Because I constantly have to guard myself from "bright shiny objects", I've been trying to create a list of questions to use as a template when thinking of a direction, offering or project to chase.
- Does this make sense in my business or is it a distraction? Does it "fit" with the rest of my practice? How?
- What will this opportunity offer me? If it does not provide revenue, profits (more important) or exposure, why am I considering it?
- If it does meet one of these three criteria, how quickly can I make it happen and is it worth it?
- How much of my time will it take? How will this affect the rest of my current life?
- What will I STOP doing to add this to my plate?
- What is the investment required? Is this investment money, time, or something else?
- Is it a one-time investment or on-going?
- What is the return on this investment? (Return on both my financial AND time investment.)
To Your Success!
When I lost a dear cousin in December, it rocked my world. Her death, and upcoming milestone birthdays for me and my husband, have caused me to take a hard look at my workaholic habit of adding too much to my plate.
It's funny how a certain a theme in your life has a way of popping up over and over so you can't ignore it. Taking some things off my plate is one of those themes that won't go away.
This week I had a lengthy conversation with a valued accountability partner. I rely on her to ask me the hard questions as I share my professional and personal goals, and plans of action. She challenged me to review what I'm focusing my efforts on and whether they are things that bring me satisfaction and joy … or drive revenue to my business. I have to admit that many things do neither of these.
The same theme popped up in an email by another friend who sent me the New York Times article by Matthew E. May entitled The Art of Adding Through Taking Away.
Matthew shares that someone sent him an anonymous post-it note with a quote from the ancient philosopher Lao Tzu: "To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, subtract things every day." A project that had been at a standstill became successful when he shifted his perspective.
Because he considered this a radical idea, he decided to further explore this concept. An essay by Good to Great author Jim Collins supported this ancient philosophy. He wrote, "A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally important, what is not."
Matthew's research showed that subtraction was at the root of many professions. Science subtracts complexity when it solves things in simple ways. Composers use pauses – silence – to create dramatic tension. Efficiency seeks to create maximum impact with minimal effort.
He offers some thought-provoking ideas about what you can do – and not do – and put these "taking away" principles into play in your life.
- Create a "not to do" list in addition to your "to-do" list. Give careful thought to prioritizing your goals, projects and tasks. Then eliminate the bottom 20 percent.
- Ask those who matter to you what they would like you to stop doing. He warns that when you ask colleagues, clients, family members and friends what they think you should stop doing, you may be surprised at how long the list is.
Matthew concludes that as he learned about the concept of less is powerful he discovered, "when you remove just the right things in just the right way, something good happens."
Our mission at Consultants Gold continues to be how to help you get more clients and bank more money. Two things contribute to that – marketing and sales. That's our continued focus for 2013, so watch as we simplify our website and our offerings.
I met with a local insurance sales manager this week. I always enjoy meeting with Jim because he is successful, loves what he does and is an enthusiastic and fun person to be around. As we talked about the challenges of developing new business, we got into a great analogy discussion.
You can't beat the laws of nature. Not in life and not in sales. Cultivating new clients is like growing a field of crops. It's a process. You have to plant seeds, nurture (fertilize and water), and then you get a good crop (results). Trying to skip a step goes against the laws of nature and may cause you to miss getting more clients and business.
1. Planting too few seeds. With only a few prospects, you expect (perhaps need) to have every one sprout into a new client. I hear consultants share they've met with a prospect once, didn't get the engagement, so they'll wait for the prospect to call them if they have a need. Not all seeds take at first because the conditions aren't right.
2. Planting the wrong seeds. You can't grow corn using watermelon seeds. Do you really know what a strong prospect looks like for you? Talking to the wrong prospect can take much of your time with little results.
Don't expect prospective clients to say yes with just one interaction with you. Sales statistics say it takes 8-12 times before a prospect buys, so don't give up too soon.
Use the right seed, keep planting lots of them, and cultivate and nourish those seeds. Use the laws of nature to help you grow your business.
If you're looking to cultivate more seeds in 2013, why not consider some private coaching time with me to jump-start your new year?
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PRIORITIZE – From my recent emails, you know I'm really taking a look at my life. My 2012 word was SIMPLICITY and I discovered that won't happen without clear priorities. By the end of January, I will have no more than 3 main goals for the 1st quarter of 2013 – and I will stick with them.
ORGANIZE – Being my own boss gives me too much flexibility so I used STRUCTURE as my 2012 word. I could have used this word again since it's an ongoing challenge, but you know I like alliteration. So ORGANIZE it is. I plan to set appointments with myself in my calendar for key actions such as writing, telephone time, sales and marketing, etc. Just as I wouldn't break an appointment with a client, I will try to keep this mindset with myself.
Yesterday I was caught up in the predictable rhythm of the holidays. Like a well-loved Christmas Carol, this rhythm is both well-rehearsed and comforting: taking out the ornaments I've collected over the years, checking the Christmas card list I've compiled again and again, planning the dinner with courses I've prepared year after year.
But that was yesterday. Today that familiar rhythm has been interrupted by a family emergency. I've been called to drop everything and catch a plane to be at my family's side as my dear cousin, as close to me as a sister, passes unexpectedly from this world.
I take off, urging the plane to go faster in my race against time. I feel the dread as I see I have 2 email messages when I check my phone as soon as they say we can.
With the first call, the shock drove all thoughts of the busy holiday from my mind. The second call with the sad news I am too late brings both joy that her journey is over, and deep sadness that my life will never be the same.
My cousin Karen – sweet, cheerful Karen – is near my age. We grew up together. I thought we still had all the time in the world to visit – to plan – to dream. It turns out we don't.
And that's why I'm writing you today. To remind you that time is precious. And we must use it mindfully, purposefully.
All too often we carry on as if we have all the time in the world. We dilly. We dally. We delay. And all the while, the clock ticks. The calendar page turns.
The truth is, none of us has all the time in the world.
What we have is the choice of how to use whatever time is allotted to us. It is our choice whether to stroll along, oblivious to the tick of the clock … or to live with fierce determination and focus, making every minute count.
I'm going to take a brief break from these Saturday emails. (My "Tips" will go out as usual.) I need to take some time to be with my family … and some time to reflect and refocus.
When I return, it will be with a fresh commitment to stop pretending I have endless time. I will narrow my focus, pick the goals I'm truly passionate about and direct my time and energy there. As you move through the rush of the upcoming holidays, I encourage you to step outside the madness for just a few moments and ask yourself:
What is most important to me?
Where do I invest my energy and attention?
What am I letting slide?
What am I putting up with?
What am I settling for?
Ask yourself, how can I love more?
How can I serve more?
How can I earn more?
Then decide what it is you really want to accomplish and go after it. Mindfully. Purposefully. Knowing you don't have all the time in the world.
I invite you to meet me back here to ring in the New Year. I'll share some of the changes I've decided upon. One thing that won't change is my commitment to you. My desire to give you real action steps you can take to make your business everything you dream of. Together we can go farther.
With my sincerest wishes that the holidays will be happy for you and your loved ones,
It's so hard to believe it's December already … The last month of this year. The time has flown by with 2013 looming in the not so distant future. Now is a good time to take stock of where your business is, to review and retool if needed, so you can hit the ground running after the holidays.
Many times we are too close to what we do to really know the value we bring to clients … And how we are perceived by those outside our consulting business.
There are two things I am doing in the coming weeks as I contact clients to wish them a Merry Christmas and thank them for their business:
- Get feedback and insight into how me and my services are perceived. I am interested in knowing the benefits or results they have experienced by working with me in 2012. I also want to know how they would describe my services to a colleague or friend.
- Get some new testimonials. There are 2 things you have to do to get testimonials. First, you have to ask for them. Second, you need to make it as easy as possible for clients to provide them.
To Your Success!
A few days before Thanksgiving, a young neighbor and I were comparing notes on our Thanksgiving preparations. She was feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of getting a turkey and assorted side dishes on the table all at the same time. I, on the other hand, was strolling down a comfortable rut I'd developed over decades of producing the once-a-year menu.
When I mentioned I'd be making fresh cranberry sauce that afternoon, my neighbor's eyes widened in surprise. "I thought it only came in a can. I didn't know you could make cranberry sauce. Is it hard?"
She reminded me of my own self and the sense of surprise I'd experienced years back, when I first learned that my mother's tradition of opening a can of tart cranberry goo and plopping it into a dish was not the only way to serve cranberries. Fresh cranberry sauce, a cook taught me, was nearly as fast and a hundred times tastier.
That afternoon, I taught my neighbor the same lesson, and sent her home with her own pint of fresh, spicy cranberry sauce. Even if her turkey was dry and her stuffing too wet, as mine often was when I was a young wife, she could serve that special cranberry cause with a supreme sense of pride and accomplishment.
In many ways, putting together a successful consultancy is like putting together a Thanksgiving dinner. The first few years are hard. There's so many things to juggle! You make a lot of mistakes. You learn a lot of lessons. But year by year it gets easier, until one day you find yourself working a comfortable routine that consistently brings you the results you want.
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. And if your Christmas list contains the wish that you had a system for finding better prospects and getting more clients, consider gifting yourself with some private coaching time with me. Because there's nothing like learning from a consultant who knows how to cook up business from scratch.
To Your Success!
After just a few months of use, the handle of a new purse lost it's stitching and began to fall apart. I decided to seek a local shoe repair service in hopes they could stitch the handle for me and make the bag usable again.
The phone book revealed two local shoe repair businesses – and what a difference in my two experiences when I called each of them.
After the first ring of Shoe Repair #1, I got a recorded message informing me that "this call may be recorded for training purposes." No hello – just this message. Then the phone rang 8 more times before a harried, brisk voice answered. I shared what I needed and this put-out voice informed me he was "really backed up" and I could leave the purse and he would try to get to it "in a couple of weeks." I wasn't asking for anything big – and the entire experience made me feel they had no interest or desire in my business at all.
When I called Shoe Repair #2, my call was answered on the second ring. A bright, energetic and friendly voice made me feel welcome immediately. Explaining my need, he replied, "Yes m'am, we sure do! Shoes, purses, belts – we do anything that needs sewing. I take in about 10 to 15 purses a day."
Like the first shop, he indicated he was busy, but proud of it (vs. harried) and very much interested in my business. In fact, in just a few sentences, he'd even thrown in a sales pitch. "Shoes, purses, belts – anything that needs sewing!"
I stopped by later that day expecting to leave my purse, but found he sewed it on the spot and charged me $4.00. I was out the door in about 15 minutes, and would have been out sooner if I wasn't having such a good time being a customer. The experience exceeded my expectations and I had a hoot of a good time interacting with the owner and 2 others "hanging out" in the shop. My parting words were I was heading home to rip apart a few purses so I could come back and visit again soon.
What does this have to do with consulting? We are business owners too … and we need to keep in mind:
- We only get one chance to make a good first impression – and business is lost and gained by it. How our phone is answered. Voicemail messages – those our prospects or clients hear from us, and those we leave for others. Our handshake when we meet someone in person for the first time.
- Business goes where it's wanted, and stays where it feels appreciated. Two shoe repairs — one I'd never connect with again, and one I am seeking ways to give more business to. All based solely on how I felt I was treated as a customer.
- Underpromise and overdeliver. In the time it would have taken Repair #1 to write a ticket on my purse, Repair #2 had the job done. I was expecting to leave my purse and return another day – and instead I left in short time with my issue resolved.
- Dissatisfied people tell 20 others to avoid you, while satisfied people can act as referral sources. (But you have to ask for those referrals as they may not think to do so – but that's another blog topic.)
So think about your first impressions as a business – both in person, online and via the telephone. What message are you giving to others? One tool to consider is my Kindle book – The Million Dollar Handshake: How to Introduce Yourself to a Million Dollars Worth of Consulting Business.
To Your Success!
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