Archive for the ‘Trust and Credibility’ Category

How to Talk About Mistakes with Clients Before They Happen

How to Talk About Mistakes with Clients Before They Happen

You are going to make mistakes.

I can tell you this right now with absolute, 100% certainty.

It’s just a fact of life as a human being.

They may not be convenient. They are often messy and untidy, but mistakes and imperfections are the patina of life.

At the very least, you have to accept this. You might even embrace it and have it work in your favor.

Talking about mistakes with clients before they happen and how those situations are handled can be really useful in any truly authentic consultation discussion.

In fact, as crazy as it sounds, talking frankly about mistakes actually puts clients at ease.

They trust you more because you aren’t making far-fetched promises they know in their heart simply aren’t feasible.

Someone who says they never make mistakes is full of it (or delusional).

No matter how attractive fantasies and wishful thinking are, we all recognize this at a very basic level.

And so you become someone much more trustworthy and believable in their eyes when you admit the truth of the matter.

That’s not to say you should be telling clients, “Yeah, I’m gonna make mistakes left and right, all day long.”

You wouldn’t be a competent professional worth paying if that was the case.

The point is that while you should absolutely be at the top of your game and always giving your best to clients, there are going to be occasions when a mistake happens.

You might misunderstand something or lack information. It’s also not always clear when you need clarification and you proceed with what you think is the complete picture.

Whatever the case, there are simply going to be occasions (and they should occasions, not the norm) when either external or internal factors foul you up.

When it comes to conducting consultations with prospective clients, you want to get a feel for how they will handle those situations as well as be upfront and clear about how you expect to be treated in any circumstance.

Talking about these situations before they come up lets new clients know how to behave if/when they occur. At the same time, it helps you weed out potentially wrong-fitting clients and bring everyone’s attitudes and expectations to a more conscious level of awareness and mutual understanding.

This is what is formally called in business as “managing client expectations.”

What I like to tell prospective clients is basically this:

“I am exceptionally good at what I do. I can absolutely, confidently declare this. I’m also human and once in awhile, I am going to make a mistake. I very much need and want to know if/when that happens so I can fix it and work to ensure it doesn’t happen again where that’s possible. I welcome your input and feedback. To make sure our relationship remains happy, mutually respectful and most importantly, helpful to you, I look to work with clients who aren’t so quick to be upset, but rather will trust and have confidence in the fact that I will make things right once it is brought to my attention. And I will always strive to earn and maintain that trust and confidence. At any time that I fail to maintain your trust and confidence in my service and abilities, I would fully expect that you’d want to end our relationship. In any situation, I always, always expect to be treated and spoken to respectfully, with the same courtesy, respect and professionalism that it is my standard to extend to you and all my clients.”

This, of course, is always delivered conversationally, but those are the main points I like to cover.

We then have a discussion about their thoughts on the subject. Based on their tone and responses in this discussion, I can usually tell (or at least simply decide) if someone seems like he or she would be a good client to work with, one who will be likely to maintain calm composure, respect and professionalism towards me in the event a mistake is made.

[Important Side Note: You naturally want clients with whom you can have great relationships. Plain and simple, it’s just not profitable or energizing to work with poor-fitting, abusive clients. And so you choose clients well as best you can. That’s all any of us can do, and it’s one of the important reasons to conduct thorough consultations. But if it turns out a client isn’t so great to work with, you always have the option of ending the relationship. You are never stuck. Always remember that.]

Unrealistic expectations are often rooted in impossible ideas of perfection. In talking about mistakes when I conduct consultations with clients, and how they should be viewed, I like to use proofreading as an analogy.

I explain that the value of a proofreader is not that he or she is going to be absolutely perfect 100% of the time. That’s unreasonable and humanly impossible. We should never proofread our own work because we can’t see our mistakes much of the time. Even if you give that work to five other people, each of those five people is going to miss something, guaranteed. So while all of us (including clients) might work and strive for perfection, we always need to keep in mind that it’s not “perfectly” attainable. Likewise, the value in great proofreading is not that the proofreader will never, ever miss something. Even if they are pretty darn close to being perfect, their true value is that they have a firm command of the language and rules of grammar, punctuation and usage to know what to look for in the first place. Skill is important, but without that knowledge and sensibility at the core, there would be no skill.

So this is the part of the conversation I have with clients during our consultation to help shape their expectations and feel them out with regard to how they deal with mistakes (or any other situation for that matter) and what ideas they may have about perfection.

The more you conduct consultations, have these discussions and work with clients, the more you’ll develop your own green and red flag intuitions for deciding who is likely to be a great client, and who is more likely to be a demoralizing soul sucker with unreasonable standards of perfection.

(Hint: Prospects who have realistic expectations about mistakes and give all indications of being able to maintain an even keel and professional demeanor towards you tend to make for better, more ideal clients. 😉 )

Breaking the Ice: Your Complete, Step-by-Step System for Confidently Leading the Consultation Conversation and Converting Prospects into Well-Paying Monthly Clients Who Can't Wait to Work with You (GDE-03)

If you are looking to grow a practice of ideal clients who pay you a monthly retainer fee for your administrative support, check out my guide on successfully conducting client consultations: Breaking the Ice: Your Complete, Step-by-Step System for Confidently Leading the Consultation Conversation and Converting Prospects into Well-Paying Monthly Clients Who Can’t Wait to Work with You (GDE-03). In this guide, I share with you my entire, fool-proof system—based on 20 years successful experience in this business— for getting every client I want, every time.

Wearing a Stethoscope Doesn’t Make You a Doctor

Wearing a Stethoscope Doesn't Make You a Doctor

So I see this question come across my Google Alerts:

“I have a client who wants to get more calls with potential clients and she wants me to create a plan for this. Any ideas?”

I find these kind of questions irritating when they come from people who are supposedly in the administrative support business.

Why are you even entertaining this kind of request? Oh, are you a marketing consultant/lead generation expert now, too?

It’s exactly like if a customer were to ask their plumber to fix their car.

Plumbers don’t fix cars. That’s not their expertise or the business they’re in. If someone needs their car repaired, they need to go to an auto mechanic.

Just because a client requests something doesn’t mean you are the proper professional for them to be asking or that you need to accommodate it.

This person doesn’t know what business she’s in or where to draw the line.

Her client needs to be informed that this is not administrative work and they need to consult with the correct professional who is actually qualified and in that kind of business (which in this instance, as mentioned, would be some kind of marketing consultant and/or lead generation expert).

(And this client very likely knows this; he/she is just trying to take advantage of someone who doesn’t know any better than to let cheapskate clients who don’t want to pay proper professionals lead her around by the nose on wild goose chases.)

You are needlessly complicating and muddying the waters of your business scope and distracting yourself from that focus.

And contrary to popular belief, trying to be anything and everything, taking on anything and everything, actually keeps you from earning better in your business. (It’s also the dead give-away of a rank amateur. Experts focus.)

Likewise, if you are asking your colleagues for their “ideas” on how to do something, that’s the first clue you don’t have the proper knowledge, background or qualifications, and have no business taking on that work. It’s unethical.

Just because you own Illustrator doesn’t make you a designer any more than owning a camera makes you a professional photographer or wearing a stethoscope makes you a doctor.

There is industry-specific knowledge, education and training, experience and talent that qualify someone for a specific expertise, which is also what defines and distinguishes industries/professions from each other.

Stop wasting clients’ time and money.

You do them a far better service by clearly educating them about what you ARE in business to provide and informing them that they need to consult with the proper professionals in X industry when they need something that is not what you are in business (nor qualified) to do.

And PS: doing so will garner you infinitely more trust, credibility and respect when you do.

Trust and Confidence: Are Your Potential Clients Feeling It?

Trust and Confidence: Are Your Potential Clients Feeling It?

Here’s what you have to always remember about clients looking to hire you: They don’t know you.

You know you, but they don’t know you.

Sure, they might have seen something you wrote–an article or a post on a forum, perhaps–and had their interest piqued.

Or they were given your name by someone they know and whose opinion they value.

But other than that, they don’t really know you.

And so they are nervous, understandably.

It’s a big commitment to decide to work with a business they don’t know.

They have a lot riding on the line. They have a challenge to solve or need to make their business run easier. They dread having to start all over again with someone new and want to make sure their decision is the right one.

This is why they are always looking for evidence.

They want to see clues that demonstrate you actually may be every bit as great at what you do as you say you are.

They want to feel trust and confidence.

So how do you do that? How do you help instill the trust and confidence potential clients are yearning for?

It’s surprisingly simple:

  1. Present a website that demonstrates your competence. What does that mean? Here’s an example: If you say you’re the grammar queen, but your site is littered with misspellings and incorrect punctuation, you can forget about clients thinking you are any good at what you do. No matter what you say you are, it must be backed up visually and in practical demonstration. Even if the thing you do for a living has absolutely nothing to do with spelling, writing or typing, people still buy with their eyes (an analogy coined by Harry Beckwith). They will directly correlate the professionalism and competence of your website (and other marketing collateral) with your actual skills and qualifications for the thing you are in business to do. It all has to match. It’s called walking the talk and looking the part.
  2. Present a website that shows you care. When you care about the presentation of your own website, you are telling your site visitors that you take pride in what you do (a pride-filled service provider is a MUCH better service provider) and that you are invested in their business and the work you want to do for them. Soooo many people think this isn’t important, but it is actually one of the most important things you can do to instill trust, confidence and rapport. If your site shows a lack of effort, if it’s sloppy and lacks any originality whatsoever, what gets communicated is that you are someone who will only exert the least amount of effort possible. That’s not very inspiring, is it?
  3. Give them someone to connect with. Whether you are a solo or the head of a big company, people do business with people. Put your name and face up there prominently so they know who is talking and they have someone to relate to. It’s an instant rapport builder and will make them feel so much safer and more comfortable.
  4. Speak and write like a real person. Corporatespeak is soooo over. Please know I say this in the most loving way, but you really gotta take the stick out of your arse and be a human being! Stop with all the pretensions and being so stiff, formal and uptight. Speak directly to your site visitor as a person, as if you were in a real conversation with him or her. Do this in your writing and in your recordings and videos. Look in their eyes and smile. Let your words be warm and human.
  5. Talk about them, not you. Sure, there’s going to be a sprinkling of “I” and “we” in there, but overall you should be talking about your ideal client and his/her goals, challenges and objectives and what you can do for them. Your copy should mostly be using the words “you” and “your.” If it’s not, go in there right now and turn those sentences around.

CHALLENGE: Today, go through your website. Fix typos and misspellings. Ask someone else to proof. Reword your sentences to focus on “you” and “your.” Make sure all your graphics are rendering correctly and fix any sizing that make them appear wonky. Double-check that all links are active and go to the right pages. A site that is checked and updated regularly is a site that will instill trust and credibility in clients.

(This post originally appeared in The Portable Business ezine on November 22, 2010.)

Are You Being Phoney-Baloney?

Are You Being a Phoney-Baloney?

It’s not necessary to be a phoney-baloney in your marketing to get clients.

If you’re a solo, don’t pretend you’re a bigger company.

When it comes down to it, that’s just plain dishonest, a lie.

Is that really how you want to start your valued new client relationships?

And what kind of clients will you end up with based on false pretenses?

What happens to trust once they find out they’ve been snookered, manipulated?

Trust, credibility and rapport are established through honesty and by demonstrating your competence, professionalism and capabilities through your writing, the presentation of your website and other marketing collateral, and the polish and effectiveness of your policies, processes and protocols.

I get that people want to help clients see how skilled, competent and credible they are, and that some think the only way to do that is to portray themselves as bigger as if they have more people involved in their business than there actually are.

But dishonesty is never the answer.

Engaging in false presenses belies your own low professional self-esteem and the belief that you are not enough, that the way you operate your business as a solo is not enough.

It’s also presuming that prospective clients have any problem with it.

Imagine the better fitting clients you would get, client it would be more joyful to work with, simply by sharing honestly the size of your business and how you operate, and being the real you.

I have two categories on my blog here with posts that will help you learn how to instill trust and demonstrate your competence without being dishonest or unethical:

Trust & Credibility
Demonstrating Your Expertise

Check ’em out!

You Don’t Have a Portfolio

You don’t have a portfolio when you’re in the admin support business because admin support is a service, not a tangible, visible product (like design is).

Rather, your “portfolio” is the experience clients get dealing with you.

It’s your service, your communication, your responsiveness, your policies, processes and procedures, your systems, your standards, how your website looks and works, what your testimonials say, your case studies…

These are all demonstrations—samplings and examples—of your expertise, competence, professionalism and the service experience clients will get should they decide to work with you.

And if they are positive, if they are smooth, if they are well-executed, those are the things that instill confidence and trust in your potential clients.

5 Options for Getting a Business Mailing Address

3 Options for Getting a Business Mailing Address

Your #1 job in marketing is establishing trust. Having an address on your website is an important trust and credibility factor.

When you don’t have one, people wonder what you’re hiding. However, for personal privacy and safety reasons, as well as establishing boundaries, it’s not a good idea to use your home address.

Here are five options for getting a business mailing address to erase skepticism while keeping your safety and personal boundaries intact:

1. Get a post office box from your local USPS branch. The cost is minimal, it’s a tax deductible business expense and you can apply for, manage and pay for your PO box conveniently online. These days, the post office even allows you to spell out the address which can look nicer on your letterhead than “PO Box ###”. Prices vary slightly from branch to branch depending on location and can cost as little as $8/month. Visit https://poboxes.usps.com/poboxonline/search/landingPage.do for more information.

2. Get a PO box from a USPS Approved Provider. Many of your local businesses (e.g., drug stores, hardware stores, grocery stores, etc.) are also Contracted Postal Units from which you can get a PO box. This expands your options for finding the nearest convenient location. You can use the link above to search, but I’ll be honest, you might also have to just ask around as I’ve found it doesn’t necessarily give you complete results.

3. Get an EarthClassMail Virtual Mailroom. A bit pricey, but this is a really nifty service. You get a address you can use for your business and have mail sent to. They receive your mail and scan it into PDFs which can then be viewed and managed onscreen via your admin panel. Quickly and easily sort through junk mail and have them recycle or shred anything you don’t want. You can store your mail online and have them send you any physical pieces you like. These are just a few of the features and options available. Check it out at EarthClassMail.com.

4. Get a Virtual Office Location. Many similar services are springing up these days that will provide you with a business mailing address and mail receipt and forwarding. One such service is Davinci Virtual Office Solutions (they also offer virtual receptionist services). Check them out for a location near you.

5.  The UPS Store. Get a real street address (not a PO box), package notification and more. You get 24-hour access and with their MailCheck® service you can call in to see if you have mail before you make a trip. Visit TheUPS Store.com for more information.

Are You an Irritant In Someone’s Day?

Are You an Irritant in Someone's Day?

What are you doing to respect the time of others by NOT creating loose ends and being an irritation to them?

This is important when it comes to your business.

Clients do not work with people who irritate them by creating more unnecessary work, follow-up and loose ends to deal with.

Colleagues will not work with you either when that’s the case.

If you create more problems and work for them, they will not have any confidence in your ability to keep organized, follow-through and respond to things in a timely manner (or at all) and will not refer anyone to you.

Plus, wasting people’s time is a sin. 😉

When you fail to meet deadlines, when you take days or weeks to respond to messages, when you don’t follow-through as promised or requested, what you are marketing is that you are not competent, professional, capable or reliable.

All of which will lose you business and clients.

Always put your most professional foot forward no matter who you are dealing with. Everyone is making judgments and assessments about your skills, competence and professionalism.

And everyone is a potential referral source.

Dear Danielle: Should Prospects Be Allowed to Contact Clients Who Have Provided Testimonials?

Last Chance to Save: Register by midnight, August 5, to save $50! http://www.administrativeconsultantsassoc.com/classes/2013/091913

Dear Danielle:

Do you think I should allow a prospective client to contact my “testimonials” to get information about me.  They call them references, but they’re not references, they’re testimonials from folks I’ve known and/or worked with over the years who have spoken highly of me and my work. I told the prospective client that I do not want them to contact my testimonials directly without their permission. I provide testimonials and they can view recommendations on my LinkedIn profile to further my credibility, but that’s it. If I allowed every prospective client to contact my testimonials or recommendations, they would be inundated with calls and emails and I do not want to burden them with that. I told the prospective client that I operate as a professional business provider and that I wasn’t applying for a job or work as an employee, but rather offering my services to them. If they wanted to do business with me, then they should take the testimonials and recommendations for their face value and trust that they are authentic. Otherwise we are not the right fit to work together. I may have lost this opportunity to work with the client….I haven’t heard back from her yet. But I feel strongly about this. Do you think I did the right thing? I don’t want them to think I’m hiding something by telling them I don’t want them to contact people directly. I’m confused…I know. Any advice would be greatly appreciated thanks much!  —Anonymous by request

Thanks for the great question! And as usual, I have lots of feedback for ya. 🙂

I feel the same as you about it:  Much as I know they love me, I don’t want my past or current clients pestered by every Tom, Dick or Harry who comes along. That’s one of the reasons I gathered their testimonials in the first place:  to have that information already prepared for prospective clients and save and be respectful of my clients’ time and energy.

Plus, there are lots of reasons why many service professionals prefer their client lists be confidential, this being one of them.

What I do in my practice is reserve that information only for serious prospects. In my practice, that means only those who I’ve prequalifed as good client candidates, met in consultation already and determined there is enough of a fit to move further in the process.

If I’m asked, I let prospective clients know that I am happy to provide contact information of those clients who have given me permission to give it out and are happy to speak with others about my work once we have met in consultation.

However, I have to say that I’ve never been asked! And I firmly believe it’s because of the way I have presented testimonials on my website.

When your prospective clients and site visitors get all the competence and credibility they’re looking for demonstrated on your website, they don’t feel the need to go to elaborate lengths. You’ve gained their trust enough that they put faith in what you’ve presented because all evidence (your demonstration of skill and competence) tells them to take things at the face value you’re wanting them to.

When it comes to testimonials, the more transparency you provide, the better. What I mean is when you put a real face to an actual name, people put more trust and credibility in the testomonial.

You don’t have to have testimonials from every single client you’ve ever had, nor do you have to put your entire client list, past and present, on display. Even just a couple well-written and nicely presented testimonials will accomplish everything you need them to.

So how I’ve done that is by including with the testimonial:

  • A headshot of the client
  • The client’s full name
  • The URL of their website

With that information you are making it clear this is a real person and real testimonial. When you make it real, people feel far more trusting of the information, which is what you’re trying to accomplish.

And then try to get testimonials that give useful, substantive information. Simple statements like “She is great to work with!” may be well-intentioned and genuine, but they are pretty boring and useless as testimonials. I’ve developed the ACA Client Feedback Form (FRM-04) and the Client Info Sheet (FRM-06) to be used together to both elicit great testimonials and develop before and after case studies. I highly recommend you check them out.

Another thought occurred to me that I’m going to throw out here as well. You mention that this person referred to “references.” The concern I have is they are not understanding the nature of the relationship, which leads me to ask, why not?

Examine the content on your website.

Your website should be pre-educating clients in a way that they correctly understand the nature of the relationship, and that they aren’t interviewing you for a position, they are seeking collaborative support and guidance from an administrative expert.

Big difference in definitions and big difference in how they will approach you in their demeanor and understanding as well. So that’s really important.

If you are talking about yourself like an assistant, they are naturally going to go about things as if you were. They don’t know any better. So it’s your place and in your best interests and priority to educate, inform and instruct them as to how to go about things with you.

On the flip side of that is to look at where clients like this are coming from.

There are lots of channels where clients are being completely miseducated about what we do and what our relationship to them is. Indeed, so many are getting the impression that we are basically under-the-table employees. So, if you are getting prospects from avenues where they are being miseducated, those are not good client pipelines for you.

Improve your message and educational information on your website so that prospects are properly informed before they ever contact you, then focus on developing your own target market pipelines, and you’ll get far fewer (if any) of those kind of inquiries in the future.

Let me know if this is helpful. And as always, we can continue the conversation in the comments.

All my best!

Are You a Proficient Business Owner?

I’m not talking about being masterfully skilled at the thing you are in business to do.

I’m talking about being ALSO masterfully skilled at running a business.

Because you can be as masterfully skilled in administrative support as all get out and still not serve your clients well if you don’t know how to manage and run your business well.

More business, trust and credibility has been lost not because someone couldn’t do the work or didn’t have the skills, but because they failed in other areas of business: customer service, workload management and communication.

Having policies and systems that help you manage and put order to things in your business is smart. Letting clients run your business and dictate certain fundamental management policies is not.

You have to run your business and institute protocols in a way that works for you first so that you can in turn take fabulous care of your clients.

Dear Danielle: What If I’m New and Don’t Have Any Testimonials Yet?

Dear Danielle:

What if you are brand new and only have one testimonial for your site? Should I wait until I have more and add that component later? –EB

Heck no! Get ‘er up on your site today. 🙂

You’ve heard the expression “you gotta use what you’ve got.” Well, if you only have one testimonial so far, work it, girl!

So how do you do that? By making it a feature on your site instead of an afterthought. That means using the client’s full name and link to their site. Bonus points if you can add a headshot (people like to see faces with names). Give it a dedicated page, perhaps, and even list the client’s contact information.

(Caveat: Make sure you ask and that the client gives you permission to do this first. Inbound links are always great for SEO so it doesn’t hurt to point that out as well.)

People are skeptical about anonymous testimonials so you never want to use initials or only first names. Prospective clients put more stock in testimonials they can see are from actual, real people.

You also don’t need millions of testimonials, just a handful of quality ones. So the other thing I recommend you do immediately is institute a feedback process in your business. For example, in my business, I solicit feedback from my monthly retained clients every 3 or 6 months and immediately upon project completion from any project clients I work with.

The very best way to get your feedback process going is with my Client Feedback Form which you can get from the Success Store. My Client Feedback Form is designed especially to help you elicit meaningful testimonials and start building great before/after case studies.

Now, what if you don’t have any testimonials yet? There are a couple things you can do.

  1. Use comments/reviews of past employers.
  2. Use comments/reviews from volunteer work you’ve done.

Again, get permission or ask them if they’d be willing to write something fresh for you.

Anyone who can speak to the quality of your skills and professional qualities and how great it is to work with you can provide you with a testimonial. It doesn’t necessarily need to be clients. It’s just better coming from paying clients so work toward replacing those employer/volunteer testimonials as you get established.

Here’s another great little trick you can do that has lots of credibility and “social proof” (which, again, is ultimately what clients are seeking in testimonials)…

If you are using social media like Twitter and Facebook, you can use those positive comments you get as testimonials. Post them on your website. Compile them in a PDF. You can even use widgets to your advantage such as the Twitter Faves widget (really simple: whenever someone says something nice about you, favorite it and it will show up in the widget, which you can place on your website).

Let me know if that helps you, and if anyone else has tips, please do share in the comments!