Archive for October, 2011

Free Income and Pricing Calculator

Hey, I’ve got a little present for you today!

It’s our new and HUGELY improved automated ACA Income and Pricing Calculator that you can download for free.

We’ve offered a calculator since 2006 to help folks get conscious about their numbers and figure out their hourly rate.

However, I’ve never been an advocate of billing by the hour because it’s the least accurate way to charge for the value you provide. In fact, it actually causes you to LOSE money and earn poorly.

So for the longest time I’ve wanted to completely overhaul our calculator to walk you through the process of getting clarity around your income needs and help you calculate your pricing baseline in a completely new and different way, a way that will help you actually realize your income aspirations and look at achieving them from a different angle.

I finally got around to doing just that earlier this year, but then I got stuck on a more advanced Excel formula so I put it back on the shelf until two weeks ago when a colleague came to my rescue.  Thanks to her wonderful assistance, I was finally able to finalize our new calculator so I could share it with you today. Enjoy!

PS: Please do let me know what you think!

I’m Cheap and Desperate

“I save you money.”

“I’m cheaper than an employee.”

Get free this, discounted that.

These are not value positions. These are bribes.

And it’s why you’re attracting cheap-minded, money-focused clients.

Bribery does not attract those who value the solutions you offer.

Bribery does not engender loyalty. The minute someone cheaper comes along, those clients are out the door in a hot second.

Because they didn’t hire you based on expertise, they hired you based on how cheap you were.

Bribery signals desperation. It portrays you as someone who is desperate instead of someone who is an expert who can truly help and is worth working with.

You can only frame yourself that way once you stop focusing your entire conversation on how little you cost and what they can get for free.

Dear Danielle: Client Wants to Do a Background Check on Me

Dear Danielle:

I have recently purchased a few of your items and love them. They have helped me tremendously! Thanks. 🙂

I have a question: I have done a couple of consultations and the client has asked if they could run a background check because they will be disclosing some bank and financial information to me. I have no problem with them doing this and can’t blame them for asking; however, I was wondering if you had heard of a service where I could get the background check for myself and just be able to send it to the clients when they ask for it? The main reason for this is that in the same way that they don’t want to hand over their banking info to me, I do not want to hand over my SS#, birth date, home address, etc.

Great question and thanks so much for asking. I don’t have any recommendations for you when it comes to background checks. Obviously, it’s everyone’s personal choice, but I highly discourage allowing clients to do personal background checks. Even if they themselves have honest intentions and are not some kind of shady character, if their computer or systems or office security are compromised somehow, that information can get leaked out in all kind of ways through no fault of their own. Having been a private investigator in a former life, this is a really bad idea for all kinds of reasons.

Plus, it’s just the wrong mindset to cater to. If you were an employee they were considering hiring, it might be appropriate, but this is a business relationship, not an employment one. A background check also doesn’t guarantee that someone can be trusted. There simply has to be a certain level of trust extended to each other or there isn’t room to do business together.

You didn’t say what kind of work you will be doing for them, but generally, trust in business is something that grows and is earned in stages. With some exceptions, of course, it’s very often not necessary to need that kind of sensitive client data right off the bat. You can let the relationship grow naturally as you continue working together over those first months and getting to know each other. As they see things progress and they get more comfortable, they will know the right time to share that information if and when it’s needed.

I do want you to think about this from a different perspective. Have a conversation with the client. What might really be going on behind their request? Do they simply have trust issues beyond what is reasonable? Is there something they aren’t seeing or feeling from you that they need to in order to feel more trusting?

There are all kinds of ways you can help instill trust and credibility without submitting to background checks:

  • Put your name and face on your website. People connect with people, not anonymous, nameless, faceless entities. This is one of the most potent, instant trust and rapport builders you can employ!
  • Put an address on your website. Not your home address, but some kind of mailing address as well as an email and contact number. This satisfies an emotional (not logical) need people have to see that you can be contacted in the “real” world if need be. It just gives them added assurance. When you don’t provide that info, they feel there is something to distrust.
  • If you are in the U.S., get an EIN number from the IRS (this is so that you don’t have to provide your SSN when you are an unincorporated sole proprietor), and then provide new clients with a completed IRS Form W-9.
  • Put a copy of your business license/registration in PDF format so you can provide that to clients as well. This shows that you are credible, legitimately registered business.
  • Have errors and omissions (E & O) insurance and provide a PDF copy of your certificate to new clients.
  • Provide a values/promise statement on your website. Tell clients that you have a feedback process instituted in your business and will solicit their input at regular intervals throughout the relationship. Let them know if they are ever unhappy, you encourage and welcome their feedback and will do everything in your power to rectify any unsatisfactory performance.
  • If you belong to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and have a spotless record, place your membership seal on your website (their code will link to your BBB profile where they can read your record for themselves).
  • Provide clients with testimonials on your website. Have a PDF list of clients who are happy to talk with your prospective clients about you and your work.

As you can see, there are all kinds of things you can and should be doing that will help new clients feel comfortable and safe with you. But do politely decline the background checks. It’s far too intrusive and just not the right place to start the relationship off.

Do you have others to add to the list? Please post in the comments!

Help! I Would Have No Clients If I Didn’t Rollover Hours

I’m holding a class on Consultations that Convert! on October 25 & 26, 2011. One participant writes:

“My consults seem to go great, but they are not resulting in actually getting the client. I struggle with actually asking for their business. I leave them to think about it, no pressure. I would like to learn how to effectively ask for business and how to fill my practice with more monthly paying clients rather than hourly. This has been a long-running isue in my business. Making this type of transition has been very difficult for me. It’s been a struggle to find clients who are willing to pay my rates. I have several clients who prefer my model of hourly rates in which unused hours rollover. If I didn’t offer this, I would like have no clients. The rollover model has been most appealing to clients, but I have to continue to seek out new clients just to make my expenses each month.”

There are two things going on here:

  1. You are telling yourself a self-fulfilling prophesy–that you would have no clients if you didn’t rollover hours. But the problem isn’t that clients wouldn’t retain you if you didn’t rollover hours–the problem is in how you framing your fees in your conversation with them. I can just about guarantee that the way you are talking about fees, you are selling hours to clients instead of the value and results you will bring to their business. We need to change your message and how and when you are talking about fees and that’s going to change the game for you entirely.
  2. The other thing that’s going on, as you recognize, is how you are following up (or not, as the case may be). We are going to delve deep into this during the class. There are definitely specific steps you should be taking upon conclusion of your consultations and we’re going to cover those in class. You may be surprised to know that there are also certain things you need to be doing before a client ever contacts you that will definitely affect your success in following up and getting the client’s business.

If you struggle with similar issues in your business when it comes to consultations, I invite you to join us for my Consultations that Convert class on October 25 & 25. It’s gonna be a lot of fun AND most importantly, you’re going to learn LARGE. Love to have you there!

PS: Since we still have seats left, I’m going to extend the registration deadline to October 21, which means there’s still time for you to join us!

Help! I’m Shy and Conducting Consultations Is Scary!

I’m holding a class on Consultations that Convert! on October 25 & 26, 2011. One participant writes:

“I’m definitely a shy one so just getting out there is a big step for me. Also, convincing small business owners that they don’t need to and shouldn’t be doing it all themselves is the other area holding me back. I guess I feel like I need a giant poster to hit them over the head with to show them why a lot of small businesses fail and how not to be one of them by utilizing my services. And then I start doubting mysefl, if I’m really all that. HELP!!!! I know they need someone like me. I know I can do it. So what’s wrong with me?”

Well, first, there’s nothing wrong with you! (But don’t go bonking anyone over the head, lol)

We all go through this when we first start out our businesses. It can be really scary and intimidating to put yourself out there, step outside your comfort zones and talk to what are essentially strangers.

Here are two quick thoughts that will really liberate you:

  1. If you are someone who is shy or introverted, having a plan–a process, a system–for conducting your consultations is going to be a HUGE confidence booster. It’s going to make things really easy and by leading your process, you instill a ton of confidence and trust in your potential clients.
  2. Conducting consultations is not about selling or convincing. It’s about drawing out and bringing to light and clarity that which your potential client struggles with and showing them how you can really help them. It’s all about the conversation. Once you let go of that idea, it will help you have more heartful, human-to-human connection in your consultations.

Of course, there are a lot of details and learning to fill in here which is why, if you struggle with conducting consultations and clients aren’t retaining you, I invite you to join us for my Consultations that Convert class on October 25 & 25. It’s gonna be a lot of fun AND most importantly, you are going to learn LARGE. Love to have you there!

PS: Midnight tonight is the last chance to save $50 on registation so be sure and register now!

Money Does Equal Success

Our success does indeed hinge upon money.

No, it’s not the sole or perhaps most important reason we do what we do. BUT you can’t be in business to work for free.

If you aren’t making it… if you are struggling and not doing well financially, you will not be truly successful in helping clients. You’ll be able to help fewer of them, and the fate and sustainability of your business will constantly hang in the balance. Yes, money–earning well–is an absolutely critical component of success.

If you are earning poorly, it will keep you preoccupied and constantly scrambling for money.

It will cause you to make poor decisions that can have terrible, long-term implications for your business.

It will keep you from developing a healthy professional self-esteem, which creates its own self-perpetuating negative dynamic.

Money desperation puts you at a disadvantage. It will attract the wrong clients who will take advantage of that desperation. And filling your practice with those kind of wrong-fitting clients will keep you from attracting your right-fitting ones.

This is why earning well has got to be one of your goals in business. Making money is not evil. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, if you look at it like this, it’s absolutely necessary in order for you to take fabulous care of your clients.

One of the ways you can begin to earn better and create more ease in your business is to work with retained clients–clients who pay you a monthly fee for your support.

Working with retained clients allows you to improve your cashflow. With a roster of retained clients, you don’t have to constantly chase after nickel and dime project work. The pace of your work becomes more relaxed, which creates more choice for you in your business. You can make better decisions for your business from that space. It’s easier to grow your business, and not at the frenetic, soul-draining pace that project-chasing forces you to be in.

If you would like to learn how to create a retainer-focused business model and conduct consultations that convert your prospects into retained clients, I am teaching a class this month on October 25. There’s still time and room for you to sign up. I’d love to have you there!

Why You Need More than 30 Minutes for Your Consultations

I frequently hear from folks who are having trouble converting prospects into retained clients. Now, there are lots of reasons why they might be having trouble. One of the most frequent (and easily rectified) reasons is that they just aren’t spending enough time talking with potential clients in a consultation. Thirty minutes just doesn’t cut it–at least when you are seeking retainer clients–and here’s why.

A retained relationship is one where you partner collaborative with the client to provide ongoing support on a month to month basis. It represents a much closer, more personal one-on-one dynamic. It has a higher value, and, in turn, requires more of a commitment from clients. Because this is a bigger, different kind of relationship than a simple one-off project, it requires a bigger conversation.

You can’t possibly get any meaningful, detailed level of information and understanding about anything in only 30 minutes. It’s just not enough time in which to ask the right questions, much less listen actively to the answers and mentally process them.

Clients also need context in order to understand your fees. You simply can’t do that in just 30 minutes.

And it takes clients–anyone, really–at least 30 minutes to let their hair down and really start feeling comfortable talking with you, a relative stranger, about something that can be one of the most deeply personal and important things in their lives–their business. The real conversation really doesn’t start until after that first 30 minutes.

A longer consultation is simply mandatory in order to give clients the space to get relaxed and turn what they perceive to be an “interview” into a conversation. And you need longer than 30 minutes in order to glean all the information you need to determine if this is someone you can help and would like to work with. You may even find that it’s better to spread your consultation out across two appointments (one for the initial Q & A and another for the analysis and recommendations).

In my practice, I tell clients to block out an hour and a half. If you get in a groove and really find yourself connecting, I like to stay in that moment and personally find it beneficial to do my consults that way. But I also don’t expend this time for just anyone and everyone. I prequalify potential clients so that I’m only spending my time with the most likely, best-suited client candidates.

You know, I’ve written a guide that consistently gets rave reviews and praise from folks in our industry about how much it has helped hundreds of them improve their consultations and gain retainer clients. It’s called “Breaking the Ice” and it gives you a complete, step-by-step process for navigating the consultation conversation, from the time they arrive at your website until after the consultation (the follow-up).

REGISTER FOR THE CLASS! This is just a tiny tidbit of the learning I will be sharing in my upcoming teleclass on October 25 & 26, Consultations that Convert: How to Convert All Your Prospects into Retained Monthly Clients and Make Boatloads More Money (Not to Mention an Infinitely Easier Business to Run.) If you struggle with how to seal the deal and build a roster of retained clients, I can help you! AND if you register by midnight, October 9, you’ll pay only $97 (a $100 savings). I’d love to have you there!

Consultations that Convert

Do you identify with any of these scenarios?

  • Do you need to earn more in your business and project work just isn’t cutting it?
  • Are you completely worn out with always having to chase after the next projects and more clients even as you struggle to focus on the clients and work already on your plate?
  • Would you LOVE to have a full roster of retained clients who pay a high-level fee for your support each month, earning you a lot bigger, easier money and more dependable cashflow?
  • Do you wish you had retained clients, but find it difficult getting them to sign on?
  • Do you get inquiries, but find they lose interest as soon as you tell them your fee?

Every year the ACA conducts an annual industry survey of those in the administrative support business. And year after year, the results when it comes to earning are really saddening. The overwhelming majority of people are earning less than $10,000 a year. Nobody can live on that alone, much less support a family!

We have all these wonderful, talented, highly skilled people in our industry–including you–who are working themselves to the bone delivering huge amounts of value to their clients and helping them grow and make more money, yet are themselves barely scraping by on what their business brings in. It is my absolute passion to help YOU turn this around!

One of the problems is that while they would like to provide support, most of them are only working project by piecemeal project. And it’s keeping them in the poorhouse. Project work traps you into a constant hamster wheel of chasing after the next projects, the next clients, even as you are trying to focus on what’s already in front you. It’s also not the true definition of support–which is exactly where the bigger, better results are for clients and the bigger, easier money is for you.

Working on a support basis (as opposed to a piecemeal, task-based project basis) will also allow you to create a much simpler, easier business to run and manage with far less marketing involved. And when you have that, you have a lot more flexibility, time for life, and room to grow at your own desired pace.

Ongoing support is a much higher value that comes with a higher price tag and more of a commitment. It necessarily requires a completely different, more in-depth conversation than you would have with project work. There is a very specific sequence and process to follow in order to properly frame things and help clients see that value and commit to paying well for it. And that’s what I’m going to show you how to do this month!

How to Convert All Your Prospects into Retained Monthly Clients & Make Boatloads More Money (Not to Mention an Infinitely Easier Business)

DATE: October 25 & 26, 2011 (1.5 hours each session)
TIME: 12p PT /1p MT/ 2p CT/3p ET
(Need time zone help? Go to: TimeAndDate.com)

For this teleclass, we’ll get together for two sessions, an hour and a half each day. This is going to be a tight, jam-packed informative class where you’ll learn about:

  • How working with a base of monthly retained clients helps you earn more and manage your business more easily while working LESS
  • Why the consultation conversation is so important and how it helps persuade
  • What should happen before the consultation
  • Pre-qualifying clients so your time is spent only with the most qualified prospects
  • How long to spend in consultations
  • How to lead and conduct the consultation
  • What questions to ask and why
  • When and how to talk about fees (and why this order is vitally important)
  • What to do with Yes, No and Maybe clients
  • How to follow-up the consultation and seal the deal!
  • And so much more!

We’ll touch on some marketing aspects of conducting “consultations that convert” as well, including:

  • How to pre-educate clients before the conversation
  • Dealing with client objections
  • How a target market helps attract the right prospective clients
  • Why talking to the right people is so important

You’ll also go home with my client consultation process guide, Breaking the Ice, as well as other materials and a full recording of the entire class.

Plus…

You’ll also receive a personal one-hour coaching session with me to go over any parts of the training that you need additional help with.

Taking this class could very well change the entire direction of your business and fortunes!

If you struggle in this area, I can show you how to stop struggling, lead your consultations with ease and confidence, and seal the deal! I would LOVE to see you there. I am so passionate about this topic and there is so much I can teach you that can change everything around for you.

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Deadline to register is October 19, 2011, or until all available seats are filled, whichever comes sooner.

COST: The cost of this class is $197, but you can get in for only $97 (a savings of $100) if you register by midnight, October 9.

Register and save your spot today!