.

In her first six months in sales, starting with cold calls, Lisa cleared $31,000.  But how much do you think she earned in her next six months?

That’s right: only $9,000.  Somehow, in the second half of the year, despite her continued activity on the phone, she could not set as many appointments, she had more cancellations, and she ended up with significantly fewer sales per kept appointment—so that her annual income came out to be just about what it was at her old job.

How could this have happened?  My client called me to ask if I might be able to help Lisa, and he referred her my way.  As it turns out, she and I found that her problem is a common subject of coaching.  It appeared that Lisa was actually avoiding the success she had in her first six months.  But why would anyone avoid success?

Whenever professionals are having a run of “bad luck”, a fear of success may be at the root of it.  Dr. Kerry Johnson, a renowned sales coach, suggests that a fear of success is not usually an issue of self-confidence, but something more specific, arising out of two limiting beliefs that may have come to be embedded in our thinking:

1. The belief that the only path to financial success is through extremely hard workIf we have a belief—conscious or subconscious—that our success is coming too easily or too quickly, we’ll actually slow ourselves down.

2. The belief that being too successful is somehow essentially wrong.  If we’ve been taught that “money is the root of all evil” and “you can only make money off someone else’s back”, we may start back peddling when we suddenly find ourselves making real income.  If we think we’ll hurt Dad’s feelings if we’re earning more than he does, we’ll slow down so as not to get too far ahead of him.

Here are some symptoms of Fear of Success from which you may suffer:

Your income has stayed flat or decreased, even though you’re not working any less.

You feel guilty about your small victories, but you’re not sure why.

You’re missing what usually are easy sales, especially after you’ve had a good week.

You’re “forgetting” to follow through on promises made to prospects or clients, and you’re blowing sales that were already “in the bag” by acting unusually foolish.

If you have any of these symptoms, you may be backing away from the success you deserve—even sabotaging it.  Here are some of the things you can do to turn your situation around:

1. Take a look at where your sales are now.  Set goals to take them further, and commit to them in writing.

2. Observe and record each time and place that the “fear factor”—that uncomfortable, overly modest or guilty feeling—appears in your daily business or personal life.

3. Share 1 and 2 with someone else who truly wants you to succeed.

Through coaching, Lisa started her earnings rolling again and this year, she’s right on track again to earning a six-figure income.

Use these tips to work smarter—not harder—and to stop holding yourself back.  Contact a coach who can help you reach for the stars, and keep REACHING…


Tell a Better Story

Brad, a financial representative with a major Broker-Dealer, was complaining about email and phone interruptions.  He knew he was getting so caught up in playing with his smart phone—trying to figure out how it could alert him only for certain contacts—that he was sacrificing hours of real work.

“You make choices,” I told him, “about how you want to spend your time.”

“If you think you’ve made the wrong choices, don’t beat yourself up,” I continued.  “Just make choices you like better going forward.”

But I just get distracted and can’t help myself,” he responded.

“Well, now you’re creating a story about yourself that you can use to continue being distracted,” I admonished.  “We all create stories, but does this particular story—that you can’t help yourself—serve you at all?”

Brad mumbled something else about not being able to help it, but he knew that he was caught.

As author and coach Steve Chandler points out in his book, Reinventing Yourself, the things we say about ourselves—the “stories” that describe our personalities—are made up, and can be altered at any time.

David Ward, a colleague whose coaching and consulting work is targeted on lawyer marketing, wrote these words last week:

You can do anything you want to do in life; you just can’t do everything.

You have free will.  You have unlimited choices.  But you don’t have unlimited time.  So you can do anything, just not everything.  You must choose.

As you choose what to do, you also choose what not to do.  The word “decide” means to “kill the other option”.  When you chose to go to law school, you also chose not to go to medical school.

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.

What is important to you?  Family.  Faith.  Career.  Community.  It’s probably not a long list.  What’s important to you is where you will find your greatness.

Get those things right, and you’ll have a happy and fulfilling life.

Brad and I discussed what he wanted to do about his attention issue: He wanted to power down his smart phone and get away from his computer’s email client for an hour or two every day.  He acknowledged that it would be beneficial to simply shut off his devices, rather than spending hours trying to modify them to be “less distracting”.

He replaced his story about losing focus with a more powerful one: “I used to get sidetracked and then end the day without having finished the things that were most important to me, but I’ve taken steps to make sure that I don’t do that any more.”

Some of us allow distractions into our lives as a way of avoiding the parts of our work we’re not totally comfortable with.  And often, we don’t change our behaviors because we’re afraid to change our stories about them—the stories we’ve been accustomed to for so long.

If you’ve been choosing to reorganize your files instead of calling that long list of prospects to whom you were referred last month, you probably regret it now.  This time, however, don’t be hard on yourself—but do let that behavior go.  Make a “better” choice tomorrow.  And let your story be that “up until now” you were making poor decisions, but “from now on”, you won’t be.

If you want help creating and sticking to your new story, contact me.  Choose to focus on what really matters, and keep REACHING…



Financial advisors avoid it whenever they can.  Coaches tremble at the thought of it.  Lawyers pretend it’s beneath them, so they won’t have to do it.  Even when I show them how to do it, they find ways to avoid it.  What is this unthinkable task?  …Asking for referrals.

Why won’t they ask?  Either they’re afraid (What if my client thinks less of me for asking?  What if she grabs back her retainer check and storms out of the room?) or they just don’t know that it’s okay to ask or how to go about it comfortably.

What these professionals fail to understand is that there are reasons why their clients would want to refer them to others.

Years ago, in my past life as a lawyer, Police Captain Myron taught me about the “hero factor” in the referral process.  Myron, who tipped the scale beyond the 300-pound line and was known to consume more than his fair share of alcohol, was at a party to which both he and I had been invited.  At one point during the party, he threw one huge arm around both of my shoulders and announced to the room: “You see this guy?  I brought him all his business!”

It was true that Captain Myron had introduced me to several of my clients.  I thought it wise not to argue that most of my business came from other sources.  But what I came to understand that evening was how important it was to Captain Myron to be the champion of my practiceto be a heroHere’s how it works:

(1) People generally like to help one another.  If a client likes you and believes you add value to his businesses or to his life, helping you will make him feel generous and important.  In other words, he can be a hero to you.

(2) When your client is referring you to someone she cares about, it’s an opportunity for her to show the people whose opinions matter to her that she makes wise decisions—decisions that could help them, too, if they followed her lead!  In other words, she can be a hero to them.

(3) Asking clients to refer you to the people in their lives also gives them something else they need—validation.  They’re thinking things like: If my sister uses your services, too, she must see in you what I saw.  Then I know I made the right decision in going to you, after all.  In other words, they can be heroes in their own right.

So, when you’re not asking clients to introduce you to those business associates, friends, and family members who you might be able to help (in the same way you’re already helping your clients), you’re depriving them of their opportunity to save the day.

If you want to help your clients be heroes, but are struggling to ask comfortably, order my 9-session audio series, Mastering Client Referrals, available as an Instant Download or on USB Flash Drive.  Better still, you can contact me and let me help you.  Or, if you have colleagues, friends, or loved ones who might benefit, be a hero and let them know about me.  Whatever you do, keep REACHING…


Essential Tools: Start with the END in Mind

More insurance and financial professionals than I ever expected showed up for my webinar last week on Business Planning for 2013.

But I was even more surprised, in talking with attendees in the days that followed, to learn how many of these professionals could not answer basic questions about their essential numbers.

Whatever field you’re in, you have to start with the end in mind.  Your goal doesn’t necessarily have to be financial, but let’s use a financial goal as an example:
Let’s say you want to earn $100,000 this year.

Now, you can’t really plan how you’ll reach that goal unless you know your other essential numbers:

~How many times do you have to pick up the phone and initiate a call (how many “dials”) before you reach people live (make “contacts”)?

~How many of the people you reach will be willing to set an appointment with you (“sets”)?

~How many of them will actually keep those appointments (“kept”)?

~How many of those who keep an appointment with you will eventually become clients (“sales”)?

~What are your average earnings per sale?

If you know these basic figures, you can plan your business activities for the year.  For instance, if you want to earn $100,000 and you average $2,000 per sale, you need 50 sales to reach your annual goal.  If you’re planning on working 50 weeks out of the year, that’s an average of just one sale per week.

Essential Numbers.jpg

If it takes you 3 kept appointments to make one sale, and you need to set 4 appointments in order to have kept 3, you need to make contact with enough people to set 4 appointments.  If it takes 10 quality contacts to set 4 appointments and at least 25 dials to make 10 contacts, then 25 dials should get you the 4 set appointments you need.  If you work a 5-day week, that’s just 5 dials a day.

Assuming you have people to call, all you have to do to make $100,000 this year is to pick up the phone and dial your qualified prospects at least 5 times each 9-to-5.  Of course, if you’re cold calling or not getting great referrals, that 5 dials might be more like 50.  If your average sale is significantly smaller, you’ll need more sales, so you’ll need to increase all of the other essential numbers in your model.

If you don’t have the people to call, get help.  Contact me to arrange an appointment, or start by downloading my Mastering Client Referrals Audio Series.

You can create any ending you want for 2013 if you make use of your essential numbers and figure out what actions you need to take to reach them.  As you begin to improve those numbers…setting more, keeping more, converting more contacts to clients and getting bigger sales, the amount of activity required to get to the same result will shrink.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…