Received a great question today on Facebook that I thought would be helpful to share with you here as well.
Earlier in the week, I posted this:
When you’re running a business, you aren’t anyone’s assistant. When you liberate yourself from that term (and stop subjugating your expertise), you’ll get better clients and command higher fees.
This prompted the question from Lisa:
ok when you contact a clientscustomer or prospect how do you introduce yourself hi I’m so and so’s whatif you can’t say Executive Assistant or assistant what do you say?
Here is the conversation:
ME: What you’re describing sounds like a cold-calling situation. Is that what you mean? If so, I don’t recommend anyone in professional services engage in cold-calling. Cold-calling is selling, not marketing. No one likes a salesman, which is exactly what prospects will identify you as when you cold-call. When you aren’t cold-calling, but instead marketing and networking and getting people to come to you (i.e., visit your website where they can be educated about what you do and who you do it for), this is a non-issue. Or do you mean something else? If you can elaborate, I will try to help.
LS: No, not cold calling. I don’t offer that service in my business at all! I offer executive assistance and transcription services (I know you hate that word, assistant, but I’m trying to reorganize my business so for lack of another word for now I’ll use it.) I work with CEOs/Presidents/owners (i.e., executives) from small/medium size companies and provide full-service administrative support to them. Some are home-based, some are office-based. I have 2 right now who are my mainstays. They use my services for 40-60 hours a month consistently; been working with them for 2 and 3 years now. I do heavy calendar management for them. When they ask me to schedule a call or meeting with someone, I need to contact the person either via phone or email to coordinate a date/time to schedule the meeting. Since most don’t know me initially, I feel I need to introduce myself and rignt now I’m saying “this is Lisa, so-so’s assistant.” But maybe I could say, “this is Lisa, I work with so-so and assist him with managing his calendar. Here are some dates/times he is available for a call/meeting, etc.” I would like to learn your concept and change my business image to administrative consultant vs. assistant, but because of the services I offer, there’s a gray area that is confusing me and trips me up. I’m revamping my business, website, processes, etc. but am in transition right now. sorry for long message.
ME: Nothing to apologize for, Lisa. I really appreciate the genuine question and venturing forth. I LOVE helping people transition out of the assistant mode!
So you mean when you are calling people on behalf of a client, right? In that case, I simply say, Hi, I’m Danielle, so-and-so’s administrator. I instruct clients to identify me this way as well, NEVER to call me their assistant, because I’m not.
This will not be a problem with new clients that you educate/orient fresh, as much as it sometimes can be with old clients who are used to thinking of and working with you like their employee and who need to be re-educated. This is just a fact of life any time you change anything in your business or up your standards. Hopefully, no one gives you any flak, but if they do, you can always point out to them that there are legal ramifications involved. You don’t want them to get in any trouble with the IRS which is why it’s important that you not represent yourself in any way as an employee of that client—because you aren’t, they are your client.
Plus, any client who does give you flak, it’s a sure bet they are not viewing or understanding the relationship correctly and need to be set right. Since when would they tell their accountant or attorney or web designer what to call themselves or how to introduce themselves? They wouldn’t and they have no business or say so about the matter when it comes to you either.
It would probably be a good idea to sit down (figuratively) with each of those clients and have a heart-to-heart with them about the changes in your business and what to expect. Alternatively, because obviously there are practical considerations, if you’re worried about upsetting the status quo with any existing clients, you can continue on with them as you are and just focus your changes and new marketing/educating/orienting approach with new clients. But eventually, I guarantee, as you grow in your new mindsets, there will come a day when you will need for those old clients to get on board or let them go. It’s just natural that we will outgrow some folks who can’t grow with us along the way.
I hope this helps everyone! If you have more questions on this, post them in the comments and I’ll be happy to continue the conversation. 🙂
I opened my business, Mizbooks Media, on October 4, 2013, and started out calling myself a “Virtual Author’s Assistant”. Then I started getting your blog posts to my email Inbox, and read about how you say never to use the term “assistant”, and the change of mindset you get when you walk away from that word.
I liked that, but didn’t think I could change things, given I’d already promoted myself.
…until I started doing a complete overhaul, with a new logo, and new website content, etc. I decided, then, that since I’m still fairly new, and was re-doing everything else, I may as well change what I call myself at the same time.
Problem is, I decided to say that I offer “Professional Author Services (& Social Media Coaching)”, and yet, now I don’t know how to address myself when talking to people. I can say I’m an independent professional. But it doesn’t really describe what I do.
I can use “Administrative Consultant”. But it doesn’t touch on the fact that my primary market is authors.
Do you have any recommendations? Should I just stick with “Administrative Consultant”?
Thank you for your time, and any advice you can give.
Hi Jenn 🙂
Oh, excellent question! Thanks. I appreciate the opportunity to elaborate for everyone.
Quick answer, yes, by all means, use Administrative Consultant.
And here’s why:
A lawyer is a lawyer regardless of his practice area, right? Same thing. Your title is about defining what you are and what you do, not who your target market is.
Clients actually could care less what you call yourself. You could call yourself a chair and it wouldn’t have any bearing on your marketing or the work you do for them.
BUT you wouldn’t want to call yourself a chair for same reasons it’s not useful to you to call yourself an assistant:
1) Because you’re not one;
2) Clients get the wrong idea about what you are.
The word assistant is a term of employment, not business. It is fraught with connotations that put clients in a devaluing mindset. When you call yourself an assistant, that’s exactly how clients want to treat and pay you.
So this is the purpose of your title: setting, shaping and managing expectations and understandings in clients and preventing perceptions and connotations that make it difficult for you to establish a peer-to-peer business relationship with them and command professional fees.
Your website and marketing message are where you spell out who your target market is and who your service is for. Your title has nothing to do with any of that.
Does that help clarify?
Yes, it does. Thanks so much for your input, Danielle! It’s greatly appreciated!
PS… I really love your blog! I’m learning so much!
“I don’t recommend anyone in professional services engage in cold-calling. Cold-calling is selling, not marketing.”
I do not judge people who are involved in “Cold Calling,” but I do feel extremely uncomfortable about it. I do not like it when it is done to me, I find it similar to an infringement on my privacy when people call my home to sell their services and products. It can be very disruptive and instead of drawing me to the product or service it actually does the opposite.
If I feel this way how many people feel the same. 95% of people I know complain about it.
Thank you for your article, explanation and confirmation about this topic.