Over a decade of Sandy’s weekly written articles on strategies and motivation for your business and your life.
“I think too much business is the worst thing for my practice,” Brandon complained.
Brandon is a financial planner who was working with four or five newer clients. He was worried that he was too busy to be out looking for his next clients, and in a few weeks, he’d have no one waiting in his “pipeline”. Then, there would be weeks of writing letters, making phone calls, and trying to set appointments before he would be busy with real work again.
He was also frustrated with how this “roller coaster” cycle between prospecting and handling cases was causing him so much stress.
“At the end of this month, a lot of money will roll in,” he told me, “But then things will be flat again for four or five weeks.”
I sometimes joke with coaching clients that have a keen grasp of the obvious. Exercising this skill provided me with my response to Brandon: “Don’t stop prospecting just because you’re busy!”
“But it’s not that simple,” he quickly replied. “Either my clients want—or need—their stuff done right away, or I get wrapped up in all the work, anyway, and just don’t get to the prospecting. If I do even think of it, it’s just too hard to switch gears.”
There are two situations in which professionals tend to reduce their marketing activity. The first is familiar to most of us: If people have been turning us down, we get depressed and our client acquisition activities decline…at a time when we most need to increase and improve them. The second situation can be equally damaging: Our calendar becomes full from previous efforts, so we stop looking for new clients.
Our marketing efforts are too often based on how we feel, rather than on a system. But a basic principle of running a successful business is that everything you do needs to be systematized. Prospecting, marketing, sales, referrals, client relationships, and paperwork all need to be processing according to a plan. And a prospecting system requires regular activity, no matter what else is going on in your business.
When there’s a system in place for developing clients, a certain minimum amount of work must be done—regardless of your feelings. Unfortunately, it’s not a choice you can base on your current stress level—it’s something that simply must be done, no matter what.
But then there’s the lie we tell ourselves: “There’s no time.”
“You’re extremely busy,” I acknowledged to Brandon, “but you had time for this conversation, right?”
“Well, we had it in the calendar already,” he replied. “And to be honest, I almost cancelled.”
“And if you had a friend in the hospital,” I continued, “Would you be able to make time to visit him?”
Brandon whined that I wasn’t giving him a fair example, but acknowledged that he could, and would.
“That tells me that if you put some amount of new client-seeking activity in your schedule, you’d be able to make the time for it,” I concluded.
Brandon needed to block out the time to keep prospecting, even if it meant pulling back on some of the day-to-day work that was currently bringing him income. “What gets scheduled gets done,” goes an old cliché. But it’s the truth.
Together, we created a simple system that involved making five phone calls a day, no matter how busy he felt he already was. In a matter of days, appointments were lined up for the weeks after he finished the work he was doing for his current clients.
Are you on the Struggling-Busy-Struggling-Busy Roller Coaster? Contact me today and I’ll help you get off it for good. In the meantime, keep prospecting, and keep REACHING…
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Have you ever been aggravated trying to prove to some “nitwit” prospect that his objection to your offer makes no sense—so aggravated, in fact, that you ended up in an argument with him and, of course, ended all possibilities of ever making him a client?
Why was it so important for you to be right?
When she was little, my daughter Madi used to argue with me constantly.
“No, Daddy, you’re wrong! My teacher told me…”
No matter how misguided she was, she expended exhausting amounts of energy insisting that she was right. I tried to teach her to say, “Maybe you’re right, Daddy, and maybe you’re wrong,” and then follow up with something like, “Let’s see if we can find out”—but it seldom worked.
Then, one day, I just decided to practice what I was preaching with her. I stopped trying to be right.
When she insisted that her misinformation was correct, I responded with, “I never knew that!” or, “I always thought it was the other the way around, but I guess I was wrong.” The result? No more arguments, and a lot more peace.
Yesterday, I watched a friendly conversation between two people at a fast food restaurant in a local mall turn into an argument. The two men had begun to talk about global warming, and one of them was insisting that it was all “a lot of bunk”.
Each man was busy trying to prove that he was right and the other was wrong. What struck me was how easily the interaction had gone from casual to hostile. The conversation became so loud and abusive that an employee of the restaurant had to ask them to leave.
Who was right? What difference did it make if they could not agree? Arguments don’t happen unless someone needs to prove another wrong. What if we could let go of this need—especially when dealing with prospective clients?
When your prospect is objecting, even if the objection is absurd, don’t disagree. You won’t change his mind—and instead, you will alienate him entirely.
Try starting out with something like, “I can see how you might think that…” and then pose a question that might get him thinking further.
“I don’t need any more insurance,” he might say.
“You’re probably right,” you can respond—without argument—although it’s obvious to you that he’s grossly underinsured and may be leaving his family in a catastrophic position. “Can I ask what you’re basing that on?”
“I just know we have enough,” he might reply.
“Well, just in case, would you be open to going through a simple exploration with me to see if you’re missing any coverage you could really use?”
Let go of the need to prove you are right from the get-go. Your life will be much less stressful, and your business will grow. But if you can’t yet stand the thought of letting someone who is dead wrong get away with it, the right choice is to contact me for some help with your perspective. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
“I can’t get any work done,” one of my clients recently complained. “I’m interrupted so many times each day that nothing seems to get finished. I really need your help to manage my time!”
“We can’t really manage time,” I told her. “But we can manage our activities.”
Then, I gave her three suggestions for doing just that:
1. “Block” your daily activities. Create a schedule that has you doing what you do best or what gets the most results at the time that works best for you.
If you need that first half hour of the workday to have your coffee, review the mail, and answer emails, then train the people in your office to wait for you. Post a sign-up sheet on the door for the first people who you’ll see after you’ve had the time to get started.
If you are better at meetings in the morning than in the afternoon, try to arrange them for when you are able to do your best work.
2. Do one thing at a time. Close your door for some of your work periods and have your calls held at those times if you can.
Don’t review and answer emails just because you heard the “you’ve got mail” sound. If you’re reviewing a report, the email can wait! Disable the signal (or turn down the volume) so that it doesn’t distract you.
3. Schedule appointments with yourself—to get things done; to recharge; or even to procrastinate.
Awhile ago, another client complained to me that he started out his morning all charged up, and suddenly drifted into space after a couple of hours. He didn’t have two or three hours to waste and wanted to know why he drifted and what to do about it.
I asked him if he could afford to waste an hour like that every day, and he replied, “Yeah, an hour…but not two or three!” So we came up with the idea of blocking in an hour of time every day for him to defocus and do nothing. After that, he stopped completely falling off his schedule.
Giving yourself permission to disengage is a great way to make sure you are working more efficiently. Take walks, get out for lunch, and contact me if you’re having trouble giving yourself a break. Take the time to manage your activities, and keep REACHING…
How many times have you heard some time-management “Guru” say the words above? If you’re like most people, when you hear them, you nod, as if to say, “Yeah, that’s a really great idea!” But you really want to scratch your head and add, “But how do I do that?”
People often confuse hard work with struggling. To be successful at anything usually means you have to work hard at it. But you should never have to struggle. Hard work may include making multitudes of phone calls or spending long hours creating, preparing, or practicing. Struggling is doing that same work—or extra work—feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or desperate…or with the view that what you’re doing is tedious or distasteful.
If you’re working hard to reach a goal that has meaning for you, congratulations! Don’t let anything stand in your way. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, here are two things you can do:
1. Let go of the outcome. Set a goal, develop a plan to reach that goal, determine the details of the plan, and focus your energy on accomplishing those details. The goal you are pursuing will happen—or it won’t—whether or not you worry, fret, and make yourself sick. Those feelings are optional. The end result only comes from your focused energy and your action—not from struggling.
2. Get help. The “self-made man” is a myth. My father always saw himself as Gary Cooper in High Noon. He was convinced that in order to be successful, he had to do it all himself. As a result, he never achieved the success he wanted. The reality is that most of the people we think of as being successful got where they are because they sought support from (and gave support to) many other people.
To me, working smarter means: Do the things you like the most and what absolutely must be done by you, and delegate the rest. Get rid of the things you hate to do—or that don’t make sense for you to do.
“But how can I afford it?” you may ask. That’s easy. Promise yourself that you’ll earn money to pay for it doing what you do best. Think about this: If you do just one hour of work that generates $300, you’ve earned enough to pay for 15 hours of an assistant’s help. How ridiculous is it to waste time doing the $20/hour paperwork you hate—work that you could much more easily give to someone else? STOP doing it, and hire the help you need.
But don’t stop at the things you hate in your business or practice. Find someone to clean your house or complete those other personal chores that weigh you down. There are people waiting to take the jobs that distract you off of your shoulders—people who love to make a living doing the stuff that you dislike, don’t have time for, or feel you’ve earned the right to stop doing. They’re everywhere!
In most pursuits, strong, independent work is necessary. But the “smart” work is the work you do best and that brings you income. As for the rest, delegate it, automate it, systematize it, or simplify it. Computerize what you can. You can use a simple money management program like Quicken, Quickbooks, or Microsoft Money, and have an accountant or admin take charge of the bookkeeping. Get rid of the clutter that distracts you and have a system for everything that needs to be done, so that you can focus on what you want to be doing.
Start by making a list of the things you’re struggling with, and then, get help. You can check out my no-cost Audio Program on this topic, or explore other complimentary downloads on my Resources Page. Whatever you do, be smart, stop struggling, and above all, keep REACHING…
In early December, my younger daughter, an actress, had a brilliant idea for a New Year’s marketing campaign. “What if I could send casting directors and producers a little moving image of myself somehow—like, they could open a box and there, my reel would appear, before their eyes? Like Princess Leia in her holographic message, saying: ‘Hire me, Speilberg-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope!’”
That idea evolved into something more realistic and, more importantly, less expensive. Madi found the website of a little company, FlipClips, that offered to turn ten-second film clips into classic flipbooks—a neat way to package and send her moving performance to producers. She ordered 12 books with fitted mailing envelopes as part of the company’s “Greeting Card” Package, which was due to arrive just in time to make the January cut.
Madi’s 12 flipbooks arrived last Thursday night. They were pristine and crisp, impressive and without a flaw—except that the 12 fitted mailing envelopes that were supposed to be included were missing.
“It’s always an uphill battle!” Madi complained. Like many of us, she often feels most stuck when she has to deal with the aggravations caused by unexceptional service: having to argue for those few extra dollars that appear mysteriously on your phone bill, or having to deal with yet another exchange of your malfunctioning office equipment, etc. “No one ever seems to get it right in the first place, in both a timely and friendly manner,” she tells me.
Her mailing would already be late for a New Year’s campaign, and now she would be forced to wait even longer for those envelopes. Doing your own exceptional business, in a sea of the unexceptional businesses you need to work with in order to accomplish that business, just isn’t easy.
Madi did what she needed to do to get her mailing out. By morning, she had placed a phone call and written an email to FlipClips to get the attention she required, asking the company to either overnight her the envelopes or offer her a partial refund. Meanwhile, she scheduled a Friday trip to the necessary store to find and purchase the exact right envelopes, despite the begrudged extra expense of her money and her time.
That’s when the magic happened. Madi had presented FlipClips with an opportunity for a “Moment of Truth”—a chance to turn a disappointed customer into a raving fan and advocate. Sairam at FlipClips responded to my daughter’s email, called her twice, and left two voicemails. The first was to apologize for the oversight and explain that he would overnight the envelopes to her immediately. The second was to correct his first message, and to explain that he had just driven over to Madi’s home and dropped the package off with her building manager.
As it turns out, Sairam had included 13 fitted envelopes in his drop—just in case she needed an extra.
Go the extra mile, and you’ll have your clients or prospects telling stories about you—stories like this one—and coming back to you again and again. If you don’t know how to deal with your own “Moments of Truth”, let me help you turn them into movie magic. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
Most of us start our businesses or careers backwards. Instead of figuring out what kinds of lives we want to have, and then making our professional choices as part of strategic plans to attain those lives, we first choose businesses or careers, and then let them take us wherever they decide we can go. Over time, we discover that we’re not where we wanted to be, and we become unhappy.
Who’s in charge, you or your work?
Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited, refers to the life you want to live as your “Primary Aim”. Your practice, on the other hand, is simply a part of your “Strategic Objective”. Why are you doing what you are doing now, if it’s not to guide yourself toward your Primary Aim?
Here’s an exercise that’s worth doing:
1. Write down where you want to be in your life in two, five, ten, and twenty years: financially, emotionally, spiritually, geographically, etc. What do you hope to have learned? What do you want to have accomplished? What kind of people do you want to be living with, working with, associating with? Who do you want to be?
2. Write down how you think your career/business/practice ought to grow and change and how it will, as it evolves, help you reach your goals. What has to happen in the next three months/years for you to feel happy with your continual progress?
A picture like this might emerge: “My business couldn’t possibly make me the millions I need to live the tropical-island lifestyle I want within the next twenty years. I either need to change my expectations, change what I’m doing, or change the way I’m doing it.”
3. If your picture looks something like the one I’ve just described, write down what you need to change, and how and when you need to make your changes to fix your “Life Plan”. Do a “SWOT Analysis” (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats):
What strengths will you need to reinforce and maximize, and what skills must you develop (weaknesses), in order to focus on and capture your biggest opportunities for progress? What are the biggest threats you will need to face and deal with in order to seize those opportunities?
As the famous Twentieth Century philosopher, Yogi Berra, said: “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”
Delve deeply into your Life Plan, and utilize powerful tools for figuring out what you need to do to get where you want to be. You can do this exercise and follow through on what needs to be done all on your own, but your odds will improve greatly if you ask for help. So keep asking the RIGHT questions, keep planning, and keep REACHING…
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.
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.
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…
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.”
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…
Make this New Year your best yet!
I’ve been following coach/consultant Robert Middleton for many years now. Middleton, whose main market is independent professionals, claims to have recently found an old list of the tips below saved on his iPad, and now calls them “‘Pithy Sayings’ that teach essential truths.” I have further distilled them for you here with full credit due—and a link—to his account:
1. If not even your family understands fully what you do, how do you expect your prospective clients to understand?
We can’t assume people understand us, and if they don’t, we only have ourselves to blame.
2. In networking, make it your main job to follow-up. Above all else, follow through with friendly persistence.
It’s always your move, no matter how—or if—the prospect responds. People are busy. So patiently try again; it will usually pay off.
3. In speaking, people don’t want to be bored—they want to be informed and entertained.
Communicate powerfully so that your prospects really see the value of your services.
4. Nobody’s going to buy from you unless they know what’s in it for them.
Understand what your prospects need and want. What are their issues, their challenges, and their aspirations? How can you make it easier for them?
5. In selling, nobody likes to be pressured. They like to be listened to.
Few of us practice listening religiously. Notice that as soon as you stop listening, the pressure and manipulation starts. Amazingly, you can listen your way into a sale much more effectively than you can prove your service is right for someone.
6. When talking about your services, tell stories to make things absolutely clear.
When you use stories, people put themselves inside the scene you are telling and relate completely.
7. Nobody’s going to remember you or think about you if you don’t stay in touch with them.
Don’t be so arrogant as to think people will remember you after one or two contacts. Stay in touch.
8. Over-communicating can be just as bad as under-communicating, especially if every communication is a pitch.
Give people better information, valuable stories and examples—something they can use. This will endear you to people and when you have something to promote, they’ll listen because you’ve gained their respect and attention.
9. If you don’t ask for what you want, you’re not likely to get it, in life or in business.
Yes, it’s terrifying to ask. And yes, you just might get rejected if you do. But isn’t it better to know one way or the other? Ask, get an answer, and move on.
10. Nobody wants to buy from an arrogant jerk; they want to buy from a nice person who they can trust.
Marketing and selling sometimes do funny things to people. They can turn you into a pushy person who always has the right answer. Cultivate humility in marketing and selling. Your prospect will tell you if you have the right answer or not.
If you can incorporate all of these tips into your business mindset, you’ll be off to a great start in 2013. Join my No-Cost Business Planning Webinar on January 3rd—or simply contact me—and I’ll help you turn these sayings into your very own Essential Truths. For now, rest and rejoice, but remember, ‘tis the season to keep REACHING…
Magic happens in your career when you stop trying to call and drop in on anyone who might be breathing and have a few dollars, and start, instead, to take extraordinary care of your existing clients.
I’ve been working with Bryant, a financial advisor in New York, who has been “just getting by” for nearly five years. Our work started when he asked me for better cold-call scripts, and I suggested that there was a better way to get clients.
We talked about how he could use the same time he had been spending cold-calling:
(1) Serving his existing clients better,
(2) Surprising and delighting them, and
(3) Earning referrals from them.
As part of our coaching, Bryant submits a weekly report to me. Here’s what he wrote to me last week:
Hey Sandy, quick update…I surprised and delighted two of my best clients. I got the first one a slow cooker that matches her new appliances. Her neighbor happened to have been there when I brought it in…and I got an appointment with her! I’m waiting for the gift I thought of for the other one to be delivered to me so I can bring it to her…she likes gummy bears, so I bought her a 5-lb gummy bear!!! Haha! Also, she invited me to come to this baby shower she is hosting, so I bought the baby some gifts…I’ll keep you up to date on that! Thanks for the motivation!
“Surprising and delighting” isn’t about the cloying act of trying to please people so that they give you their money. It’s about letting good clients know that you value them and listen to them. Bryant brought a kitchen gift to a good client that matched the new appliances she was proud of. The giant gummy bear showed his second client that he listened to her and learned about her likes and dislikes.
Too often I talk with professionals who, even after years of working with them, don’t know very much about their best clients.
Surprising and delighting also isn’t about spending huge amounts of money—or even buying presents, for that matter. Dropping by the hospital (empty-handed) when his client was recovering from surgery cost one advisor I work with nothing, but had his client telling all of his friends about the visit.
So, unless you know your client loves gummy bears, don’t send her a five-pound gummy bear. But what would surprise and delight her? If you don’t know, it’s time to learn more about her. If you do know, this is the perfect season to show her you value her as a client.
Would your clients appreciate a coaching session with me if you arranged it? Contact me and I’ll tell you how to set one up. Even if they never use it, they’ll always remember the unique gift you offered them.
While I’m on it, give yourself the same gift. Start the New Year with a clear understanding about where you’re heading. In the meantime, keep REACHING…