Archive for June, 2013

What Would You Do: Your Client’s Clients Are Driving You Nuts

What Would You Do: Your Client's Clients Are Driving You Nuts

So here’s a sticky situation that makes for some interesting conversation. I want to hear what your standards and boundaries are around this one:

You have a client you enjoy working with, who is easy to work with, who happily pays your fees and fits into your ideal client category on most things. However, that client’s UNideal clients are driving you nuts. Your client is far less selective than you are about taking on clients (indeed, doesn’t seem to have any standards when it comes to choosing them) and often takes on really annoying, crazy, sucky, uncooperative ones. Problem is you’re the one who is dealing with them most/a lot of the time and it’s making you miserable. You wouldn’t deal with those kind of clients for any amount of money in your own practice, but they are still bringing negativity and dissatisfaction into your business (and zapping your time and energy) by proxy.

What would you do?

Is this client still ideal? Do clients need to share similar values and understandings around standards and boundaries in order for you to be compatible business-wise? Do you put limits on who/what you will deal with for this client as far as that client’s clients are concerned? What kind of conversation would you have with your client when you need this situation to change?

Is Money a Dirty Word?

Is Money a Dirty Word?

My sense is this might hit some nerves and be controversial to some, but it’s an interesting topic to me so I’m just going to throw this out there:

People have a lot of ambivalence, guilt and negative associations around money. There are so many hot buttons it touches on including issues of self-worth and confidence, conformity, peer pressure, social class, even religion and spirituality.

We need it, but feel somewhat shameful about that.

We need it, but feel guilty charging well (or even properly).

Some people are ashamed if they have too little.

Others feel guilty if they have too much.

Some think those who have a lot of it are inherently evil or came about it dishonestly.

Then there are those in the world who have so little personal self-esteem and wholeness that they gauge their worth (and the worth of others) based on how much of it they have.

I’m human. I’m not immune to some of these pitfalls. I sometimes feel guilty charging. I sometimes play down instead of helping people rise to the occasion and take responsibility for themselves and their circumstances. That doesn’t help, it only keeps people playing small.

What’s the alternative? We become monks or go live in a yurt and divest ourselves from needing or wanting money or enjoying any material pleasures so no one can say we are bad or evil or selfish?

We see how poverty affects people and communities in the world in all its manifestations:  violence, crime, disease, addiction, unwanted children, suffering, exploitation, limited life options and choices… any number of things.

In this world, we need money to live. We need money to thrive. To have choice. Heck, just to take good care of ourselves, our loved ones and give our kids options and opportunities in life.

With money, we can do more good in the world and help more people because we have more resources, opportunities and abundance available to us.

With more money, we can share more.

With more money, there is more ease and less struggle. This leaves you room for more high-minded thoughts and endeavors that can actually change the lives of others.

It’s difficult (if not impossible) to do those things when you are living a hard-scrabble life just trying to survive and scratch out an existence. There’s nothing left for anyone or anything else.

And you certainly are not helping clients if you are struggling financially because that struggle keeps you distracted, preoccupied, unfocused and (let’s be honest), unhappy in a lot of ways.

Back in the day, I used to be more involved with artistic types of people. You’ve heard the term starving artist, I’m sure. They always had grand ideas, but never the money to execute or sustain. The things they did start would inevitably fail and fizzle in short order because they wanted everything to be free and felt guilty charging. So many of them literally feel they are being sell-outs if they charge or earn a good living from their art, that it’s only art if they suffer and live an impoverished life.

And I’ll tell you what I always told them:

The BEST thing you can do for these people and ideas and the art you love so much is TO CHARGE PROPERLY and make money. You will not be around long enough to have any impact or do any good and keep something going if you don’t bring in the money.

If you want to create something that lasts, that’s going to stick around for a good long while for people to enjoy and benefit from, you’ve got to charge and make money and be profitable. With more money, you can live an even more interesting life, have even more valuable, interesting, mind-expanding experiences and personal growth that you can bring to your art and share with others.

Money is not a dirty word. Money is a tool.

I have so many questions on this topic:

What kind of feelings do you have around money and charging and earning well? Is guilt around money something that’s been a problem for you? What other kinds of feelings and emotions do you have around money?

If you are stuck in poverty-mindset, what kind of clients do you think you are attracting? What do you think holds you back from earning and/or charging better? Do you lack the conversation skills to command the kind of fees you’d like to charge?

What kinds of things do you need money for? How do you see having more money and earning better improving your life, your family’s life and the lives of your clients and others?

Dear Danielle: Is Telling Clients How They Can Save a Good Thing?

Dear DanielleHello Danielle!

I have a question for you. I am working on starting my own bookkeeping business, and while I know you are focused on Admin Consulting, I trust and value your opinion. On a business website and other marketing materials, you say to not compare yourself to replacing an employee or saving clients money because that will attract the cheapos, but would you say the some thing for an independent bookkeeper? I can see it working both ways, but I don’t want to attract the wrong type of client. Business owners are concerned about the cost of a bookkeeper and many can’t afford one in house, so telling them how they can save by using an independent bookkeeper would be a good thing, right? Anywho, I wanted to run this by you and get you thoughts if you have a moment! Appreciate all your posts (blog/Facebook/etc). —Candace Moore

Hi Candace 🙂

I don’t normally spend time answering questions that don’t have to do with Administrative Consulting. I can’t, you know? I have my own business to run and other priorities, etc., so I have to keep my time and energy focused. And my interest, obviously, is the Administrative Consultanting profession.

But what appealed to me about your question was that you recognized that, and weren’t taking me or my time for granted. And I really appreciate that about you. So thank you.

In answer to your first question, yes, it’s still definitely true for ANY business. You are not a staffing agency or a temp agency and all those comparisons do is set wrong expectations and understandings. It actually MAKES clients think you are some kind of substitute employee.

And that’s not how you need clients to think of you when you are in business to provide a service, not staff their business.

My answer to your second question is NO, that’s not a good thing. You’re focusing on the wrong clients with the wrong message. People who can’t afford in-house support is their problem. You can’t make their poverty issues yours or work with broke, cheap-minded clients or you’ll keep your business impoverished as well.

Plus, it’s just the wrong angle to take that keeps them thinking in terms of expenses and costs, instead of properly investing in their growth and success. Which is what you are: an investment, not an expense.

You never want to use money as the bribe. That’s not the value, and if you focus them on costs/savings/discounts/freebies, that’s what they will ALWAYS be focused on. You can’t afford to be in business to be their cheaper substitute.

Be thinking of these things instead:

WHY do clients need bookkeeping services? What are all the reasons/pains/challenges that cause them to seek a competent bookkeeping service? How will their life and business be improved by working with you, a competent bookkeeping service? How does having that service positively impact their life, their business, their financial circumstances? How do you imagine that might make them feel?

The answers to these questions are what your value is, not the money or the savings. Speak to those things.

Dear Danielle: How Do I Get More Qualified Referrals?

Dear Danielle: How Do I Get More Qualified Referrals?

Dear Danielle:

How do you recommend I handle a situation where I have received a referral from a current client, but the referral is not the type of client that I want or feel that they would be a good fit for me? Saying no to them puts me at risk of no longer receiving referrals from my current client which I wouldn’t want to do. If I feel a referral is not a good match, do I turn them away, knowing it may affect getting future referrals from my current client, or do I take them on and just deal? Kim Billet, Diverse Office Solutions LTD

Excellent question, Kim. And I totally feel ya!

The first thing I want to assure you of is NO! You never need to settle or take on any client who is not a fit. This is YOUR business and YOUR life. You are not obligated to take on any client just because someone, client or not, refers them to you.

And I’m positive your client would never assume or expect that. It’s just a friendly referral made out of what is obviously a great relationship and happiness with your service.

I’m going to go one step further and have you look at this from another angle as well. Consider the idea that it’s actually your moral and ethical duty to ONLY work with those people who are a fit in terms of both the work and the personal chemistry.

Why? Because you can’t truly help and give your 100% best to those you just don’t gibe with. And that’s not fair to them or you or even your other clients (because your unhappy/nonideal relationships with poor-fitting clients affects them in all kinds of ways as well, both directly and indirectly).

What’s needed moving forward is more clarity and education of your friends, associates and clients about the kind of potential clients you want them to refer to you. And how do you do that?

  1. Have a target market. This is yet another instance where having a very specific target market helps you in business. People need a mental coathook to remember things with. The more specific you are about who you want referred to you (e.g., “I work with solo attorneys who work in intellectual property and entertainment law who need administrative support.”), the easier you make it for people to send you referrals and the more referrals you’ll get.
  2. Be clear about what you are and what you do. Same idea here. If it isn’t clear to those making referrals what you are (“I’m an Administrative Consultant”) and what you do (“I provide administrative support to solo/boutique attorneys who work in intellectual property and entertainment law”), they a) won’t make any referrals at all, or b) they’ll refer any ol’ body for any ol’ thing because they only have the vaguest understanding. You want to avoid generality.
  3. Funnel EVERYTHING through your website. All your marketing and networking, all your signature lines, all your print collateral… direct everything to your website.
  4. Clarify your message and educational content on your site to make #1 and #2 absolutely, positively clear. Your website can then do the front-end/initial work of screening and prequalifying prospects for you.
  5. Incorporate a consultation call to action step on your site that asks some screening/prequalifying questions such as in an online form they have to submit in order to schedule a consultation. For example, you could have a box for them to enter in the profession/industry/field they are in. Or you could ask them a question that reiterates what you do and asks them to confirm that this is what they are seeking. For example, “I provide ongoing administrative support to solo attorneys on a monthly retained basis. Is this what you are seeking?” Those kind of clarifying questions help them get clear about what you do, who you do it for and whether that’s what they are interested in learning more about before you ever waste time in a consultation.
  6. Add a referral page on your website that explains and reiterates/summarizes what you do, who you do it for, who you are looking to be referred and who is your ideal client as well as who benefits most from working with you. This page is then available to your site visitors, and you can direct clients and others to this page as well when they ask about sending you referrals.
  7. Educate your clients, associates and others how to refer people to you. Let them know you welcome and appreciate referrals and here’s the best way they can help you with that… You then inform them that you (obviously) need to make sure there is a fit before any referral becomes a client and so the best thing they can do when making referrals is simply give folks (who fit your referral criteria) your website address. (And then make your website work as that intial screening/educating/prequalifying “receptionist” for you.)
  8. You could also create an online (PDF) and/or print referral kit. This doesn’t need to be anything super fancy. The last thing anyone else wants is more paper and “stuff” to manage and keep track of in their life. So keep it simple. Your referral “kit” could consist of a single one-sheet that summaries what you do, who you do it for, the kind of clients you’d like referred to you, who your ideal client is and the kind of client who benefits most from working with you. Add a link to your PDF referral kit to the Referral page on your site. And make your PDF print-ready for those occasions when you do need something to hand out to folks in person.
  9. Have a clear call to action. In your introduction letters, on your website Referral page, in your PDF referral kit one-sheet, in your conversations with folks who ask about referring others to you, tell them EXACTLY what to do:  “If you know someone in the X field who might benefit from my administrative support service, please give them my website address so they can learn more.” (And then your website should take over the next step in the education process and include that next call-to-action: “Go here to schedule a consultation.”

These steps will help ensure that future referrals are more of a qualified fit for you and your business (and you’ll get more of them because you’ve made it easier and more understandable for people who and how to refer to you).

The other recommendation I have is for you to get my client consultations-that-convert guide, Breaking the Ice (GDE-03). I’ve included an entire section in this guide dedicated to foll0w-up and tells you, step-by-step, exactly how to handle and what to do with prospects who are not a fit in a very gracious, friendly and helpful way. They won’t feel insulted at all. In fact, they will most likely go on to refer others to you!

Hope this helps!