Archive for the ‘Articulating Your Value’ Category

You’re Not in Business to Be “Money-Saving”

You’re not in business to be “money-saving.”

You’re in business to make a positive difference in the lives and businesses of your clients.

And that costs money.

If you make your message all about being “money-saving,” if that’s the very first and foremost thing you’re talking about, that’s code for “cheap.”

And guess who that attracts? Cheap clients who don’t want to pay for anything.

If you make those people your clients, you will always be broke.

So, ask yourself. Are you in business to be cheap or are you in business to make a difference in the lives of your clients?

If it’s the latter, then focus on that message, NOT on discounts and savings and free this and that.

When you do that, you’ll get clients ready and willing to pay well because they aren’t there for the free or cheap buffet, they are there to have a difference made in their business.

Want Better Clients? Do These Two Things

Want Better Clients? Do These Two ThingsWant better clients? Raise your rates.

The worst clients, the ones who create the majority of the problems, are the loudest whiners and least appreciative, are the ones who pay the lowest rates.

When you raise your fees (or simply charge properly professional fees period, not cheap employee level wages), you will get a whole other (higher) caliber of clientele.

Want better clients? Stop calling yourself a virtual assistant.

Assistant is a term of employment. And people who think you are an assistant are the ones who expect the cheapest rates.

That’s because they do not see you as an independent professional in the expertise of administration. They see you as their little “virtual worker” and expect to pay you like one.

Continuing to call yourself a virtual assistant is like calling yourself a teapot. You have keep explaining that even though you call yourself one, you aren’t one.

How much sense does that make?

Why make your conversations and relationships more difficult than they need in the first place by calling yourself:

a) something that you aren’t (and as a business owner, you aren’t anyone’s assistant), and

b) that sets all the wrong perceptions, connotations and expectations that make it harder for you to get the respect you want and the professional level fees you need?

Here’s what else happens…

When you stop calling yourself an assistant, you also begin to stop thinking like one.

It’s the beginning of a huge mindset shift that occurs and you begin to start thinking more like a business owner, administrative expert and leader in your own business.

That shift in your own self-perception and identity is what also leads you down the path to better clients and higher earning.

You Are Not an Expense

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You are not an expense.

You are an investment.

An expense is money down the drain.

An investment is something that yields returns greater than the money spent.

And that’s exactly what administrative support yields for clients. It yields greater returns in the form of more time, more bandwidth and creative space, more energy, greater focus, less stress, faster progress, better business, smoother operations… the list goes on.

Stop talking about savings and discounts and free this and that, and start talking about what your clients GAIN from working with you!

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.

There’s No Such Thing as “General” Administrative Support

There’s no such thing as “general” administrative support.

Well, there is, but if you are only providing something “generally,” you deserve to be low-paid.

Administration is the backbone of every business in the world. Without proper, attentive administration, a business flounders and fails.

Administration, therefore, can only be provided—properly—when it is uniquely geared for that client’s unique business set-up, needs, challenges and goals.

And when that is the case, it is anything but “general.”

So stop using such a derogatory, devaluing word in reference to your administrative expertise and support. What you do makes all the difference in whether a client’s business succeeds or fails. There’s nothing general about that.

When you use the word “general,” you create a subtext that sabotages and contradicts your efforts in attracting well-paying clients who value your expertise.

What you are telling the world and your prospects, in between the lines, is that the support is “less than” and less important than other things they could be spending their money on.

So you are telling them to devalue it at the same time that you are trying to earn their business and be paid properly just by using the word “general” in reference to your administration and support.

Shift your thinking about what you do and it’s value in the world. What you do is vital, it’s important and it’s specific.

Administrative Support Is Not General

Don’t call administrative support “general.”

You are putting it in a very demeaning, unimportant light when you say that.

Administrative support is a very specific skill, expertise and sensibility, and is absolutely one of THE most important aspects involved in a well-run business.

Administration is the very backbone of every business. The administrative engine can either make or break a business.

Therefore, you must stop talking about administrative support in such derogatory ways.

If you don’t value and honor what you do, and view it and portray it in all its vital, integral relevance and importance to the success or failure of a business, prospective clients won’t either.

What you need to understand yourself is that administrative support is a specialization and category of business and service in and of itself.

There’s nothing general (or unimportant) about it.

So stop saying that! Get rid of the word “general” from your business and marketing vocabulary altogether.

You Value Is Not About Dollars and Cents

A few weeks ago, I was eating at a crowded place and two nice little ladies asked if they could share my table with me.

“Of course!” I said.

We started chatting and one of the ladies gave me her biz card. Her name sounded really familiar, but I couldn’t place where I knew her from.

She asked what I did and after learning that I worked with attorneys began telling me about a legal problem she was having.

I told her I had a client who helped with things of that nature and I slid over his name and email address.

She laughed and said, “Oh, I know him! He helped me before!!”

THAT’S where I knew her name from! And we had a chuckle over the fact that it’s such a small world.

I asked her if the attorney was able to help her with her previous issue and she said, “Oh, yes! He sent one letter and they never bothered me again.”

As she continued to talk, I could tell she still had a little bit of bad feeling about what she had to pay.

She must have realized she sounded like she was complaining, and she said, “Don’t get me wrong, I know they spend a lot of money on their education and they have to make that back…”

And this is what I said to her:

Oh, there’s nothing to feel bad about. I get it. Attorneys cost a lot. It hurts to part with that much money. And you are not responsible for paying their education. That’s their choice to decide to become a lawyer. What you’re paying for, rather, is the legal expertise, savvy and ability to find a solution for you and to help keep your legal problem from becoming a much more costly one. So that one letter that cost $500 actually ended up saving you thousands of dollars as well as the time and energy and anxiety of a much bigger legal issue.

She stared at me for a minute, processing what I’d said.

I could see the light bulb going off and she said, “Wow! You’re right! I never thought of it like that!”

Never think things are so obvious to everyone else, even if they are to you.

Your value isn’t in being “affordable” (code for CHEAP).

Your value is in the bigger issues you save your clients from, in the ease and convenience you provide, and the time you both save and give back to them.

It’s in the challenges, obstacles and roadblocks you help them overcome.

It’s in how you help them move forward, much faster than they could going it alone.

Focus your message on THOSE things, not on the dollars and pennies they don’t have to pay.

How to Respond When Clients Ask “How Much Do You Charge Per Hour?”

A week ago I promised my mailing list community that I would share with them a script for responding to prospects when the first thing out of their mouth is “What’s your hourly rate?”

I feel you! lol

It can be the most irritating question in the world when it’s pretty much the first words they utter right out of the gate.

But guess what? You have a lot to do with why they are asking that in the first place.

And no, it’s not because you don’t have pricing on your website. Pricing for professional services doesn’t belong on your website. But we’ll discuss that in a moment.

First, I want to preface things by saying that the response to that kind of question is different depending on the context.

For example, selling products is a completely different ballgame than selling professional services. There’s a completely different context and a different process and conversation involved for each of them respectively.

Now, on my blog, we’re always talking about retained ongoing monthly administrative support. This is what is known as a collaborative partnering relationship. It’s not the same thing as selling products or piecemeal project work (i.e., secretarial services). So understand that the scripts I’m going to share with you are for the context of retainer clients (i.e., clients who pay a monthly fee for ongoing, monthly administrative support).

Unless you are selling a cheap commodity, clients need have context in order for your fees to make sense. If there’s going to be any kind of mutually beneficial relationship, you can’t answer that question off the cuff. There’s a bit more to it than that.

There are simply things you need to find out first from the client before you can even begin to understand their needs, goals and challenges, and then devise your support plan recommendation for them.

When the first thing a prospect asks is “What’s your hourly rate?”, that’s a clear sign a) they have not bothered to read your website (and, thus, are not a good prospect), or b) your website has not properly educated them and failed to provide them with enough information (which is more commonly the case)

When you don’t provide your site visitors and prospects with thorough information, you don’t give them any other criteria with which to evaluate the value. They will always resort to the pricing question when that’s the case.

And that’s something you can correct by:

  1. Stop parroting the same tired, boring, homogeneous (and ineffective) party line that EVERYONE else in the industry is reciting chapter, line and verse. You’ve GOT to stop this people, seriously! This is your business, not a high school clique where you’re only allowed to belong if you conform with the crowd. Blending in is NOT what you need to do in business; you need to STAND APART from the crowd, come up with your own message and speak in your OWN voice).
  2. Adding more thorough content and information. Because you don’t want them asking “How much?” Instead, you want them saying, “I”m intrigued. I can see you understand the profession and business I’m in and the kind of challenges and issues I face in moving forward. I’d like to schedule a consultation to find out more about how you can help me achieve X, overcome X or solve X.”

Now, in the context of your business, you’re an Administrative Consultant who works with clients in an ongoing support relationship and so you’re goal is to find retainer clients.

What you need to do in that case is gear all of your information toward that goal, educating clients about what you’re in business to, how you help them, how it works, how you work together, etc.

Think of your website as a form of mini or pre-consultation itself. Have it answer all the questions a potential client could conceivably ask you or want to know.

The more information you provide, the better you prequalify your prospects (because the ones who are not a fit will weed themselves out) and the more likely your ideal prospects will take the next step (i.e., scheduling a consultation).

So you want to provide a nearly exhaustive amount of information on your website… everything except pricing.

There are many reasons why pricing on your website works against you as a professional service provider:

  1. You are not a cheap commodity that can only be quantified by price. When you portray yourself as nothing more than something on a shelf that they can get at one of a thousand other places, the only differentiating factor being your rates, you actually create price-shopping mentality.You want clients who are truly interested in the value of the work in helping them move forward, achieve their goals, overcome challenges and grow their business. By insisting on that standard and holding yourself and what you do in that esteem, you weed out the cheapskates and those only looking for quick fixes. If you make people who can’t pay, don’t want to pay, or who are impatient with your process your clients, you will be the engineer of your own business unsustainability, unhappiness and poverty.
  2. You cut your nose to spite your face. Some people argue that posting prices helps get rid of the price shoppers who waste their time. But when you do that, that’s the thing nearly every visitor to your site zeros in on to the exclusion of everything else that’s more important—including all the information that conveys your value. There are far better ways to prequalify clients, my friends.
  3. You throw the baby out with the bath water. Here again, when you try to get the price-shoppers to weed themselves out, you’re also scaring off all kinds of other perfectly suitable client candidates who may simply misunderstand what things would really cost and mistakenly think they can’t afford this kind of support relationship. They need context, but they’ll never get that far if you scare them off before that can happen.
  4. It’s not the time and place. Ongoing administrative support is a bigger relationship. It requires more of an investment and commitment from the client, and, therefore, requires a bigger conversation. Prospects need context in order to make sense of your fees and that only happens in consultation, not on your website.

So this is what you’re going to say when the first thing out of a prospects mouth is “What’s your hourly rate?”:

I can’t answer that question off the cuff because my goal is to ensure you get the best support you can afford. Your business needs, the challenges you face and your underlying goals and dreams are unique. We need to meet first in a consultation where I can gather more information and learn more about those things before I can create a support plan just for you and tell you what it would cost.

There is a way to provide a frame of reference for potential clients that doesn’t promote price shopping. And that’s by simply letting them know the minimum monthly investment they would need to make in order to work together. So what you would add onto the comment above would be this:

What I can tell you is that the minimum monthly investment any client would need to make in order to have my ongoing monthly support is $X per month.

And on your website, instead of listing fees, you would instead talk about your pricing methodology and its benefits, how and why you bill as you do, and include that statement about the minimum monthly investment they would need to make.

Remember, the goal is to get them in consultation and talk to you further, not your website, so that you can provide needed context for your fees. When prospects ask the rate question, the other thing they’re trying to determine is whether or not they can afford it. Letting them know the minimum monthly amount helps them do that in a way that gets them to look at fees from a more value-based perspective and encourages the opportunity for further discussion.

Now, my wish for you would be to get away from billing by the hour (selling hours) entirely because it cheats you and cheats the client by putting your interests at odds with each other. It’s a very archaic, UN-beneficial way of charging for your value, for you and the client and actually discourages prospects from seeing your value.

Your goals for getting paid for the value of your time and expertise should be in sync with the kind of goals and results the client is looking for from the work and how that work achieves their objectives and helps move them forward in their goals and the pursuits they’re aiming for. And you don’t want that question boiling down to how fast you can kill yourself doing the work so that the client doesn’t have to pay as much. That will be the death of you and your business.

When you employ my value-based pricing methodology, here’s what you get to add to all of the above:

I don’t charge by the hour and here’s why:  hourly billing cheats you because it puts our interests at odds with each other. Billing by the hour, I obviously make more money the longer things take, and you, naturally, prefer things to take the least amount of time possible so that you don’t have to pay so much. That’s a horrible dynamic for us to work together in! And so I don’t. The work that’s going to truly get you results, move you forward and keep your business humming along smoothly can’t be dependant upon a clock. And when you work with me, it doesn’t. I want to achieve real results and progress for you. That can’t happen by selling you hours. Your needs, goals and challenges aren’t cookie cutter and so I don’t offer cookie cutter solutions. Instead, what I do after we meet in our consultation is come up with a support plan recommendation. From there we can hone it until it’s just the right fit. And you will pay one simple monthly fee for that support. That’s it. No worry about hours running out. No overages. It’s easy to budget for and all our focus will be on the work and accomplishing your objectives, not on the clock.

There’s much more to learn and understand when it comes to pricing and how to talk about fees with clients. And I’ve packaged all that up for you in my Value-Based Pricing and Packaging Toolkit, which I encourage you to check out because it has the power to transform your business—and your life! (Be sure to read the testimonials and success stories!).

Why It Matters What You Call Yourself

It’s not the only thing that’s relevant when it comes to educating your market.

And it’s not the most important thing.

BUT…

What you call yourself is the very first marketing message and instructional tool you employ in educating your market, setting expectations and creating understanding.

What you call yourself sets a tone and informs everything that follows.

What you call yourself is the very first thing that sets perceptions, understandings and expectations in prospective clients, particularly in an industry such as ours where it’s not common knowledge or understandable or clear to most people what we do.

What you call yourself affects how clients think of you and understand the relationship (rightly or wrongly).

What you call yourself plays a role in helping you attract ideal (or unideal) clients. It can make the difference between attracting well-paying professional clients who recognize the value of your talents and expertise, and amateurs just looking for a cheap gopher.

Whether you realize it or not, what you call yourself affects the way you perceive yourself, the way you market, how you talk to clients, how you end up working with them and running your business, and the ease or difficulty you have in commanding professional level fees.

You’re a business owner and expert in the art of administrative support. So stop calling yourself an assistant. If you portray yourself as an assistant, that’s exactly how clients will expect to pay you and work with you.

Dear Danielle: I or We?

Dear Danielle:

I have been struggling with “me/I” versus “us/we” when wording my website. The reason I am asking is because I will have my daughter helping on occasion. Do you think that the “we” sounds more professional than the “I”… or should I just represent as a one-woman-show? Thoughts? —Katie Burke

Hi Katie :)

I have people who help me in my business as well. However, I predominately use “I” and “my company” because the rapport I want developed is between me and my prospective clients.

I also want to underscore the fact that it is a partnership in which we will be working one-on-one together. I won’t be abdicating or outsourcing our relationship or their work to outside third-parties.