... remember the wisdom of Socrates:
I know that I know nothing.
... remember the wisdom of Socrates:
I know that I know nothing.
The Fastest Way to Subliminally Tick Off Your Clients
I'm going to share a professional pet peeve of mine. How many times have you called a friend or professional associate and you get sent to voicemail? No big deal, right? Have you noticed how much less often you actually leave a message? Instead, you might decide to call back in a few minutes or send a text. Sometimes, you may decide that the notification on the person's phone of your missed call will be enough. Regardless, you rarely choose to leave a message.
Why is that?
I think the top reason most of us don't leave a message is either: a) we know the recipient won't even listen to the voicemail and will just call us back or b) they won't even bother with the message, nor will they call back. It's like we sense this is going to happen and decide: 'What's the point?'
Again, why is that?
I think it has to do with the promise nearly every person makes when they record a voicemail outgoing message? What is the one thing everyone says? Check it out:
Hello, you've reached Tom Jones. I'm not available to take your call right now, but if you leave your name and number, I'll return your call as soon as I am able.
Did you spot the promise? They ask you to leave your name and number and then they say they will call you back as soon as they are able. Generally speaking, how often is that? Are they going to call the annoying telemarketer who has an amazing trip for them to take if they just listen to a 3-hour sales presentation? Are they going to call the sibling they are having a quarrel with and it appears there is no resolution in sight? Are they going to call the credit collection specialist who reminded them their payment is overdue?
Likely, no. So what makes you think you're any different? Just like you, I have made thousands of business calls over my career and nearly every single outgoing voicemail message says: 'Please leave your name and number and I'll return your call as soon as I am able' or some other variation of that. However, less than 5% of these recipients ever return the call.
It's a Trust Breaker
The late, great Dr. Steven R. Covey used to compare the winning of people's trust to making deposits in a bank. When we make commitments and promises to others and then we follow through on fulfilling what we're promising, we are making a deposit in that person's emotional bank account. When we break commitments and promises, we are making withdrawals. Is it ever possible to make withdrawals and still be in a good place in the relationship? Of course! But those are usually after many deposits have accumulated over time. It's also worth noting that just like Rapid Rewards points with Southwest Airlines, what you put into it will always outweigh what you take out. In other words, it might take five deposits or even 10 to equal the one withdrawal you make when you break a commitment.
So, the basic rule of thumb here is that if you are screening your calls (even with prospective and existing clients) or you just never get around to calling people back, don't promise you will in the outgoing message. It'll just piss them off. Instead, try something like this:
Hello, you've reached Jane Thompson. I'm not available to take your call at this time. Please leave a message.
See! You made a request, but you didn't promise to return the call. That might come across as being a jerk, but honestly it is better to not make promises you know you won't keep than to try to make promises that you anticipate you likely won't keep.
You know what will impress them most of all when you do this? IF YOU CALL THEM BACK! It's that simple. Try it.
For more information on how to make and keep your commitments, check out my new book:
I have been gone longer than planned. I apologize to those of you who reached out to me for leaving you hanging for so long. It was not my intention to be gone for quite this long. However, life gets in the way. Mostly good things going on, but its so easy to get distracted.
I am putting the finishing touches on my latest book: 'Better Business Development Now: A Bare Bones Guide to Get More Clients!' It's a labor of love that has taken many incarnations over the years and I am grateful that the timing for this book's release and publication coincides with some of the most advanced technology Amazon.com and Createspace have ever done for publishing platforms and authors.
On with the Show!
So, back to the business at hand. In my last post, I had mentioned that I would share with you the thing you need to be focusing on more deeply than the relationship you are developing with your clients. It doesn't matter if they are prospective or existing clients or clients who are now former clients. For every single one of them, this is the number one thing that they are looking for in the relationship with you, your employees and your company.
Too often, the focus on relationship-building and relationship-building activities in the form of dinners, rounds of golf and everything else take center stage before and even during the working relationship between provider and client. The level of trust seems to increase as likability increases. The problem is that many times, the prospective client confuses likability with competence. Eventually, after all of this relationship-building your business development reps and you do, the client wants to fire you anyway?
Cutting to the Chase
No matter what industry you are in or what kind of professional services you provide, the thing you need to focus on more than developing relationships with prospective and existing clients is to provide solutions to the client's problems.
Your client came to you because he or she had problems that needed solving. Most clients, if they really care about their business and livelihoods, could care less about a nice round of golf or the type of gift basket you gave them at Christmas if their problem remains unsolved.
I know this isn't the sexy answer you might be looking for, but it's the reality. My years working for and owning my own professional services company proved time and time again that my competitors could outspend me at every turn, but if I was able to solve the problem more quickly, more effectively and at less expense, we were the choice every time.
Don't get me wrong, we did take people out to lunch and for rounds of golf. However, there were many times that a lot of my existing clients would meet me for lunch or golf and laughingly tell me about a nice trip they took or a cool, expensive party they attended and it was all a competitor's expense. Even more crazy, I would get the reassurance from that existing clients that we were still getting all of the business.
The least expensive way for my competitors to have taken our business was also the most challenging. That's why many of them failed at it. It was working on solutions for the prospective clients and continuing to deliver solutions to their existing clients.
Had they done that, it would have killed my business.
You can find out more about this soon in my new book 'Better Business Development Now: A Bare Bones Guide to Get More Clients!' soon available on Amazon and Createspace.
If you've worked in business development for more than a month, you'll know that CRM stands for 'Client Relationship Management.' CRM is a catch-all kind of term that covers the strategies, practices, tasks, software and related activities in the customer/client-buying experience.
I think it's making us lazy.
Relationships ARE Important
Client relationships are important. Without the relationship that exists between the client and their chosen service provider, there can be no exchange of services for money. No money means no profits. No profits means no business.
However, what if I told you that your focus on the client relationship itself has been the reason you fail to keep so many of your clients?
We've all seen it time and time again. A client relationship begins to develop and go from the prospective client stage to the existing client stage. Throughout the development of this relationship, there have been lunches, a few dinners and numerous rounds of golf. All of this has been intended to strengthen the relationship between the client and the business provider.
But does it?
We Used to Beat Our Competitors... A Lot!
I had many competitors who spent gobs of money on lavish dinners, gifts and even trips out of town to win business. Often, some would skirt the laws and regulations connected to such business development practices and decide the risk was worth the potential reward. Yet, most of those clients still chose my little rinky-dink company over their lavish dinners and expensive inducements.
What were we doing that was so different from them? I mean, it was crazy. We had client after client tell us about how they would go to dinner or lunch with a competitor and while it was nice to be showered with attention, there was really only one place they would send business: us.
A lot of companies will hire a business development manager to go out and get new business for the company and continually beat past sales figures with more and more growth. That's what the business development manager does in conjunction with his or her marketing department and a few other professionals who will help win the client. Eventually, after the client is won, they will fall out of love with the company and its professionals and fire the company to go look for a new service provider. This cycle can take anywhere from a year to three or even five years to complete.
Why is that?
Honestly, have you ever questioned why you can see a million dollars in new business walking through the door in any given year while there is a simultaneous exit of a half a million or more during the same time period?
What if I told you that focusing on the relationship has led you to miss the mark over and over and over again?
What if the relationship between you and your client is NOT the highest priority?
What if its something else?
In my next post, I'll tell you what it is. It's late and I'm tired. When you realize what the true secret to strong client relationships are, you will likely smack your head for not realizing it beforehand.
Let's get one thing perfectly clear: There’s no secret to ‘hack’ your way to success in the professional services arena. You can't nor should you attempt to manipulate your way into long-lasting, profitable relationships. This goes double for when you’re working in the arena of business-to-business marketing and selling. After all, this is the ‘service’ industry.
It can be brutal sometimes. I get it. It’s an ongoing, demanding process.
As a professional, you are in the business of serving your clients. You may be wondering how you can outsource that. If that’s on your mind, then professional services might not be for you. You're working in the arena of professional services and this isn’t the same thing as selling a product like supplements online from some remote location overseas. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t work really hard setting up your practice for 3 years to reach the pinnacle of success and then decide you will outsource the hard stuff so that you can drop off the map halfway around the world.
This One Time, It Really Is All About You!
This isn’t about selling gizmos or gadgets. You’re marketing and selling something else. You are selling ‘YOU!’ That’s right, Y-O-U. You are your product. You are your brand. You are the promise. What you have to offer might not be traditionally tangible. Your offering is based on the results you promise your clients.
Your product is your knowledge, your experience, your wisdom, your judgment, your commitment, your follow up and your desire to improve things for your client.
Time and time again, I have seen professional women and men who achieve success in their firm, only to flush it down the metaphorical toilet by allowing distractions to take hold. These distractions might appear in the form of longer vacations, later arrivals to work, three-hour lunches or personal drama that creeps in.
There may come a time, if you do things right, where stepping away from your business and returning repeatedly, without seeing major disruption in the systems and processes you’ve established could be a possibility. However, you're not there yet.
There is no shortcut to get to the peak you wish to climb. More than one professional organization has imploded when the founder or founders stepped away prematurely to explore other business opportunities, retire or just ‘find themselves.’
Commit yourself seriously to the reality of your situation for now. If you’re going to do this, commit to it. I mean really, really commit. If you commit, it means you’re going to be involved.
Your desire to make things better for your clients should override your own comfort most of the time and it should be something you are conscientious about on a frequent and regular basis.
If you are committed to the simultaneous cause of building your business while helping those clients who seek your help, you will wonder where the hours and the days went.
You could even lose track of time. I know I have.
Emails are a necessary evil and have been for a few decades now.
What follows are 7 tips on how to write better emails. Check them out:
1. Always write the name of the person you are emailing at the top of your message. This includes in replies back to emails the recipient is answering back to you.
2. Be sure to include your company’s logo in the signature line whenever possible. This also includes your contact information such as your phone number and mailing address.
3. Always have your email signature at the bottom of each professional email you send. It amazes me how many professionals have not taken the time to make sure their signature populates on all ‘reply’ emails. It can be really aggravating to have to scroll to the first email in a long thread to find a phone number or mailing address.
4. If you need to forward some information that started as a part of an internal communication within your office to someone outside of your office, always delete all previous emails in the thread. There may be something shared internally, that when taken out of context by a client may cause problems in the future.
5. Refer to attachments in the body of your message when you send them. If you have multiple attachments that require a large amount of memory capacity, break them into smaller emails when possible. Another option for sending large files is to give the recipient access to the file on a shared drive.
6. If you are continually responding back-and-forth with a client on a specific email thread, be sure to change the subject line. In other words, if you were discussing your new service agreement and the subject line said “New Service Agreement,” but the conversation evolved into setting an appointment for lunch and you're still trying to decide on a place, be sure to change that subject line to “Lunch” or something like that. This keeps things more orderly for both parties.
The last tip I’ll share is the most valuable of them all.
7. When in doubt, call it out! Most professional service providers and their assistants can get too comfortable hiding behind the keyboard. This has led to many email threads going to uncontrollable lengths. Picking up the phone will lead to the problem being solved in 5 minutes. I used to I tell my crew all of the time: ‘If you think this email is going to lead a long thread, cut it short and pick up the phone.’
I remember reading once where someone compared email to postcards: Nobody else is supposed to read your postcards, but you'd be a fool if you wrote anything private on one.
If you have any email improvement tips of your own, feel free to comment below.
How many times have you said one of the following phrases?
I need to close the deal.
I want to close the sale.
We gotta get a close on this client.
Close the deal or you're fired.
Just get the close.
If you've worked in selling professional services six months or six years, it is likely you've referred to the final step in the sales process as a close. For over a decade and a half in my work and study of the sales process, I've come to resent the word 'close' when it comes to the sales process. I think your use of the word might be what's hurting your firm or company as well.
Coming to An End?
To close something implies that things between you and your client are coming to an end. Once you close this deal, it's on to other things. If you're a business development manager for a professional services company, that may be partially true. You will be moving on to other things, but what if the managers and other operations personnel in your firm also take the word 'close' a little too seriously?
What I mean by that, is what if these administrators hear the words 'I closed the deal' and it causes them to relax just a little too much? Maybe they lean back a little bit and think that the client relationship is now secure and that since there's ink on the page, no one has anything to prove.
The above example might seem extreme, but I personally witnessed time and time again the immediate slacking off of performance once a deal is closed and it frightens me. No business development representative goes out to win new business just to watch it slip through the firm's metaphorical fingers six months later.
There's got to be a better way.
A Better Way
Really, there never is such a thing as a ‘close’ in professional services. It's always in your best interest to remember that. Instead of ‘closing’ anything, let’s work to get commitments. The entire sales process is a series of attempts to get commitments from the prospective client while promising to keep commitments in return.
You've got to get commitments from your prospective clients to consider using your services and that leads to getting the commitment from them to pay to use your services. All along the way, you are making commitments to them to make sure the connection is there and it is real. Getting commitments is what all of this is about and hopefully you will make it into a regular habit.
Brush Up on Getting Commitments
So, how do we work to get commitments? You're probably pretty good at it now. If you do feel as though you need to brush up your skills, I go into the process deeper in my soon-to-be-published book: Better Business Development Now: A Bare Bones Guide to Get More Clients!
Check it out on Amazon soon!