Your ideas and story
Your top ideas. Your client’s top ideas.
I’m curious about people’s top ideas, and when I meet new business people, I’m often curious enough to get them to spill their heart out about what they love and why they do what they do.
The stories are often surprising, and I get taken aback by the depth of the emotion, adversity and tenacity that businesspeople seem to be able to relay so easily.
What makes your clients tick is easy to uncover with just a few of the right questions and a willingness to listen, rather than comment, lecture or show off.
If you were asked, so what made you start your own business? You would find it a good experience and spout the best of stories.
So, ask your clients to unfold their ‘why’ their passionate stories, inspirations, frustrations or even their wants.
Everyone has them. We all are moulded by experience, both good and bad.
Ask your clients. Ask in a way that indulges them. Let them be selfish. Give them the stage to boast from. Give them room and time to rant. Be a cheerleader for them and their struggles overcome.
They will be so pleased you allowed them to open up. Stories sell, Facts Tell.
Once they have done so, ask them these questions.
I ‘m curious, what are your top three tips?
What do you want from me? Not what do you need, just, what do you want?
Would it be ok if we quoted your knowledge to others that are just like you?
Start with yourself, what is your story.
When we check Trip Advisor and think who would write such a glowing testimonial report, we know, it’s possibly the best friend of the director or owner of that business.
When we read a scathing one, we know it’s possibly the competitor’s version, of don’t go there, find us instead.
It’s the in-between reports that seem the most genuine and realistic. After reading enough 3’s and 4’s rather than just the 1’s and 5’s, we start to get a picture of what’s really going on.
So as an alternative, perhaps it’s better that when we ask our customers for feedback, and then we decide upon taking this one step further.
Imagine if you would, picking a 3 or 4 from your client feedbacks and reporting on and after the feedback event. Let me explain it this way.
One course we ran recently had a delegate say the following;
“I loved the course but felt it was too superficial. I would love to have some more detailed examples of how the process works. Especially ones that are true stories and an application of how it worked. Otherwise, the course was great, food was nice, venue ideal and the trainer was engaging” 4 out of 5.
So, when it comes to reporting a testimonial, it would be very tempting to just reprint the first and last sentences, missing out the suggestion and the critique.
This makes it slightly disingenuous.
A more powerful way would be to report the whole and then, address the critique and suggestion, and ask for second feedback.
We did just that.
The client was invited back, at our own cost, and we added the suggestion in as well as addressed a bespoke solution to a client issue he had at the time.
This is what he wrote after the second event.
“Attending the follow-up course, I was stunned to realise that my feedback had been taken so seriously. I had more than a renewed understanding of the training concept, I had a practical solution to one of my own difficult issues. I was blown away! The food was nice again. The venue was ideal, and the trainer was just as engaging. However, this time I had a fantastic experience and will be recommending this wholeheartedly. Thank you for listening but thank you more for taking action to improve my experience.” 5 out of 5.
The first and second testimonials, carry so much more weight and honesty.
Feedback is the food of champions. We know that. However, what we do with it is the key.
Are you brave enough to quote both the feedbacks and then give an explanation of why the difference or are you just going to highlight the positive bits and miss the real powerful testimonial?
It is one way to set yourself apart. It is more genuine and realistic. It also shows that you care enough about doing a good job that you will expose where you fell short and prove that you are willing to do something about it too.
That takes guts. You need to be brave to do that. You need to be openly honest enough to admit you are not perfect but are trying always to be better.
Go on. I dare you.
Promise Keepers Rule. It is common for us to have customers that we enjoy working with as well as ones that we loathe or make our hearts sink. Your easiest way to improve this is always to be working towards duplication of the most favoured client.
You need to be focused on the type and preferred client, but also the desirability and need of a future income stream with them.
Repeat and growing business from the best type of client is the heavenly business.
So, let me ask.
What does that client look like to you?
Do you have any already?
Where could you find more of them?
What would you need to have in place to be easily referable to that type of client?
Al this relies on having a relationship. A strong and healthy one. Even if it is on the internet.
You need to ask yourself, how this can be nurtured? Do you know anyone who is doing this already?
One of the main reasons is that if you don’t, someone else will.
It is easier to court the great client and have them come on board, than it is to keep finding ‘ones that will do for now’ clients.
It is more productive, satisfying and meaningful, as well as being the only way to go to have a future business you can rely upon. The future of your relationship with your client will be exposed by your competitors as well as social media. It is the new secret weapon and is easier than you think.
Dinosaurs didn’t see what was coming but we can.
It’s amazing to think that there are many companies out there that have yet to embrace the need for a digital platform as well as a relationship built on trust and reliability.
How often are we caught out by the service providers who promise the earth, then do not deliver? Just by keeping our promises, we can shine.
We can shine by showing we care, showing appreciation and going the extra mile. This alone will keep us above the 90% that do not do it. To be blunt, it is easy to be ahead of the competition than you think.
Amazon, deliver. Fed Ex deliver. Domino’s, deliver.
They promise, and they deliver. Why? It works that’s why. It’s no good thinking, we’ll deliver our promises most of the time, and then just be mediocre at it.
Once you get known for not keeping your deadlines, your integrity becomes questionable.
The preference to refer to you is will be less than it was.
Your option for price increase becomes tougher. Your confidence is tainted, and clients start to feel unloved. It is that simple. It’s not hard to promise something and then do better. What is hard is to be unsure about what you can deliver, and then making it up as you go. It is the hardest way to run a business.
Being great is easier and a lot more fun. If you were to forecast the future of your business based on the clients you deal with now, where would you be? You can choose that destination.
Do you know your clients? Yes, but do you really know?
We often think we know our businesses, and its true most us have a handle on the numbers and the history. However, Sir Clive Woodward, at a recent conference talked about ‘The Data’, and the story behind the data is not often a true explanation of the facts.
Get the Facts. Truly, deep down can’t get any more data Facts.
You can look at your ROFE, yet behind that could be just a handful of great profitable customers that are masking the truth behind the vacuum of profit customer. Averages help get an overview but break them down and the character of the good bad and the ugly, start to show.
Ask your team, who is a pain to deal with, and why is that so. A client may serve you better by being referred to a nearby competitor. That client may have come from them in the first place.
I remember letting a client go once, and he was horrified. He got quite angry too. So, I explained to him that my average customer spent 20 hours a month of my time and gave me £300,000 turnover a year. I explained that my profit from my average customer was £100,000. On the other hand, he gave me 30 hours work a month and only contributed to £80,000 to my turnover.
Once I had explained the ‘Facts’ to him he calmed down and realised why I was making the decision and that had he known more, he would have looked at what I offered differently.
The result with this client was that I offered to charge him an hourly rate. He declined as he knew he could go and take advantage of a competitor, without paying the fees for his time. So, we agreed to no longer work together.
Unless I had got to the bottom of his way of dealing with us and backed it up with enough comparable facts, I may have continued to be bossed around by this client. It turns out the staff loved that I had ‘let him go’ because he was the proverbial heart sinker. A double win.
Working with clients you like is always a bonus. Ones that are profitable as well make a great business.
The sweet spot of what you offer is one number crunching exercise. Looking at clients who could be ten times more profitable than your average is another.
Which of your clients have the capacity to do so much more? Fewer clients to deal with could be a new option. The numbers will reveal them.
It could be that your top clients are not top clients. It could be that your low turnover/profit clients are capable of so much more, or, would refer you to others that can. Getting to know your clients in depth is important.
By getting ALL the numbers, the decisions are so much easier.
Yes, it felt good to remove Mr Pain. It was easier than I thought because I had got the facts. Numbers never lie if you dig deep enough.
So do you know your clients well enough?
How important is an annual business audit?
The term business audit may cause you some concern, but fear not I am not suggesting a massive cost ridden exercise of engaging outside consultants. An annual business audit is simply a process that you run annually to alleviate risks to your business and enhance profitability.
In practice, this is a checklist containing a number of tasks and reviews which are carried out by yourself or other people in the business on at least an annual basis. The checklist itself will contain a wide range of different points that will depend on each individual business. It would be sensible to brainstorm with your business coach, team and mastermind group different things that could be contained in the checklist. Once the checklist is produced somebody will need to be responsible to ensure it is carried out properly.
Some of the following will apply to most businesses.
Client satisfaction questionnaire – Customer service
Most people cannot be bothered to fill in questionnaires or surveys, so it is best to keep it short and make it easy to complete. There are a number of systems online that are designed specifically for this. The standard score out of 10 questions like – How do you rate our service? Allow you to at least have a number to hit in future years. I would also suggest a couple of simple questions like – State one way we could improve our service to you? Or What could we do for you that we are not currently doing?
Making a system of asking all your current clients how they feel ensures you keep in contact, show you care about their opinions and generates new potential ways of increasing profits.
Compliance and regulations
Ensuring that you check how well you are adhering to the rules and regulations of your industry. Many things will be done as part of your normal methods of business but what records do you have to prove the requirements are being met and are those records up to date. In most firms this should include Health and safety, Fire regulations etc. – Micro firms have a habit of not applying many of these rules but are still liable in the event of a problem occurring.
Financial and budgeting
This is not simply making sure your accounts are correct but looking at trends in your income and expenses. This helps you identify where money is potentially being wasted. Average cash balances could affect the company if they are allowed to run too low. Are salaries fair and do they reflect what your team could earn elsewhere? Do you need to change your systems to help cash flow?
Are your physical security systems strong enough? Is your IT data secure and how often is that actually tested. Are your Backup plans fit for purpose and have you tried a data recovery lately?
Skills and competences
Many small firms do not consider what happens if a key person becomes long term ill or leaves the business. There should always be someone else in the business who can do a key job well. Having training plans to improve skills and competencies is important and should be reviewed at least annually. Rotating staff roles is also very useful as it ensure specific task knowledge does not only sit with one person. Reviewing training plans and skills and keeping strong records will help ensure your business does have a significant problem if somebody resigns.
Disaster recovery plans
What happens in the event of a flood or fire? Is there a plan and is it recorded and reviewed annually? What happened if you are on holiday on the other side of the world would your team have a written plan to follow? Have a written plan and ensure it is agreed with your team and they know how to implement it should disaster strike.
The above is by no means exhaustive and small business owners are too often guilty of not carrying out these important reviews only to find that they have a serious problem that could have been avoided. Ideally you should have mastermind group and business coach to discuss ideas like this and ensure you are held accountable to make sure they happen. The longevity and success of your business could be dependent to ensuring you have the discipline to carry out an annual business audit.
Enjoy the journey
12 ways to get more referrals
Why aren’t you getting more referrals? You already do a great job for your clients and yet you simply don’t get many referrals. So what’s happening and what can you do about it?
- Build a referrals process
If obtaining referrals becomes part of your normal business process when dealing with your clients and you apply a strong “make the process effective and efficient” mind-set you will grow your referrals slowly but surely by improving the process.
- Firstly ask
It’s obvious if you don’t ask you won’t get. Too many people shy away from asking as they feel it may be a bit embarrassing. You have to overcome this irrational fear and do it anyway. If you have done a good job, your clients will help you provided you ask in the right way.
- Determine the best time to ask
It is important you decide when is the best time in your process to ask for a referral. Studies show that people are most receptive after the service you provide has helped them achieve something. Ensure you set aside at least 20 minutes as part of your client meeting for this process. Build the referral request process into your meeting checklist.
- Get into your clients heads
People don’t refer you because they are nervous that their friend, relation or colleague may have a bad experience. You need to tackle this head on as part of your process by explaining that you will ensure anyone they refer will be treated the same way as the client has already experienced. Explain that it is in your best interest to make sure this happens as if it doesn’t you will risk losing both the new and existing client.
- Show how referring someone helps them
Explain that you depend on existing clients’ to refer new clients so that you can spend more time and effort on improving your service to them instead of on marketing
- Explain how the referral process works
The client gets agreement from the new prospect and then calls you or emails you with their name and number after getting agreement form the prospect. This works a lot better than just giving someone a card to give out. You will always call the new prospect but they may not call you
- Explain exactly the type or types of client you want and ask your existing client who comes to mind that matches that category
Develop a form to use while asking and make a note of the names of people the client agrees they will talk to on your behalf. Explain because you have not asked for the persons number you will not be able to call the prospect until the clients says it’s OK to do so and passes you the contact details.
- Record the names of the prospects in the clients file and in your CRM system
You must develop a separate prospects list in your CRM (customer relationship management) system and keep good records of all contacts and their potential as clients. Make sure tasks and reminders are set up for this in the same way as tasks for clients.
- Email or text your client soft reminders once a month for at least 3 months
People forget. Build a reminder system as part of your get more referrals process to send an email or text with the name of the prospect and simply asking “Have you had a chance to talk to XXXX about our services as yet?”. Having a prospects name makes a massive difference as it is very specific.
- Don’t be too pushy
It’s a fine line between reminding someone a becoming a nuisance. After 3 reminders it may be best to let it go and then pick it up again as part of your next face to face meeting.
- Thank your clients for any referrals made
A small gift merely for making the referral is a great investment. If this is followed up by a bigger gift if the referral goes to business you will encourage further referrals.
- Join a coaching program
There are many subtle nuances that you can use to improve your get more referrals process. A good coach can help you improve the basic details of your process to become significantly more effective. This one area will easily pay for your coaching program by helping you grow your business more profitably. If you get something from this post imagine how much more face to face training will add to the ideas presented here.
Enjoy the journey
What is the difference between your dreams and fears?
Of being ashamed, feeling stupid, being rejected, being left out, getting hurt, being embarrassed, left alone, dying.
Of being seen, being needed, becoming independent, relieving anxiety, becoming powerful, making someone proud, fitting in, seen as special, mattering, taken care of, loved.
Marketers put many layers atop these basic needs (horsepower, processor speed, features, pricing, testimonials, guarantees, and more) but it all comes down to dreams and fears.
Sometimes our dreams are our fears. You dream of being a confident speaker, but fear doing it so much you become paralyzed. However, any step towards conquering your fear, or step towards achieving your goal will minimize the fear and take you towards your dream.
They are linked and overall the one is a measure of the other. Moving towards your goals or away from your fears is a common way of looking at the dominant motivational factors of anyone.
So where do you start?
Initially, making a list of dreams, unbridled and without concern for qualifying if they can be done, is a great way to get your first list together. This breaks down the barriers of limitation and forces the facing of fears, small or large.
If your dream is to be financially independent for instance then giving that goal a number, is important. So if £5000 a month, latent income, rising by inflation is what you need, you have your starting point. You need a timeline as, if it takes too long, the figures would be out of date.
Let’s suppose your goal is needed by a certain age, then you have a good time line to work by.
If that number is what is needed by that time line, then you have already set a goal, and faced a fear by quantifying it.
The mechanics often become a fear as you may not know how yet. The beauty of achievement is the excitement of being in a position to discover the how. Without a goal, you are less likely to do so.
Just by being open to the idea, you will discover answers from all sorts of sources. Your internal radar will be looking for them.
Do you remember when you bought a car that you looked forward to getting? After that you noticed all the other cars on the road that were the same as yours. Yet, before, you hadn’t seen them. This is how you conquer fear and build dreams. Your brain is wired to support your wishes. It goes into search mode the minute you tell it what to look for.
Goal setting switches on the search mode and gets your computer (the best one in the universe) to start finding ways to satisfy your wishes.
This is also why Fear is so destructive. You are switching on the search mode for your biggest dread and anything that supports it. Your brain does not distinguish the difference between fears and dreams. It just does what you focus on.
SO FOCUS ON YOUR DREAMS BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT YOU WILL GET.
We communicate, even when we think we haven’t.
If you hesitate to map out your future, to make a big plan or to set a goal, you’ve just gone ahead and mapped your future anyway.
What we do not do, speaks as loudly as what we have done.
When friends do not return your call, when you forget to call a customer or meet a deadline, communication is still taking place. The other day I heard a friend say, he wasn’t late, he was rude. By being late, his friend had communicated to him that he did not care enough about his time to makes sure he was on time.
By not planning your own future you are planning to fall short. As with any project or long term goal, you need to plan so you know you are on track.
Are you being rude to your future self? Do you care enough about yourself to make a plan for your future self to benefit? It is hard to deal with regrets and we all have them. However, the regret of being lazy or not bothering is one thing in relation to others, but yourself? Be good to your future self. Be glad you made the effort.
Imagine always having to report to the future you. You can be your own best critic and encourager. You can accumulate wisdom and find answers within yourself that you may never have considered. The power of planning and taking action cannot be underestimated. It is a force of nature.
Being proactive about anything you do lifts the power level of motivation, happiness and self-esteem. Even if you fall flat on your face, you can still say you tried.
A good friend of mine talks about always going to the gym in the mornings before work as ‘I get to feel righteous all day long’.
The communication we send out is always there for others to see. Emails, phone calls, appearance, timekeeping, promise keeping, all say things other than the words.
Last year, dealing with a client, I promised to get back to him before the end of the week. I did, and actually on the Wednesday of that week. He was stunned. He had never had experience of under promise and over deliver. He was so used to being let down with time line promises that he was just shocked when we exceeded what we said we were going to do.
And here is the most important point. It is sad but in order to be special and stand out with your clients or family or friends, all you need to do is keep your promises and be proactive about planning and delivering your promises to them and yourself.
It is rare for us to always do so. That’s how easy it is to be great. 97% of people do not formally set goals and work a plan to achieve them. You can be in the top 3% by just doing that. You owe it yourself at least.
How much should you pay?
“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all.
So how much should you pay? When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.
The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done.
If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”
― John Ruskin
This is a well know quote but still bears repeating. Sometimes the best thoughts are forgotten until someone reminds you
How much should you pay is not only about money.
It may be that you negotiate too well and sour a potentially good service or relationship?
An unexpected praise or gift
An unexpected praise or gift is when it has the best impact because it is positive. That’s when you know you have made a difference and it is often talked about for years to come.
Learn to surprise and delight your clients, staff, loved ones or even the neighbours. It goes a long way and you will feel terrific too.
Recently my wife purchased a turntable for me. I have a vinyl collection in the cellar, gathering dust, which at one stage in my life were the most prized possessions and loved dearly. Like some forgotten toy, they sat there unused and no longer enjoyed.
Not anymore. The delights of vinyl and dusting them and being careful, as well as listening to the tracks in the order of the album instead of on shuffle. Tremendous.
The reason for the gift? Well that’s personal, but you can find a reason to delight a client.
Take the time to delight a client, family member or employee. Its worth every penny.
- The 7 year itch
- Directions on the path
- I am curious
- Your ideas and story
- Anti – testimonial
- Key people in your company and life.
- When is losing really winning?
- Holidays vs Time out
- Eight biggest mistakes of business owners
- What is bothering you?
- Do you want a new computer?
- Are you setting yourself up for failure?
- A Coach for all.
- What businesses are going to be the best in the future?
- Begin with the end in mind
- Letting go of the past
- Promise Keepers Rule Ok!
- The high road or the low road?
- Should I put a hammer through my TV? – The power of rituals
- Muhammad Ali – Inspirational thoughts