Archive for October, 2014

Dear Danielle: How Do I Respond to this Client Inquiry?

Dear Danielle: How Do I Respond to this Client Inquiry?

Dear Danielle:

A prospective client contacted me recently saying she found me on the ACA website. She said she was looking to “hire a VA as soon as possible.” Her entire approach was as if she was hiring an employee and spouted off a list of “job duties” before she’d even asked ME what MY process is for consulting with clients. It’s like she didn’t even bother reading my website. I’d appreciate your advice on answering this type of email. —Anonymous

Well, she’s already a disrespectful moron if she says she found you on the ACA site, but is calling you a VA, because no where on your site or the ACA website does it say you are a VA. You quite clearly identify yourself as an Administrative Consultant.

And I say “disrespectful” because it is ill-mannered to call someone by anything other than the name/title they give. That’s a sign of a self-centered person, someone who is already disregarding you right out of the gate.

For me, this would be a red flag because people who are oblivious like that are not ideal clients.

People who don’t read my website are also not ideal clients because it shows that they don’t pay attention and are going to be difficult to work with.

If it were me, it’s entirely possible I wouldn’t even bother responding because I don’t even know how to deal with people who get such basic, intrinsic etiquette wrong like that. It would be like if she called me Diane instead of Danielle. I see no need to waste my time and energy on people who don’t arrive at the table with proper attention to certain manners and details.

I know from experience that kind of person would not be a good fit for me because I would be having to constantly point out all kinds of other obvious things to them beyond that, and they would annoy and exasperate me.

But that’s me.

The thing is, I can’t advise everyone on how they should respond to all their various individual inquiries specifically.

That’s your job in your business.

And it wouldn’t help solve the issue anyway.

What’s really going on is that your website content is very vague and generic so it’s not doing a good job of pre-educating your site visitors about what you do and who you do it for.

There’s nothing there now that is setting proper expectations and understandings so they approach the relationship in a professionally respectful and business-like manner (hence their employer-like demeanor).

And there are no systems in place on your site to help prequalify ideal client candidates and weed out those who aren’t going to be a fit. (Is this really a viable prospect? Is this person even in your target market? )

You’re going to get a lot of random inquiries like this until those things change.

What is going to help you is a) getting clear about what you want to do in your admin support business, b) getting clear about what specific industry/profession you want to cater your admin support to (this is called a target market in business terms), and c) fixing your website and implementing a strategy and conversion system for getting more of the exact kind of clients you’re looking to work with.

And you’re going to need the kind of guidance and learning in fixing your website that I can’t provide you with in a blog post or email. It takes more than that. It’s why I packaged up all my knowledge, experience and expertise in how to “sell” administrative support and get ideal clients in my guide, Build a Website that Works.

This is more than a website guide. It’s a marketing guide, a content guide and conversion system all rolled into one–because a website isn’t just an online brochure. It’s an integral part of the process of getting clients and getting the right clients. It’s the critical link between your marketing and networking and getting those all-important consultations. And not just consultations from anyone, consultations with the best, most ideal prospects who are more likely to become actual paying clients.

You can get my guide and save yourself a lot of wasted time, energy and flailing around blindly trying to copy what everyone else is doing (who, by the way, don’t know any better than you right now themselves), or you can keep struggling. That’s up to you.

Once you get clear about those things, you’ll know exactly how to inform those folks who may or may not be who you’re looking to work with (whichever the case may be), how you might help them and what the next steps in your process are.

How to Leave a Bad Client Relationship When You’re Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

How to Leave a Bad Client Relationship When You’re Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

This post was inspired by some recent correspondence with a colleague who shared that she was mired in an unhappy relationship with a client who is far from ideal.

She dreads hearing from this client and rushes through this client’s work to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, she stated, she can’t afford to let this client go as it is her only source of income at the moment.

What I told her was that she couldn’t afford to NOT get out of this relationship… quick. It’s keeping her stuck and zapping her energy and morale.

What’s also important here, but not commonly talked about, is that we all have a moral duty to work with ideal clients and let go of the unideal ones.

We are not walking in integrity taking money from people we don’t care for and, thus, for whom we are not doing our best work. You’re not serving their best interests, and it’s not fair to them to keep them on.

Staying in a bad relationship also steals your life from you.

It keeps you from moving forward and opening space for the better and more ideal.

You are holding yourself hostage by letting fear rule your decisions.

I totally understand practicalities, though.

If you feel you are stuck between a rock and hard place financially, here’s what you can do strategically if you don’t feel at choice (yet) to let go of a client you are not happy working with any longer:

  1. First, take a moment to be in gratitude. Thank the universe for providing this client to you and for all the business lessons and experience you gained. You can still be grateful even while you recognize you have outgrown the relationship and that it’s time to move on.
  2. For the moment, keep doing what you’re doing with that client. Gradually, when and where you can, make changes that are more to your liking. They don’t have to be drastic. Sometimes, it’s the smallest tweaks that can have the biggest, most positive impact. And with each small success with these changes, you will feel empowered and gain courage. Always announce these changes (without asking for permission) and put them in the most positive, client-focused terms as possible. For example, “In order to better serve my clients, I am now…” “I’m doing this so that you can experience better…” Anything that improves your life and business is always in the best interests of your clients, but you don’t want to explain things from that perspective. You always want to relate that information in terms of how it better serves them, not you. Understand?
  3. Simultaneously, work your BUTT off to get new and better clients, taking them on under all your improved and heightened standards, policies, procedures and pricing, and doing everything in the way you wish you would have with that client who is no longer a fit.
  4. Once you’ve got yourself in a better position financially, you can give that unideal client an opportunity to adapt to how you are doing things now in your business. Write a formal message letting them know that you are making changes to how you are doing business and working with clients, and outline what those changes are. If the client isn’t willing to accept those changes, you can very genuinely thank them for your time together, wish them well and let them go, happier trails to everyone.
  5. Finally, be cognizant of the ways you contributed to the unhappy relationship. Many people fail to realize that bad clients are often created by a) not being discerning and choosing clients carefully in the first place, and b) spoiling them with unsustainable practices. They promise these clients the moon, work with them in ways they can’t possibly keep up with once they have more than one client and don’t set boundaries and parameters for clients to observe. In recognizing these problem areas, you can improve and avoid them in your future relationships. That’s called growing and maturing as a business owner and service provider.

Have you found yourself in an unideal situation with a client, but don’t feel free to change things or move on due to financial constraints? Please do share your story in the comments below as it is very helpful to others in the same boat. They find validation that they are not the only one going through this. And I would love to know, as well, if this information has helped you get unstuck.

Mistakes Are a Given

Mistakes Are a Given

You can’t quit and give up just because you had a bad experience.

Making mistakes in your first attempts is a given.

These are all part of the journey: the process and the experience of learning and improving.

So you picked a bad client and had to fire him. It happens. The good thing? You now know a lot better than you did before about who you want to work with, what red flags to watch out for, and how to more quickly “catch and release” should it happen again in the future.

Got burned for payment? You do things differently in the future: work with a contract so clients take you and the business seriously; require some if not full payment upfront; stop work immediately upon nonpayment, choose better clients, conduct more thorough consultations, set better parameters, etc.

The point is, don’t let failures stop you from continuing to try, learn and grow. They are actually very valuable, useful allies in that pursuit.

(NOTE: I am loathe to even use the terms “mistakes” and “failures.” I only do so here for the sake of using common language. But really, they aren’t mistakes or failures, they are merely learning experiences.)

Not Having Any Luck in this Business? Here’s What Could Be Going On

Ask Danielle

Last week I told you about asking colleagues on my mailing list why they are in this business.

I received a wonderful outpouring of responses, and I’m still working on responding personally to every one.

Several people wrote about having difficulty getting anywhere. Here’s an example from one colleague:

Unfortunately, nothing was happening with the business and then I got very discouraged and didn’t pursue it further.  I decided to put a pause on the business and change my career.”

This colleague plans to come back to the business at a later date. The thing is, though, when she does come back to it, she is likely to have the same difficulties. You aren’t going to get different results doing the same things that weren’t working in the first place.

So I probed a little further and asked her to elaborate and try to give me some more specific details about what she was experiencing. I asked if her difficulty was in finding clients. I asked if she had done a business plan. I asked if she had a target market (and if so, what was it). I asked if she had a website (because the website is a big window into the business as a whole and I can tell a whole lot just by taking a look there).

Here’s what she told me:

“I was having difficulty finding clients. I do have a website. My target market was individuals and corporations. Yes, I have done a business plan. I have networked and reached out to prospects about my company but I think the services I offer is not what popular. I’m not sure what I attribute my difficulties to, maybe marketing and the services.

There are a few things that immediately jump out at me as the cause of some of this colleague’s difficulties. I share because maybe you are in the same boat and it may help you as well:

  1. “Individuals and corporations” are not target markets, they are demographics. A target market is a single, specific industry/field/profession that you cater your administrative support and marketing message to. Saying “individuals” is your target market is like saying “people” is your target market. That could literally be anyone and mean anything. It’s the complete opposite of the definition of a target market. Because the point of having a target market is to get clarity and direction for who you are talking to (you can’t come up with any kind of compelling message unless you decide definitively who your audience is to be), what that group’s particular needs, goals, challenges and pains are, how you can help them in those things and structure your offerings in a way that will be of most interest and value to them, and where to find them. If you don’t decide who to focus on, you’re going to be all over the place talking about things in a way that can only be vague, generic and nebulous. That’s not going to have any impact on anyone.
  2. As a demographic, corporations are rarely, if ever, the best fit for what we do. That’s because they don’t need the solution Administrative Consultants are in business to offer. (And just to clarify, in the context of my conversation with this colleague, she’s using “corporations” in terms of “big business,” not literally anyone who happens to have incorporated their business.) Here’s the thing: generally speaking, big business has the kind of workloads that inherently require full-time, in-house, dedicated staff (and Administrative Consultants are not going to be able to work with any clients like that, from both a legal and practical standpoint). They also have the resources to pay for and house them. They don’t really need us. If they are even remotely interested in us, it’s only to offload non-core functions as cheaply as possible. That’s what offshoring/outsourcing is all about. They could care less about the relationship, and when there isn’t a real need, they don’t place much value on the service. And you can’t be in business to be cheap. It’s always the solopreneurs and boutique businesses that have the greatest need for what we’re in business to offer. They, therefore, place greater value in it and are more willing to pay well for it. So it’s important to understand who makes the best fit (who has the highest and greatest need) for what we do so that you aren’t wasting your time barking up the wrong trees.
  3. When it comes to the service, you aren’t selling hammers, you’re selling what a hammer does, what it builds. My colleague states she thought she was offering services that weren’t popular. Here’s what she’s not understanding: It’s not “services” that you’re selling. As an Administrative Consultant, you are offering one thing: an ongoing relationship of administrative support. What that support is comprised of depends on the target market. This is why you need a target market. Once you decide specifically who to cater your support to, you can determine what body of tasks, functions and roles will be most helpful and compelling to that group. That’s when you’ll find the “popularity” you were lacking before.
  4. People don’t want to hear about your company, they want to hear about what your company can do for them. Read that two or three times and let it sink in. This makes a critical difference in how you are approaching people. But here’s the other thing, when you don’t know who you’re aiming for (because you’re just aiming at anyone and everyone), you don’t know anything about them and therefore don’t know how to talk to these people or what to talk about, you automatically default to talking about yourself and your company. If you had a target market, you would know specifically who you are aiming for, know what their common needs, goals, challenges and pains are in their industry, and you have something to talk about with them. My philosophy about networking is don’t do it. Instead, go to help, be of service, learn more about the people you meet and simply make friends. You’re going to have a lot better results that way. (For further insight when it comes to in-person networking, read this post: Are Business Cards Dead?)

For anyone out there who hasn’t yet decided on a target market, please do download the free ACA guide on “How to Choose Your Target Market.” It will help you TONS!

How about you? Have you had similar difficulty in your business? Do you find this information I’ve shared helpful?