Dear Danielle: I Lost Two New Clients; What Went Wrong?

Dear Danielle: I Lost Two New Clients. What Went Wrong?

Dear Danielle:

I thought I had landed two retainer clients recently. Well, last week one fell through before it started, and I just received an email giving me 30 days notice from the other. I’m so disappointed! How do I deal with this? —CC

Yes, this can definitely be disappointing, but don’t give up!

One of the things I had to realize when I lost one of my first clients is that nothing is static. Eventually there comes a day when a client may not need me any longer for whatever reason.

There are all kinds of reasons a client may not need you or decide not to work together any longer:

  • They are going out of business;
  • They are retiring;
  • They are going into another kind of business;
  • They haven’t been able to make a success of their business and can no longer afford you;
  • They have grown their business to a level that they simply need a full-time employee or in-house staff;
  • They have changed and they (or you) realize you are no longer a fit for each other;
  • You are unwilling to engage in activities you consider sketchy or unethical or dishonest;
  • Your business has grown and/or your standards have improved and they are unwilling to let go of old expectations and accept these changes;
  • They pass away (God forbid)

This is why it’s important to maintain a constant marketing effort and presence, even when your practice becomes full.

There is some good that can come out of this.

First, remember to stay focused on abundance, not scarcity.

These are not the only two clients in the world. There are a million other people out there and you WILL meet many, many others.

And you’re going to get better and better at figuring out where your right clients are, who your audience is and where to find them.

Everyone flails a little bit when they are new so these are just very normal—even necessary—growing pains that are preparing you for your future success.

Second, don’t take any of this personally. There ARE useful, productive things you can learn here. Use this as an intelligence-gathering opportunity and poll these two clients for their feedback.

See if you can get the first client to open up and share with you (in the interest of improving your consulting skills) why he/she decided against working together.

You may find it has nothing to do with you.

Or, you may get some golden information that will give some insight into what your potential clients value that will help you improve the next time around.

You may realize where you can improve how you educate new/prospective clients, beef up your website content, and better manage expectations upfront.

Then, do the same thing with the second client.

Find out, if you can, why they chose to end the relationship after only 30 days.

What went wrong? Did they find something off-putting? Did they not get what they expected? What were they expecting? What was it that led them to expect that?

Preface your inquiry with the explanation that you honor their decision and aren’t trying to change it; you simply value their feedback and would be very grateful for any information they’d be willing to share to help you improve.

Here again, perhaps you find that their terminating the relationship had nothing to do with you. If this is the case and they actually were very happy with your service, but had to leave for other reasons, be sure to ask for a testimonial. Ask them why they chose you in the first place and what they appreciated about working with you (however briefly).

In both of these cases, the info you glean can also help you improve your prequalifying processes. The better you can screen for ideal clients, the more you’ll be able to avoid this kind of disappointment and wasted time and effort on the wrong ones.

So be thinking about why these clients may not have been a fit for you in the first place.

  • Are you consulting with anyone and everyone without any discernment or qualifying criteria?
  • Do you have an ideal client profile? (If not, you need to start one today.)
  • Did these clients meet many/most of the traits on this profile?
  • What kind of qualifying information did you try to ascertain before you deciding to meet with these clients in consultation?
  • Did you conduct a full and complete consultation with each one?
  • Did your consultation last more than 15-30 minutes? (You can’t possibly get any deep degree of information in only 15-30 minutes; it very often takes that first half hour alone just for clients to get comfortable and let their hair down.)
  • Are there any traits and characteristics you would now consider red flags in future prospective clients?
  • Moving forward, what questions can you ask in advance to better determine if a potential client is more likely to be a fit and a good candidate for spending time in a consultation?
  • What kind of information can you add to your website content to that will better inform your site visitors and manage their perceptions, expectations and understandings (and thereby improve your prequalifying efforts so you get more ideal clients who are more likely to become long-term clients)?

You see, there’s always something positive to gain and grow from with every experience, even the disappointing ones.

If you are someone who would like to learn how to conduct more successful consultations with positive outcomes as well as improve your prequalifying processes, be sure to check out my Client Consultation Guide.

Dear Danielle: Where Do I Get Stock Images for My Blog Posts?

Dear Danielle: Where Do I Get Stock Images for My Blog Posts?

Dear Danielle:

Quick question, what place do you recommend to get images for my blog posts? That is, paid and free if you have recommendations for both. —SW

Oh, man, there are a ZILLION stock image vendors to choose from (free and paid). You can spend an equal number of hours trying to look at them all, too, lol.

There isn’t any one in particular I recommend. When it comes to choosing stock images, so much of it is subjective and based on personal preference.

I personally tend to get a lot from iStockPhoto.com because I’ve been using them for years and I prefer not to spend tons of time trying to hunt down the “perfect” image. They definitely aren’t free, though. That said, they are one of the lesser expensive of the professional grade stock image sites.

If you go to my Pinterest page and go to the board Biz: Design — Stock Images, you’ll find a bunch of stock image resources I’ve pinned, many of which are free.

PS: Be sure and check out all my other Biz Boards on Pinterest, too, which are chock-full of useful business information, tool and resources for Administrative Consultants.

Retainers and Packages Are the Same Thing

Retainers and Packages Are the Same Thing

Just FYI: Retainers and “packages” are the same thing.

If you sell hours, a retainer is a package of hours.

I’m not an advocate of selling hours myself because it limits your income potential. (Video: Why Selling Hours Is Killing Your Business)

Rather, I am a proponent of a methodology called Value-Based Billing, which I’ve adapted for those in the administrative support business.

In the case of this billing method, a retainer is a package of administrative support with clearly defined parameters that you determine based on your consultation with a new retainer client.

What’s more useful for you to understand instead is the difference between project work and ongoing support because those in fact are two different animals.

Retainers are used for ongoing support relationships with clients paying an upfront fee every month, whereas a project is a one-time “event” that ends upon completion of the project (designing a website is an example of a project).

There are all kinds of methods people use to bill for project work. Some people think they are only allowed to bill at the end of a project.

First of all, being “allowed” has nothing to do with it. YOU make the rules in your business.

Also, not true. You can decide to charge clients for the entire fee upfront if you are so inclined. That is a perfectly legitimate and standard business practice.

Or, you could choose to charge an upfront deposit to be applied to the final invoice.

Or, depending on the size and kind of the project, you could break it up into stages/phases and charge the client either upfront or upon completion of each stage/phase and only continue to the next stage once the prior stage’s invoice is paid in full.

The reason it’s important to understand the distinctions between the two is because an ongoing support relationship creates actual, consistent cashflow whereas project work and the money you make from it is more sporadic and incidental.

Understanding these distinctions, you can more intentionally decide which kind of business you want to be in and plan and prepare accordingly.

For example, let’s say you’ve gone the project-based business route (the correct term for these is “secretarial service”) and find it difficult and exhausting to market and keep enough of a constant flow of work and clients to earn a living.

Recognizing that you can earn a more consistent monthly income in advance each month (and potentially more money when you learn how to do it right), you might decide you’d like to be in the admin support business instead and can focus your attention on building that kind of practice.

The nice thing about an admin support business is that you can make an extremely comfortable income with just a handful of clients.

It’s also a much easier business to run because there isn’t that constant churn of clients and projects and administration over and over that you have in a project-based business.

Plus, when you have a base of dependable retainer income, any project work that comes your way becomes gravy.

When you aren’t dependent on project work to survive (and the feast and famine cycle that comes with it), you have more freedom to be selective about the projects you take on that interest you.

You might even be doing as well as you please financially with your retainer clients that you find you have no interest or need to take on extra project work (other than that which you might do occasionally above and beyond your monthly admin support retainer for current clients).

Either way, you always have the choice to decide what kind of business you want to be in. You’ll be more successful at either of them by being aware of the differences.

Related:
What Is a Retainer?

Procrastination Junkies

Procrastination Junkies

When I ask someone (who I’ve observed spinning their wheels, sometimes for YEARS) why they continue wasting time in the most ridiculous of places (usually industry forums), they inevitably say, “I’m an information junkie.”

No, you’re not. You’re a dinking-around, playing-at-business, procrastination junkie.

You don’t need more information (and especially not from people who are even more lost than you).

You just need to get off your ass, stop looking at what the monkeys are doing, and DO something in your business.

Dear Danielle: Sole Proprietor or LLC?

Dear Danielle: Sole Proprietor or LLC?

Dear Danielle:

Would you recommend filing a state business license as a sole proprietor or an LLC when doing business as an Administrative Consultant? I’ve looked on the Nevada state business sites and am unable to find the information needed. Please advise and thank you in advance. —Tiphenie Montes

Hi Tiphenie :)

So here’s the thing. States aren’t in the business of advising you about what corporate formation you should seek. That’s why you aren’t finding that information.

You might find something on their websites that explains what the different corporate forms are to choose from in your state, but they aren’t going to tell you or advise one way or the other which one to choose or which one may be best for your business.

That’s a question for an attorney or CPA in your local area or state.

Whenever it comes to legalities, it’s so important to talk to the proper, licensed professionals. No colleague, even the most experienced and knowledgeable one, is qualified or licensed to give you advice on that kind of thing.

And you definitely don’t want to rely on the guesses and “legal opinions” of unqualified, unlicensed laypeople because that could cause you some serious harm or get you into legal hot water at some point or in some way or another.

When you start a business, you are by default a sole proprietor (or a partnership if there is more than one owner). And there’s no special incorporating you need to do for that (although, you may still need to register the business with your local and/or state agencies, but you’ll have to research that as every city/county/state is different).

If you do incorporate, there are possibly some protections and advantages. There is also a lot more filing and reporting obligations and tax designations you may also need to determine.

You might hear around the industry that LLC is the most common form of incorporation for our kind of service-based business. However, that’s a generalization that doesn’t take into account your specific and unique business circumstances and information and the kind of work you are doing in your business and how you are doing it.

If you were to talk to a CPA or attorney, it’s possible they might tell you that depending on your stage in business, incorporating is too soon or not the right time just yet, or may be overkill, or may not give you the kind of tax breaks or protections you thought you might get.

There are just SO many variables unique to your business and your circumstances that have to be weighed and considered by those who are licensed and qualified to advise you properly.

So I can’t recommend highly enough that you do that so you can make the best decisions for your new business based on the right information from the right people. It would be irresponsible and unhelpful for me to tell you otherwise. And I wish for the best for you as well so I won’t tell you otherwise. 😉

Here is another blog post that touches a little bit more on this topic from another angle that you may also find some helpful tidbits in:

Dear Danielle: How Do I Pay Myself?

Also, just to let everyone know, you get an Introduction to Business Formations guide included when you purchase the Administrative Consultant Business Plan Set (FRM-32) from the ACA Success Store.

Thanks for the question. Hope this has been helpful. :)

Punishment Fees Are Not Good Business

Punishment Fees Are Not Good Business

Punishing clients with the threat of charging them more money to get them to stop doing something you don’t want is a terrible business practice and a rotten dynamic to create in your relationship.

Paying you should feel good. It should feel like a reward for getting something great that they gain from, that improves their life and business.

Instead, you are training them to view paying you as a negative experience, a punishment.

I get that sometimes we take on bad clients. Sometimes when we are new, we sometimes expect clients to just “know” how our business runs and how they are to interact with us. And yes, you do need to put certain terms in your contract (such as late fees and interest rates and in what situations they will be applied) in order to have legally enforceable contracts.

But here’s a better idea:  choose better clients. 😉

Don’t take on just any client, and never take on clients just for the money. That never ends well.

Get clear about who an ideal client is in your business and who is not. Write those things down.

List what red flags to watch out and listen for that tell you someone is likely to be a pain in the ass who doesn’t respect you or your business. And then don’t work with those people.

Pay attention to your gut when it tells you someone isn’t going to be a fit. Don’t ignore it and step over your standards.

Stop being desperate. Be more discerning about who you allow on your client roster.

Do more prequalifying.

Conduct more thorough consultations (get my guide that shows you EXACTLY how to do that).

Get clearer about what your standards, boundaries, policies and procedures are in your business. 

Then do a better job of communicating those things to clients by writing them down in a Client Guide, giving it to every new client, and then going over that information with them (in the case of retainer clients) in a New Client Orientation before you begin working together.

Fire any client who can’t get with the program and continues to ignore your policies and processes and/or disrespect you.

Bad clients are unprofitable. Working with bad clients is never worth the trouble. It’s also unethical to work with bad clients because you can’t do your best work for any client you don’t have good feelings for and are drained by.

They eat up far more space in your business than you realize with the negative energy and problems they create. The psychological toll that takes costs more than any money you might be able to recoup. 

Trust and Confidence: Are Your Potential Clients Feeling It?

Trust and Confidence: Are Your Potential Clients Feeling It?

Here’s what you have to always remember about clients looking to hire you: They don’t know you.

You know you, but they don’t know you.

Sure, they might have seen something you wrote–an article or a post on a forum, perhaps–and had their interest piqued.

Or they were given your name by someone they know and whose opinion they value.

But other than that, they don’t really know you.

And so they are nervous, understandably.

It’s a big commitment to decide to work with a business they don’t know.

They have a lot riding on the line. They have a challenge to solve or need to make their business run easier. They dread having to start all over again with someone new and want to make sure their decision is the right one.

This is why they are always looking for evidence.

They want to see clues that demonstrate you actually may be every bit as great at what you do as you say you are.

They want to feel trust and confidence.

So how do you do that? How do you help instill the trust and confidence potential clients are yearning for?

It’s surprisingly simple:

  1. Present a website that demonstrates your competence. What does that mean? Here’s an example: If you say you’re the grammar queen, but your site is littered with misspellings and incorrect punctuation, you can forget about clients thinking you are any good at what you do. No matter what you say you are, it must be backed up visually and in practical demonstration. Even if the thing you do for a living has absolutely nothing to do with spelling, writing or typing, people still buy with their eyes (an analogy coined by Harry Beckwith). They will directly correlate the professionalism and competence of your website (and other marketing collateral) with your actual skills and qualifications for the thing you are in business to do. It all has to match. It’s called walking the talk and looking the part.
  2. Present a website that shows you care. When you care about the presentation of your own website, you are telling your site visitors that you take pride in what you do (a pride-filled service provider is a MUCH better service provider) and that you are invested in their business and the work you want to do for them. Soooo many people think this isn’t important, but it is actually one of the most important things you can do to instill trust, confidence and rapport. If your site shows a lack of effort, if it’s sloppy and lacks any originality whatsoever, what gets communicated is that you are someone who will only exert the least amount of effort possible. That’s not very inspiring, is it?
  3. Give them someone to connect with. Whether you are a solo or the head of a big company, people do business with people. Put your name and face up there prominently so they know who is talking and they have someone to relate to. It’s an instant rapport builder and will make them feel so much safer and more comfortable.
  4. Speak and write like a real person. Corporatespeak is soooo over. Please know I say this in the most loving way, but you really gotta take the stick out of your arse and be a human being! Stop with all the pretensions and being so stiff, formal and uptight. Speak directly to your site visitor as a person, as if you were in a real conversation with him or her. Do this in your writing and in your recordings and videos. Look in their eyes and smile. Let your words be warm and human.
  5. Talk about them, not you. Sure, there’s going to be a sprinkling of “I” and “we” in there, but overall you should be talking about your ideal client and his/her goals, challenges and objectives and what you can do for them. Your copy should mostly be using the words “you” and “your.” If it’s not, go in there right now and turn those sentences around.

CHALLENGE: Today, go through your website. Fix typos and misspellings. Ask someone else to proof. Reword your sentences to focus on “you” and “your.” Make sure all your graphics are rendering correctly and fix any sizing that make them appear wonky. Double-check that all links are active and go to the right pages. A site that is checked and updated regularly is a site that will instill trust and credibility in clients.

(This post originally appeared in The Portable Business ezine on November 22, 2010.)

Never Automate Your Relationships

Never Automate Your Relationships

Yes, have systems in your business.

When we talk about “systems,” those are the tools you use in your business to streamline and standardize certain functions.

Your policies and processes are a form of systems.

Documentation such as your SOP is an example of a system. With an SOP, you have a system for educating someone new about how everything works in your business.

Even your branding is a system because by utilizing a consistent identity and experience, you and your company become known for them.

And by all means, automate your mailing list and certain marketing and other administrative functions.

But people are not systems.

NEVER automate or abdicate your relationship with your clients and prospects.

Those relationships ARE your business.

Dear Danielle: I Have a Bunch of Questions

Dear Danielle: I Have a Bunch of Questions

Dear Danielle:

Thank you so much for all of your offerings through the Success Store! Getting my company planned and put together has been much easier thanks to you than it might have been.  I just need some clarification:

  1. How exactly do referrals work?  I am giving a two-hour free referral bonus to any client who refers another paying client. What do you think of that idea?
  2. What marketing tools have you found the most effective?  I am on unemployment which is not enough to make ends meet, and I have had to get things for my business by raiding my grocery money (maxed out credit).  I am trying to get a micro-business loan, but have not done so yet. Are online directories and search engines the way to go?
  3. How did you find your industries small prospects for sales calls?  Do we have to worry about “Do Not Call” lists if someone uses one phone number for everything?  How much “cold calling” did you do to get started?
  4. About your website screening intake form:  I could not find your business website, nor could I find anything in the store about an intake form.  Is there another resource or should I just pull together my own and tweak it through experience?
  5. If a client asks for a particularly dicey project that I am not sure I can handle, how do I address that without looking incompetent, undersupplied technologically, or setting myself up to fail?

I apologize if you have already addressed these issues. Thanks for your help! –AJ

Whew! I’ll do my best to answer these and keep ’em short and sweet…

1. How do referrals work and what about giving a referral bonus?

A referral is when someone (could be a client, could be a colleague, could be a business associate… anyone) refers/recommends/tells someone about your business.

What do I personally think about paying people to refer you? I don’t advise it.

Let referrals come organically through the good will and high esteem you generate from doing good work. Those recommendations and referrals will carry far greater weight because of it.

Plus, keeping track of referrals and rewards just creates another needless task and complication in your administration that you don’t need.

Here are a couple blog posts that expand on this topic that I think you’ll find helpful:

Dear Danielle: How Do I Advertise for Referral Partners?

Tips for Harnessing the Power of Referrals

2. What marketing methods are most effective? Are online directories and search engines the way to go?

It doesn’t hurt to be in directories, but you don’t need them.

And SEO is the least effective way your most ideal, qualified client prospects will find you. It’s not the thing to waste your time focusing on right now at this stage of your start up.

Your best leads will always come from your own incoming marketing pipelines. And how do you do that?

In our business (as it is with most professional service-based businesses), networking is hands-down the most effective marketing strategy.

Not ads. Not cold-calling. Not direct mail.

The great thing about networking is that it doesn’t cost anything but your time. And that’s not a cost, it’s an investment because those efforts will ultimately pay with new clients and prospects.

The reason networking is so effective is because people look to work with those with whom they have established some kind of relationship and feel some kind of rapport.

Every opportunity you have that lets a group of people get to know, like and trust you is going to make it that much easier for you to attract clients.

Of course, the key to networking successfully starts with a target market. Otherwise, you’ll wear yourself out networking anywhere willy nilly.

Be sure you download the free ACA guide on How to Choose Your Target Market, which elaborates a bit more on what a target market is and how it will make growing your business and getting clients much faster and easier.

3. What cold calling did you do to get started and how did you find prospects for sales calls?

None. I didn’t look for any.

I never did cold calling and I don’t advise you do either.

People don’t like to be sold to; it’s completely the wrong strategy.

Professional services are a bigger ticket item and requires more relationship building and nurturing than that.

Sure, you might hear some people say they got this client or that project all from a sales call. But those are the exceptions, not the rule.

I can just about guarantee you don’t have the kind of money and energy to ever make cold calling a worthwhile ROI.

Even if you get one project, it isn’t going to come close to covering all the time, energy and effort you put into getting it.

And think about it. Do you really think you can keep putting in that kind of work just to get one or two nickel-and-dime projects? You need bigger money and bigger clients to stay in business and be profitable.

There are MUCH better, faster, more effective strategies for getting clients, one of which is deciding on a target market to focus on and then getting involved with that industry in every way you can (online forums, business groups, events, etc.). The more you interact, the more they get to know, like and trust you.

4. Is there a resource for an online intake/consultation request form?

If I’m understanding your question, I think you are referring to an online form you have clients fill out to request a consultation.

Having a form like this on your website will help screen and prequalify prospects.

By asking a few simple questions, this form can help you determine what stage of readiness a potential client is at, whether or not they are in your target market, and whether they can afford your services.

Depending on the questions you ask and how they fill out your online consultation form (which has the dual underlying purpose of helping prequalify clients), this can tell you what level of priority or attention to give a potential client or whether to guide them to further information on your website to learn more before moving on in the process.

For example, if someone is only “browsing,” you may not want to waste your limited time and effort on a consultation. You may instead want to send them to a white paper you have prepared for these kind of instances, and invite them to subscribe to your blog or ezine.

Many clients are not ready to work with us immediately so it’s all a process.

Here is a blog post that talks more about how the consult form can act a prequalifier: One Way to Sort the Ideal form the Unideal.

As far as a resource, I recommend you get my Client Consultation guide. Not only does it give you usuable examples of an online intake/consultation form and questions you may want to ask, it will walk you through the entire consultation process from start to finish: from targeting clients, identifying your ideal client profile, prequalifying clients, how to conduct the actual consultation conversation and what questions to ask, how to follow-up afterward and what the next steps are once you take on a new client. It’s VERY thorough!

5. How do I handle a request for something I don’t know how to do (or do well)?

First, you have to distinguish what kind of business you are in.

Are you in the secretarial business where you’re simply doing one-off, transactional, piecemeal project work?

Or are you in the business of administrative support?

Because the two are completely different business models.

Once you answer that question, it will help answer subsequent questions about what kind of client needs that work, what work is entailed and so forth.

When you know what you do and who you do it for, and educate clients accordingly, this kind of thing isn’t as much of an issue.

However, let’s say you are in the administrative support business and the client asks if you do X thing.

Honesty is always best so tell them if it isn’t something you know how to do or that you have limited experience/knowledge with it.

That said, you can always let them know that you are willing to learn how to do it (IF you are interested in doing so, that is).

Or, you might look at this project or work and think to yourself: You know, this really doesn’t fall under administrative support at all and isn’t what I’m in business to do. They really need to be working with someone who is in the X business.

In that case, you might offer to help them locate the proper professional who IS in business to do that thing.

Or, in yet another example, perhaps you have a separate division in your company that does this thing, in which case you would take them through those separate processes for intaking that kind of work or project and charge them separately for it.

You have to always remember that administrative support is not a catchall term for “anything and everything.”

Just because a client asks doesn’t mean you’re supposed to comply. They need educating.

If you were a plumber and someone asked you to fix their car, that wouldn’t make any sense, right?

And you’d inform them very simply and helpfully that what they need is an auto mechanic, not a plumber.

Same thing here.

YOU have to decide what administrative support consists of in your business and what doesn’t.

When you have that clarity yourself, you shouldn’t have any qualms about letting clients know when something doesn’t fall under the umbrella of your support.

Always be clear and upfront with clients about what’s what in your business. You’re not going to look bad in any way for not taking on or knowing how to do something or needing to refer them to another kind of professional entirely when that’s the case.

The only time you will look bad and create ill will is by not being honest and straightforward.

I hope that helps! Let me know if you questions on any of this. :)

Setting Policies for Great Communication with Clients and Prospects

Setting Policies for Great Communication with Clients and Prospects

It’s true to a certain extent: you may lose some prospects by not getting back to them right away. At the same time, you’d never get any work done if you answered every call the second the phone rang. It can be crazy-making to even try.

As with most things, instituting smart policies and procedures in your business will help you improve your response times and communications. and by informing prospective clients and site visitors upfront so they know what to expect and asking for their understanding, they are going to be more inclined to be patient.

So, here are a few tips for doing just that:

  1. Establish communication policies. Set a standard for responding to inquiries (e.g., “within 24-48 hours”). Decide which inquiries get priority attention (e.g., clients or prospective clients).
  2. Post your office hours and response protocols. Tell folks, on your website and in your voicemails, what days and times your office is “open” and how soon they may expect your return email or call.
  3. Require clients to follow certain procedures. While it might seem like letting clients call you for anything and everything at any time is great service, doing so will actually create conditions in your business that lead to poor performance and reduced quality of service. To be successful, you need to have some boundaries in place that that let you manage work and communications well in your business. Don’t be afraid to tell clients how work requests must be submitted (e.g., you might require that they be submitted by email only) or that phone calls/meeting are done only by appointment.
  4. Get a receptionist. If you worry that a happy, informative Voicemail message isn’t enough, but still need uninterrupted concentration time to get work done, hire an answering service.
  5. Map out a process for qualifying inquiries. There are lots of ways your website can do this work for you so you can reduce the time you spend on unnecessary calls and emails. You can design your website so that visitors are guided toward one action (e.g., submitting a form to schedule a consultation). If you prefer one method of contact over another, emphasize that method and make it the most visible and prominent. Another way to pre-qualify clients is to have them complete an online form that will help you determine if someone meets your minimum criteria for an ideal client and what your next steps should be with that person. In your Voicemail message, ask callers to be sure and visit your website (if they haven’t yet) and give them the url.

Remember, in order to give great service you have to set foundations (policies, standards, protocols, workflows) in your business that enable you to do that consistently and sustainably.

(Originally published August 2, 2010.)