Strong Boundaries Make Strong Businesses for Solo Professionals

wooden-fence-waterAs someone with a deep wound around rejection, I grew up with a huge need to be liked.

The first jobs I got as a kid were service-centered – where going the extra mile to please a customer was a badge of honor and led to financial and emotional rewards.

That conditioning continued through my corporate life as I worked in service industries and in helping positions – training, staffing, and organizational development, as well as marketing and sales.

Saying “no” was a quick way to be branded as “not a team player” and someone who wasn’t committed to the organization.

Out on our own, this drive to please our clients is a double-edged sword.

It can lead us to becoming the go-to person for those we serve and it can lead us to being seen as a leader in our industry segment.

But it can also cause us bending over backward to an unhealthy extreme.

Examples of going too far include any time you give so much value that you resent doing it. That’s taking over-delivering to the extreme.

It also happens when you do things for your clients and are afraid to charge them or because you want to have praise heaped on you more than you want money to flow into your bank account.

And sometimes, just as we leave ourselves open for bullies in our personal lives, being too eager to please can open you up to relationships that descend into bullying.

These business bullies can be those who use overwhelming negotiating tactics to get you to lower your prices, to give them more value than they want to pay for, or blaming you for not reading their minds and delivering on things they never asked for.

Standing up to them can be hard, but it’s a critical exercise in building your confidence muscles.

There’s a great Seinfeld episode where Elaine asks to use Jerry’s apartment while he’s out of town. The reason she needs to use it is so she can host a baby shower for a an acquaintance named Leslie who she doesn’t know very well but doesn’t really like but can’t say no to. Jerry and Elaine’s friend George considers Leslie as one of the worst dates of his life, but who he couldn’t stand up to when she humiliated him on their date.

Jerry’s predicament in the episode is he’s agreed to have Kramer’s friends install illegal cable in the apartment.

This is a great episode that shows the difficulty of standing up for ourselves with people we have a hard time saying “no” to, even though that’s what we really want to do.

Just this week I was faced with someone who I looked up to and admired who I felt was pushing me around about a project I had invited her to be on. (My husband Lou swears life is a Seinfeld episode)

She had missed every deadline she’d agreed to and then wanted me to change the completion date of the project.

And at first I was going to do it.

But then I realized what I was allowing to happen.

I realized that if I gave in I was allowing her to bully me and I was not valuing myself or my skills, nor was I acting as the leader I needed to be on the project.

So I told her the project didn’t appear to be a fit for her and while I wished her well I’d be moving on without her.

No apologies. No “It’s not you, it’s me” type of language.

It took a lot for me to be able to do that.

The old me – from even a year ago – wouldn’t have done it. I’d have given her everything she asked for, inconvenienced myself, but kept her happy (at least until the next thing she didn’t want to happen).

Of course, I made this brave stand by email 🙂 but at least I took a stand – the stand that was best for me.

The fact that she’s now unhappy about being cut out of the project isn’t my fault and it doesn’t make me a bad person.

It makes me a smart, healthy business person.

It minimizes my stress on the project, which on the whole raises my profitability because the happiness I feel about work directly impacts the quality and value of my days.

It lowers my exposure to risk. People who have extremes in their behavior and who get angry over what they perceive to be slights are unpredictable. I know people who’ve been caught up in law suits over ridiculous issues and who spent their life savings defending themselves.

It reinforces positive self-talk. Standing up to someone who’s intimidating makes me feel good, proves I can face bigger challenges, and develops my resiliency skills.

All of that takes confidence and courage.

But I didn’t always have them.

It took me years to develop them. And now that I have them, I’m not losing them again.

So if you find yourself complaining about your clients, your work, and other things in your business (or life), ask yourself what you’ve done that’s allowed those things to happen or to continue to happen (this doesn’t include violence, ok? That’s not what I’m saying here).

Ask yourself why you continue to stand for this type of behavior or these types of actions.

And face the fact that, to propel your business forward you’ve got to raise you confidence level and courageously step up for what you believe.

What types of situations do you find you lack confidence in? Share your thoughts.

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5 Tips to Prepare for the Growth You’re Working So Hard to Achieve

growth-tree-elementsI’m exhausted.

Physically….mentally…emotionally exhausted.

Motivated by my relocation five hundred miles away from my home in South Jersey, I decided to completely reinvent my business so it was more of the work I wanted to do and less of what I didn’t want.

Instead, I got more of both.

I’m thrilled that my show launched successfully.

It landed on New & Noteworthy in iTunes before it even had any downloads!

It was in New & Noteworthy in three categories and in N&N for all of iTunes almost every day for 8 weeks.

It attracted me joint venture offers, new clients, and new connections.

I was even featured in two commercials for website host, Hostgator.

Revenue is up and opportunities keep coming.

And while I’m thrilled and grateful for all the good things coming my way, I wanted to share some advice that falls in the “be careful what you wish for” category.

The trick is to be ready for growth when it happens.

Here are my 5 tips to help you prepare for growth based on what I’ve learned since things really started taking off for me.

1. Take care of yourself. This is the number one thing for a reason. If you’re not performing at your peak then you won’t be able to sustain growth. Get plenty of sleep. Eat well. Drink plenty of water. And build in time for activity and exercise. But the most important thing you need to do is to manage your schedule. It will take you three times as long to get things done so stop saying yes to everyone NOW, before you get so busy you burst in to tears when someone asks how you’re doing.

Yes, that happened to me.

2. Start looking for help before you actually need it. As a former recruiter with more than 10,000 interviews under my belt and a 94.6% retention rate for those I interviewed, trust me when I tell you that it takes much longer to find the right person than you think it does. And don’t just go by a referral from someone you know. My first two virtual assistants came highly recommended and let’s just say things didn’t go well.

Depending on the skill level you’re looking for and your own work schedule it’s going to take you at least 3 months to find the right person and get them onboard (orient them, teach them your way of doing things, etc.). If you don’t have processes down (I didn’t and am working on them) it could take you as long to onboard them as it does to recruit them.

And don’t think you’ll just do everything yourself because it’s easier than hiring someone. Your revenue and enjoyment of life will be limited if you continue to do everything yourself. Yes, managing costs is important but so is doing work you’re great at and that brings you joy. I’ll bet every task involved in delivering your service doesn’t bring you joy.

3. Document everything. Getting ready to grow requires a lot of creating. You’re putting together your new offer, finishing a book, or creating a new process. If you don’t document everything as you go, you’ll end up with twice as much work when you should be just handing things off to your support person. And sometimes you’ll have to pay extra to have someone help you document the process.

4. Monitor and manage your cash flow well. One of the crazy things that happens when you grow is you discover you need to spend more money to actually achieve the growth or to sustain it. Your email list grows and you find yourself faced with the choice of paying more for the next size up of email contacts or moving to a different provider to get a better price and have more room for growth.

Make sure your invoicing when it’s time and following up on **unpaid invoices. And watch your spending. You need money to pay for help so hold off on buying anything that’s truly not needed.

Investigate additional, easy opportunities to maximize your revenue without much extra effort. For example, I subscribe to Ebates.com and have its extension on my browser.

When I’m about to buy something from a company in their system I get a little prompt to activate their cash-back deal. It’s not much but it’s been enough for lunch out once a month. And it’s stuff I’d be buying anyway. Another strategy I use is affiliate marketing.

Yes, sometimes links I include on my website, and in my books and courses are affiliate links. That means I earn a little commission if someone clicks through and buys. It’s not huge and I only do it for things I’m really comfortable with – often that I use or have used personally or that someone on my team uses. It’s simple to do; it’s easy; and every little bit helps.

5. Ask for – and accept — help. That famous philosopher, Anonymous, once said “Being an entrepreneur is the most expensive and intense personal development program there is.” And she was right.

I had always known I was incredibly independent. And my husband, Lou, often tells me I’m “hard to be nice to.” Being independent is one of my top values, but there’s just no way I could have gotten my podcast, Let’s Talk Tech, and the business I’m building around it off the ground if I hadn’t accepted and asked for help.

And I have to tell you it was hard.

Not just because I had to pay for it  but because I felt so…undeserving….unworthy?

Growing up in corporate America you get indoctrinated in this belief that asking for help is a sign of weakness because God forbid someone should think you can’t do what they’ve asked.

But in reality – especially as an entrepreneur – asking for and accepting help is a sign of a very healthy person.

I caught the tail-end of a presentation by Facebook guru Mari Smith a few months ago. One of the most important things we needed to do in 2016 she said was “get help”. She said there was no way she’d be at the place she now is were it not for the support she’s gotten.

Growth is fantastic. It’s fun and exciting; but it’s also exhausting and frightening.

If you’re going to get your business to the next level of **success while enjoying the sort of life you want – plenty of time for enjoying friends, family, and interests – then it’s important to prepare for and manage growth effectively.

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Lessons From My First Hater

image courtesy of Pixabay / johnhain

image courtesy of Pixabay / johnhain

Well it happened. I got my first hater.

This is something I secretly dreaded ever since I got online back in 2000.

Looking back now on things I struggled with and how I held myself back — it was all because I was actually afraid of standing out.

Screwy right? I mean, how else are you going to get clients if you don’t stand out?

I was a big fish in a small pond back in my corporate life. Standing out wasn’t something I even thought about. I worked hard. I always held very visible positions in human resources and in marketing.

But that was different. It wasn’t really “me” who was standing out. At least I didn’t see it as me standing out.

I saw it as doing my job to help the whole company move forward.

I was an important team member, but a team member nonetheless.

Then I was out on my own and instead of being a team member I was afraid of being seen as some pushy, salesy…word that rhymes with “itch”.

So when this person messaged me on Facebook with her long message about how she was sick and tired of me I was shocked.

It happened before the end of the year and I can honestly say it was one of the best things that happened to me.

So here are 10 lessons I learned while dealing with my first hater and some tips to help you deal with yours.

  1. Give yourself time before you respond. I know some people will say “ignore them” but this particular hater is someone who I actually see quite a bit. We’re in several online groups together and I see her pretty regularly at live events so I felt compelled to respond in some way. It took me about 36 hours to respond to her. That time helped me to get past the anger and hurt I felt as a result of what she said so I could respond in a professional manner. I think this is important because haters are looking for anything you do that will validate their hateful thoughts and behavior. Don’t give them that fuel. And if you want to ignore yours go right ahead. Most haters don’t deserve a response.
  2. Ask yourself which button got pushed and why you reacted emotionally. This is a tough one but if you don’t recognize this you’ll be a pawn of future haters. A former coworker used to say that even broken clocks are right twice a day. Think about what could have possibly led this person to think the thoughts she  shared. Could there have been any glimmer of truth in what she said? Usually when something provokes an emotional response it’s because there’s a wound there or you have a fear associated with something. For example, if someone accused you of careless work and you take great pride in delivering work that’s perfect you’re likely to get defensive and emotional because being careless is something you dread being accused of. This takes really detaching from the emotions and recognizing she’s got her own issues that likely have nothing to do with you.
  3. Don’t be afraid to disconnect from them. If you’re connected to them on social media like LinkedIn or Facebook you can disconnect from them very easily. Yes, there’s a way they can find out if you disconnected from them but do you really care? It’s probably unlikely you’re going to run into them at the grocery store, and unlikely the actively search their contacts for you.
  4. Invite them to disconnect from you. If they’re on your newsletter list encourage them to unsubscribe since there doesn’t seem to be a fit between them and your message anymore. If you can’t bring yourself to delete them from your connections on social media encourage them to disconnect from you. But let them know – in a very polite way – that you’re not interested in hearing from them again. Please take this the right way. I’m not talking about cutting off people with genuine concerns or complaints about your service. But life is too short to let mean people take up space in your head.
  5. Focus on those who want your message and are ready to receive it. I know you have a big heart and you want to help everyone who needs your services but to be honest with you, only people who are ready to receive your message are going to benefit from it. So get your message out there stronger and bolder than ever and make it laser focused on preaching to the choir not trying to convert those who aren’t interested in changing.
  6. Realize this won’t be the last hater you get. It may be best for you to have an assistant take over the bulk of reviewing your mail and messages so they can delete what’s trash, act on what they need to, and pass on only what you truly need to see. Like I said earlier, haters and complaining customers are different groups. Reading hate mail isn’t on your “most need to do” list.
  7. It’s not what they say that hurts it’s how you think about it. Thoughts might pop in your head but you don’t have to let them stay. You don’t have to dwell on them. Save all the nice emails people send you and the nice messages. Think about them instead of the crap haters toss your way.
  8. Getting hated on isn’t as bad as you think it’s going to be. I think the problem is our elephant-like memories. We remember how much it hurt when someone we loved or cared about said something that hurt us. Or that time at work when we did our best and some doofus made a snide comment about the project we delivered. Or you’re over-reacting thinking “everyone” thinks that about you. In reality, that’s the only person who does.
  9. People want to make themselves feel good and sometimes that means hurting you. Feel sorry for them and say a little prayer that they’ll find happiness and fulfillment in some other way. At the end of her very long message she admitted that “maybe I’m a little jealous.”
  10. You must be doing something right. You only become a target when you stand out. So clarify your message. Where a fabulous outfit. Polish up your website and social media profiles. When you start to shine brightly you’ll attract so many fans the haters won’t be able to reach you.

Taylor Swift says it best, “haters gonna hate”. Take the hate as a sign your voice is getting louder and your message is getting stronger. Celebrate that; don’t let a hater keep you from serving those you’re meant to serve or from sharing the gifts you were blessed with.

 

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What It Takes to Create an Iconic Brand — Lessons From The Eagles

When someone famous we like dies, my husband Lou and I will do something to honor that person’s memory.

So when news broke that Glenn Frey, co-founder of our favorite band, The Eagles, had died suddenly we watched The History of The Eagles on Netflix®.

That movie was one of those rare films that stayed with me long after it was over.

Not only was it fun to see the band in footage from the ‘70’s, but it was fascinating to see inside the minds of its founders, Glenn Frey and Don Henley.

I walked away with a deeper appreciation of the band and its individual members as well as for Frey and Henley as leaders of the organization and business.

These are the 10 lessons about business and brand building that I had reinforced by watching the movie.

1. Have courage. It took real guts to go to California, try to become a successful singer-songwriter, and have your own band when you’ve never written a song and have limited experience playing in a band. But that’s just what Frey and Henley did.

Glenn Frey, cofounder of the group with Don Henley, told Bob Seger that he (Frey) wanted to write songs but he was afraid he would suck. Seger’s reply was direct and realistic: “Of course you’re going to suck. But you’ve got to keep writing and you’ll improve.”

In the movie, The History of the Eagles, interview footage from the 70’s shows the members all had doubts about the band’s ability to maintain its success and some of them admitted to having had doubts about their individual talents. But Frey and Henley didn’t let anxiety stop The Eagles as a band. They achieved amazing things, including creating the top selling album of the entire 20th century. Imagine what staying focused and being brave can help you achieve.

Lesson for all of us:  Leverage your self -doubt and let it drive you to excellence, but don’t let it go to perfection. You can do that by setting the intention to be excellent and to remain humble and self-aware while managing your ego and working to not hurt others in your crusade to grow your strengths.

Action Step: Reflect on your fears and take action to address them. Taking massive action is a great way to leap over or blast through your fears.

2. Find your sound. This may be the hardest thing any of us does: To get clarity on the message we’re meant to share, then amplify it, and be true to it. Glenn Frey and Don Henley knew the sound they were going for, the music that was in them, and they stayed focused on how to amplify it by working with the best partners they could find who fit perfectly with that sound. They eventually broke up with early members of the band over creative differences and split with their first producer Glyn Johns because he didn’t believe the band could become what they dreamed of – a unique blend of rock, country, and other influences. He wanted to use tactics that Frey and Henley felt were wrong for them. Since their first greatest hits album is the top selling album for the entire 20th century, I’d say they were right.

Lessons for all of us: The hardest thing to do is to be your authentic self. That means embracing your brand essence and giving it voice – your beliefs, your values, your philosophy, and your approach.

Action Step: Ask yourself what you’re resisting and why. Ask yourself if you’re trying to appeal to everyone or at least to too many people. You have an audience you’re meant to serve and who wants to hear from you. Sing to them only. If others listen and are inspired to action that’s great.

3. Treat your business like a business. Creative professionals – especially musicians it seems – are notorious for focusing all their energy on what they’re creating. Glenn Frey and Don Henley were very smart businessmen and while some disagree with the way they ran / run the band, they recognized that they had a clear vision and goals and did what was necessary to achieve it. Early members of the band enjoyed the success but wanted more of a say in the business, more writing credits, and more singing time. I’m not saying Frey and Henley were or are perfect but in the moment, we all do the best we can. And as the leaders of our businesses we have to make very difficult decisions.

Lesson for all of us: Businesses track expenses, forecast revenue, create products, have contracts, follow budgets, and have other key indicators of success and failure. Leaders talk to underperformers or those who aren’t committed to the direction of the organization and, as tough as it sounds, they stop working with those people.

Action Step: Examine your business model and the culture of the organization you’re building. Recognize that it takes working with others to have the impact you truly want and to maximize your profitability.

4. Be a leader – to your audience, to your team and partners, to your industry. Not many businesses can survive by following a consensus-focused leadership style. Even in a democracy someone has to be in charge and someone has to make the decisions. And the founder or founders have to combine visionary thinking with a commitment and drive to set and stay the course. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely existence and calls for hard decisions sometimes.

Lessons for all of us: You’ll be criticized, second-guessed, and questioned. You’ve got to stay the course and be true to your beliefs, vision, and values. That’s never easy. Especially when you’re going in a direction that’s different from what the so-called experts are telling you to do.

Action Step: Ask yourself if you’re truly a leader or if you’re just following right now. Is your messaging too generic? Following best practices is always a good idea but your message shouldn’t sound or look like everyone else’s.

5. Overcome your fears. Part of Randy Meisner’s refusal to sing Take It to the Limit during an encore was his fear of not being able to hit the high notes live in front of thousands of screaming fans. Of course by the time he hit the highest notes the fans would probably be yelling so loud they wouldn’t hear his voice crack if it did.

Lesson for all of us: Randy Meisner never gave a bad live performance of Take It to the Limit. Yet his fears ultimately are what led to his dismissal from the band. Fear will take hold of us and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Action Step: When you find yourself resisting something, saying no to something, ask yourself what you’re afraid of. Confront that fear by planning, controlling what you can, and giving it everything you’ve got. Remember – you’re striving for excellence, not perfection.

6. Take advice from gurus with a grain of salt. I think most of us look for some sort of direction when we go out on our own. We’re looking for validation that our ideas are good and will be profitable, and we’re looking for anything that will speed up the trip from struggle to profitability. Frey and Henley recognized they’d never go farther if they kept working with producer Glyn Johns. What guts it must have took to let go of a producer who had worked with bands who were legends already.

Lesson for all of us: We have to work to find experts and partners who believe in our vision as much as we do and who will work with us to make it happen.

Action Step:  Consider if you’re following one or more gurus a little blindly. Find the balance of listening to a blend of your heart, head, and gut. And if anyone tells you something is simple run away from them.

7. Maintain passion for your message. If you’ve ever found yourself getting sick of saying the same thing over and over again you know what I mean here. Imagine what it must be like to sing the same songs in the same way over and over and over.

When Glenn Frey argued with Randy Meisner over Meisner’s refusal to perform their classic hit Take It to the Limit  during an encore, Frey stressed that the fans – who had waited hours to hear that song — deserved to hear it. Frey went on to admit that he didn’t really want to sing Take It Easy ever again either, but he did it because the fans loved the song and deserved to hear it live.

Those fights contributed to Meisner being kicked out of the band.

Lesson for all of us: Of course you’re going to grow and your message is going to evolve. We’ve got to find a way to keep repeating our message without losing the joy for it and not sounding tired or frustrated.

Action Step: Record yourself delivering your next presentation or having a conversation about your message. If you hear something you don’t like in your tone of voice or phrasing you can bet others are hearing it too.

8. Find inspiration everywhere. Frey said the inspiration for Lyin’ Eyes  came from the women they saw in a bar he and Henley frequented. Life in The Fast Lane’s title  is something a drug dealer said to Frey and the immortal guitar lick in that song was something Joe Walsh made up to help him get limber before a show. Imagine how different The Eagles’ catalog  would be without those two numbers.

Frey and Henley found inspiration everywhere. Then they took action.

Lesson for all of us: We’re all creative in some way and inspiration can be found all around us. But inspiration without action is just a dream.

Action Step: Open yourself up to the inspiration all around you; then keep what’s true to your message and vision and consistent with your beliefs and values.

9. Hard Work + Persistence + Timing = Success. The message I got from watching The History of The Eagles was how much hard work went into becoming one of the best in the business. Sacrifices have to be made. I think you can have it all; just not at the same time or all the time.

Work is more joyful and feels more profitable when you leverage your greatest gifts, construct a clear and powerful message, and remain focused on serving others; but it’s still hard work.

Lesson for All of Us: The prolific author, Stephen King, was right when he said, you have “to tell the muse when to show up for work.” We have to create success habits and control our entrepreneurial impulse to get distracted or to look for a shortcut along the journey.

Action Step: Look at your calendar and challenge yourself to see if you’re truly working on important things that will help you achieve your goals quicker or are you allowing yourself to get distracted? Or worse…could self-sabotage be playing a role in what’s going on?

10. Take a vacation. Frey admitted the band worked hard and lived hard. This probably contributed to the arguments, the breakup, and the 14 years they spent apart.

Lesson for Us All: As hard as it can be to schedule time away and as much as we feel we can’t afford to do it, the truth is self-care is critical for entrepreneurs, especially in those critical growth periods.

Action Step: Look critically at your calendar and make sure you’re not over-scheduling yourself. Get help if you need it, and be sure to take time to recharge your batteries.

There’s a quote attributed to many different people: “Being self-employed is the most intense and expensive personal development program you can take.” Business building is hard work no matter how talented or focused you are. Be sure you schedule time for reflection and consider refocusing your efforts to make sure you’re moving towards your goals. And surround yourself with great people who are healthy emotionally and mentally.

According to Don Henley, the big dream he and Glenn Frey shared was hearing their songs on the radio. That dream, combined with Frey’s dedication to become a really good songwriter and his leadership helped them become one of the greatest bands of all time.

Practicing these 10 strategies could help you create a brand as iconic and beloved with your fans as The Eagles have become for theirs.

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10 Tips to Help Make Gratitude a Habit That Grows Your Business

FlashBuddy / 30 Images @Pixabay.com

FlashBuddy / 30 Images @Pixabay.com

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is my favorite holiday. No pundits screaming about the end of giving thanks or the impending assault on thankfulness. No extremism of any kind (except maybe the argument over favorite pie – mine’s pumpkin).

And frankly, I think we can all do with a bit more reflection on all we have to be grateful for.

There are plenty of people who’d love to have your headaches.

The one downside to the holiday known as Thanksgiving (besides mincemeat pie) is that being thankful – and the joy-filled, gracious spirit that tends to linger right to New Year’s Day – seems to disappear when the last of the holiday decorations come down (at my house that’s the Saturday after Epiphany).

I started working on improving my thankfulness back in my mid-20’s when I realized I was taking my internal unhappiness out on other people. But I really ramped up feeling thankful after my car accident in 1999. Whenever I read of someone dying from a head injury I’m instantly reminded how blessed I am to be alive and to be functioning at the level I do considering the injuries I sustained.

I think approaching work – and life – with a spirit of gratitude  brings you more things to be grateful for. It’s that old principle that what you focus on grows.

So here are 10 tips to help you embrace gratitude and leverage it as a business growth strategy.

1. Say thank you. This might seem old fashioned or maybe you think it gets said so much that it’s become meaningless but I disagree. Words have power; we know that. Put a smile on your face (which has been shown to reduce stress and boost mood) and thank everyone for everything.

2. Send thank you notes. And not just emails. I know email is easy. It lets you cross the “thank you” off your to-do list, but sending handwritten thank you notes has a bigger impact. It speaks volumes about you and creates an emotional connection you’re unlikely to get from an email. It also helps you stand out while bringing you back to top of mind.

3. Use a CRM. Pre-accident I had an amazing memory. Post accident…that’s another story. Add in there the impact of stress and overload and it’s no wonder I have to write everything down (and then try to remember where I put my notebook). But as your business grows beyond one notebook and one client file, developing systems and processes becomes important to maximize profitability and leverage your time. A good customer relationship management system will help you track your contacts with everyone from prospective clients to referral partners and connect with other important tools like your calendar, email, and sometimes project management systems. CRMs can be a good use of your money if you actually use the tool. They’ll help you remember details about your contacts so you look like the hero when you send a prospect a get well card for their sick pet.

4. Pay attention to and participate in social media. A friend once ranted about the egotism of social posts by stressing that “it’s SOCIAL media, not social MEdia.” Funny, and bears remembering. So when people comment on your posts answer them back. “Like” their posts. Give people shout-outs and mention them by name. Share resources with people and connect your connections.

But don’t poke people.

5. Send cards on different holidays. I send Thanksgiving and New Year’s cards to clients, prospective clients, and other contacts I have snail mail addresses for. I’ve been known to send Valentine’s Day and Independence Day cards too. People get so little actual mail that it’s a great way to remind them of you and strengthen your emotional connection. It’s nice. Try it.

6. Send a note (ok or an email) for any reason you can. Read your local paper as well as online news sites and industry news then forward articles to those who would benefit from them. Send congrats notes when sales results or expansions are reported on or when some other professional achievement gets publicity. Living in a state of gratitude includes feeling grateful and genuinely happy for the success of others.

7. Give gifts.  Please don’t think of it as a chore. Think of it as an opportunity to show your appreciation. Be a little creative. It’s not the cost or size of the gift, it truly is the thought that matters. But the gift should also be consistent with the relationship and with the value. For example, I got a referral that brought in a new and very profitable client. I gave the person who made the referral tickets to a concert with my favorite group. I’ve sent homemade cookies to people at the holidays. Build this into your business development budget for the coming year so you’re not wondering where the money will come from. And if you’re creativity impaired when it comes to gift giving, hire someone like a personal shopper to help you.

Here’s a video about gift giving that I shot in 2014.

8. Start every day with a prayer of thanks. Oh don’t get weirded out because I said “prayer”. As soon as I wake up I say a prayer of thanks for another day and silently go through a list of the key things I have to be grateful for. Gratitude is a habit and that little ritual gets my day started on the right foot.

9. End every day with a prayer of thanks. Repeat the above but with an emphasis on all the things that went right that day. Believe me there are times when this one can feel hard but it’s all about perspective. You have tons to be thankful for starting with the fact that you can read this and you have access to the Internet.

10. Detach from the outcome. I’ve said this before but it’s the single most powerful thing I’ve ever done that’s brought me the most joy and actually improved my profitability. I know work is important to you. You might feel as though your work is a mission you’re on. That’s great and it’s likely true, but work doesn’t define you. When you hear “no” or a prospective client gives you pushback on your proposal, tune into the emotions you’re feeling and the self-talk in your head. Simply examine the facts – no editorializing, no catastrophic thinking, and no hateful thinking about the person involved. If you feel yourself getting emotional – whether it be anger, frustration, or sadness – ask yourself why that emotion is being raised and where it comes from. The chances are good it’s something that happened in the past or that you’re projecting your emotion into the future. Like worrying in advance. When I was able to stop judging myself and others I was able to feel more genuine happiness in my entire life, not just in my work.

Action Step:  Take the next 24 to 72 hours and really listen to what you say (and think). Pay attention to your nonverbal communication including things like your posture and facial expressions. If your language tends to be negative and your nonverbal behavior could be sending a negative message then I don’t care how much you try to convince yourself and others that you’re grateful, the fact is you’re not.

Then begin to catch the negative or extreme language you use. Smile more. Focus on seeing the other person’s point of view.

You can’t be grateful and rooted in grouchiness.

Let me know what you discover about yourself.

And stay tuned over the next several weeks. I’ve been hibernating (sort of) and working on some big projects I’m super excited about. Can’t wait to share with you! If you haven’t already done it, be sure to subscribe. Just click the link and add your email address so you don’t miss the tips, strategies, and resources I share to help you stand out and sell your services without being salesy.

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What’s a swipe file and tips to use one

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Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Using the Internet to attract clients was supposed to make our lives easier wasn’t it? Instead, it’s made us nutty as we work hard to continuously create content.

You’ve got blog posts, LinkedIn posts, Twitter and Facebook and Google+ updates to share.

And of course there are the web pages you ‘ve got to create, including sales pages and offers to make.

It’s exhausting.

And it’s no wonder we get writer’s block and feel frustrated and overwhelmed.

I want to share a big secret with you.

Copywriters get writer’s block too.

The difference is we have a tool we turn to during those times that helps us get focused and have the breakthrough we want.

It’s a swipe file.

The video below explains what a swipe file is and what to do with it.

Here are some additional tips for you that I didn’t share in the video.

Store it. I use a file pocket like I showed you in the video and then I save the swipe file where I keep my project files so I can grab it when I need it.

Look at the layout. The organization of information is important. It helps the reader to process it. I like to study the layout and pieces of a swipe piece to see what inspiration I get.

What to save. As I said in the video, I save great direct mail pieces from the big name companies. I save things that are in the B2B environment since my Great Clients are other business owners, but I also save direct to consumer materials because every now and then I work with someone in that segment. I also like to get inspiration from other industry segments.

Headline formulas. There are structures to headlines that work. The headline and any image you have are the two most important elements of your writing. The image grabs attention first and then they read the headline. So the headline is critical to drawing someone in. The original Mad Man himself, David Ogilvy said that headlines are the most valuable part of the copy.

3 cautions…

1. Don’t truly “swipe” the copy. That’s called plagerism. Not only is it not nice, it’s illegal. A swipe file is really an inspiration file.

2. Don’t just blindly follow a format. That piece was created with a specific audience in mind. Your audience is likely to be different so — again — use swipe pieces as inspiration.

3. Build an offline and online swipe file too. Save direct mail pieces, magazines, order forms…but also have two online swipe files — an email swipe and a website swipe. Save autoresponder series you like, process steps, whole websites, and individual landing pages and sales pages.

Have you used a swipe file as inspiration? Are there projects you tend to use a swipe file more fore than others?

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One Reason Your Potential Clients May Say “No”

international_no_symbolI got a call from a person who said she saved my card for the past few years (very flattering) and she believed she was finally ready to work privately with me.

But she gave me confusing signals throughout the call.

 I could tell we wouldn’t fit well together but since what she needed was obvious to me I gave her what I thought was a perfect strategy to separate herself from the competition and stand out as the clear authority in her industry segment.

The line went silent for a few seconds.

“Wow. That’s a great idea,” she said quietly.

“But I can’t do it,” she went on to say. “Nobody else in my industry is doing anything like that. And if I did it they’d just copy me.”

I’ve thought about that call off and on over the past few weeks; and the conclusion I’ve come to is, she was torn between playing to win and playing not to lose.

This happens as we build a business that finances our lives, the lives of our vendors, and that allows us to support causes we care about. The better and more successful we become the more afraid we can become of losing what we’ve worked so hard for.

But there are also people who are naturally play-not-to-lose people.

They’re the people referred to as “prevention focused” and tend to be risk-averse. These are people who are analytical, problem solvers. They’re not wrong or bad or weak. They’re just different and they have a different perspective on taking a chance.

And working with you is risky.

 

Play not to lose people need you to answer the “yes, but” questions they have in their heads.

Of course they may not actually ask them out loud.

Imagine them thinking “Yes, but…”

  • Will it really work?
  • Is it worth the hassle of changing?
  • Will it be too hard to implement?
  • I haven’t heard of this before so how can it be good?

And on and on….

To help your client decide to buy, you’ve got to understand her motivations and what she’s got at risk by saying “yes” to you. What does she want to gain (more clients maybe) and what does she not want to lose (free time…she doesn’t want to work more than she already is now).

Then use that knowledge to inform your messaging so you’re effectively emphasizing what she’ll gain with what she won’t lose.

If you’ve got a Suspect who is afraid of losing control then emphasize they’ll still be able to __________ because you’re going to __________________.

Think about the Suspect you met with recently and see if anything they said or did could tell you if they’re Promotion Focused (play to win) or Prevention Focused. Now, think about your messaging. Is it completely aspirational? Full of possibilities?

Think about your Prime Suspects. Do they tend to be the type of people who are naturally afraid of losing? If so, don’t try to change them. Instead, think about adding some practical information in your messaging.

Admit there will be some challenges but talk about your track record and proprietary process. Talk about how your process is proven to help people just like them. Give examples.

Be prepared with some risk reduction strategies (like “try before you buy”, demos, or a guarantee or anything else that will truly lower their risk and make them feel more confident to move forward.

If you’re Prime Suspect is in a hierarchical organization (meaning they report to someone), or you’re selling to a couple, or anyone who is going to rely on others in the buying decision, then you can be sure there’s going to be some element of fear of loss at play here. You have to do what you can to make them feel confident and your messsaging needs to speak to the others in the buying process.

Brand building helps here because having a powerful reputation instills confidence in working with you.

Your Suspects want the outcome you deliver but if you can’t help them get passed their concerns then you can’t be surprised if they turn you down and choose a competitor they feel safer with.

And think about how you may be getting stuck in playing-not-to-lose land too. Then remember who you are — a visionary leader and entrepreneur who makes a massive impact in the lives of those you serve and who needs to reach even more people.

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The Benefits of Choosing a Niche

Gurus talk about it, sales books cover it….choosing a niche or target audience really is an important decision to make. But most entrepreneurs resist it for a variety of reasons including…

  • fears that any customers are better than no customers
  • belief that everyone needs your services
  • an inability to focus your attention

While it may be true that everyone needs your services, not everyone wants them. Part of what makes you feel salesy is when you’re trying to convince someone to buy from you. That person doesn’t want what you’re selling or they don’t want it in the way you deliver it.

This video discusses the benefits of choosing an ideal client segment or what I refer to as a Prime Suspect.

https://youtu.be/vyxu3FWf0o8

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How to Educate Potential Clients and Elevate Yourself as an Authority

 

It’s no secret that inbound or content marketing should be a critical piece of every marketing strategy. The Web is made of content and your potential clients are turning to the Internet first when searching for a solution to their problem.

They turn to the Internet for help in figuring out what their problem is in the first place.

And if you’re a consultant, coach, or other licensed professional looking to attract more Prime Suspects (those likely to be your best clients) then educational content is a great way to educate your potential clients and elevate yourself as an authority in your field.

Depending on what study you review, customers — whether businesses or consumers — are turning to the Internet first when they have or suspect they have a problem. They want to learn more about their symptoms, get a diagnosis, and understand what their options are for solving the problem PDQ.

You the business owner should be creating content in different formats (video, written, audio, etc.) so your Suspects can get educated about the problem.

Focusing on giving them great information that genuinely educates them will help you create content that’s on-point, of high value to them, and that they want to share.

When we hear someone speak, watch their video, read their articles, we can’t help but think “this person’s an expert”. We see the person as an expert even if we don’t agree with all of the information they’re sharing.

Here’s a video I shot that gives an overview of what Pre-Selling means and how it helps clients buy.

 

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How to Know if You’re Ready for a Rebrand

cocoons_butterfliesNow that spring is finally committed to sticking around (please God!), it’s nice to walk around town (without a jacket) and see signs of new growth everywhere you look.

You may have noticed some things didn’t survive very well through the harsh winter we had.

The streets have potholes; roofs have been damaged; and the clothes in your closet have shrunk somehow.

This is also a great time to sit back and reflect on how your business — and you — have changed or how you’re in the process of changing and where in fact you and that business of yours are going.

As you think about this, ask yourself if the branding — the visual and verbal messaging — that got you where you are is going to get you where you want to go.

What’s Branding?

When I say “branding” I’m not just talking about your logo or color palette. I’m talking about all of your brand elements that combine to make up your entire messaging — everything that communicates who you are, what you do, and who you serve. From your vision, mission, and values to the Persona that describes your Prime Suspect to your collateral material and website.

What’s a Brand?

A brand isn’t your logo or your tagline. Those are just the visual and verbal representations of what you stand for. Your brand is your promise to the market. It’s your reputation based on what you deliver. The goal is to create a visual (and a verbal) brand so powerful that people equate that visual image with whatever outcome you deliver.

Your branding — your brand elements — are tools to help you communicate with your Prime Suspects (those most likely to be great clients). They can limit the power of your verbal message (presentations you make, conversations you have…) because they can create confusion in the mind of the Suspect or they can make it difficult for the Suspect to process the messages you’re communicating.

There are lots of reasons you may not be getting  the results you want, but one reason could be you need a total rebrand.

What’s a Rebrand?

A rebrand is often thought of as a new logo, it’s much more than that.

A rebrand is an evolutionary process and it’s born out of a deep feeling of disconnection between what you’ve got, what you want, and what you do.

The rebranding process is one that starts with uncovering who you are, where you’re going, and what the business has become.

Run away from anyone who tells you that work isn’t necessary or who doesn’t take the time to understand who you are, what you stand for, and what you’re building.

It may be that — like so many consultants, coaches, and other independent service providers — you may never have had a brand that truly represents you. This happens when you focus on the fun, visual stuff without doing the deep internal work necessary to uncover what the visual stuff should represent.

Here are 14 signs you may be ready for a rebrand

  1. The clients you have are not the clients you want.
  2. You look and sound like your competition.
  3. You’re attracting fewer new inquiries about working with you.
  4. It takes longer than you want for a Suspect to go from initial conversation to signed engagement.
  5. You’re ready to grow and don’t feel your visual will take you where you want to go
  6. You’re competing on price.
  7. When people introduce you or say what you do you think, “that’s not it”.
  8. You look at your messaging and sometimes feel as though it’s not really you.
  9. Your business has grown beyond just you.
  10. You can’t state what you do in 30 seconds or less.
  11. You’re adding a new revenue stream or moving in a completely different direction.
  12. You have website shame.
  13. You have collateral material shame (whether you give out the physical stuff, email it as an attachment, or have it as downloads on your website.
  14. People have told you they don’t understand what you do.

A rebrand is a process that’s not to be rushed and it’s not for the faint of heart. There are things that can be done to shorten the time it takes but that means you have to come into the process ready to go. That means you’ve got to come into the process having done a good bit of soul searching on your own or with a facilitator.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from people who are going through a rebrand without doing the prep work is that the designer or developer is asking them questions they (the business owner ) can’t answer.

If that’s the case, it means you need to work with a consultant who is skilled at uncovering your difference. It also may mean that you’ve got a lot of uncertainty within yourself and until you’ve gotten clarity the process will be slow and painful.

There are times when it’s not a complete rebrand that’s needed. It might be that there’s a problem with the overall sales process — with how you’re bringing in Prime Suspects or how you’re helping them travel their Buying Journey.

If you’re trying to discern the problem and figure out if you need a rebrand or you need some adjustment to your sales process then you should talk to a consultant, coach, or strategist who works specifically around helping entrepreneurs like you stand out. The goal is to increase your reach so you serve more and earn more not just have a nice logo.

 

 

 

 

 

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