Never trust a GPS

You need to figure out your “X”. What is it that, when you look back on your life, will make you think “I’m so glad I did that”. It might be family stuff, it might be travel, it might be work. It’s up to you. And it can be hard to find. But you’ll know it when you find it.

Then you need to ask yourself – if you genuinely really want X, how long would it take you to achieve it?

Can you do it in 10 years? Can you do it in 5 years? What would it look like to achieve X? Would you need to change your lifestyle? Move to another country? Can you do it as a side-hustle? Or on weekends? What will your family think as you make this your focus?

Because now, you’ve got a destination and a time-frame. Next step is to figure out a roadmap.

Let’s say you think you can do it in 5 years. 5 years is a long time.

Remember it. Write it down and stick it on your wall, so you can see it every day.

(I’m writing this in January 2019 – other months and years are available)

  • “In 2024, I will have achieved X”.
  • Now what is the ONE THING you would need to have achieved by January 2022 to have made real progress towards X?
  • And then, what is the ONE THING you would need to have achieved by January 2020 to have made real progress towards your 3 year target?
  • And what is the ONE THING you can achieve by April 2019 to have made real progress towards January’s target?

Write all of these down on that same bit of paper.

You now have a roadmap for the next 5 years.

But that’s useless without action.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Never trust a hippy

If you don’t like “life coaching” stuff, today’s post isn’t really for you. It’s a bit much for me too. But it’s proven itself to be (for me at least) a really valuable way of thinking about things.

Before you can make any kind of plan, you need to figure out what you really want to do. Because running a business on your own is really tough at times. So you have to make sure it aligns with who you are as a person.

My way of doing this, taught to me by someone who is incredibly successful, is as follows.

Imagine you’re 110 years old. You know your best days are behind you. But you’re sat on your chair, in the sunshine, just outside your house. Your eyes are closed and you’re smiling as you think back on your life. “I’m so glad that I dedicated so much of my life to X”

What is X?

It’s a really tough question. But, as all the documentaries on death say, no-one ever says “I’m so glad that I spent years in the office”. If you’re going to spend years in the office, there has to be a reason behind it – something that drives you. It might not even be business related – it could be “I’m so proud that I stood on the moon”, or “I’m so glad that my kids are healthy”. But you need to know what it is and then you can figure out how to get there.

Once you know where you want to go, you can think about how to get there…

Image from “Never Trust a Hippy” by Adrian Sherwood

I don’t want the sale

Earlier this week, we talked about attracting potential clients, by understanding what they want, why they want it and where they hang out.

Then we looked at making sure that they are interested in what you offer, by explaining your offer, showing that it works for other people, taking away their risk and then adding some urgency.

Yesterday we looked at dealing with price objections by adding more to your story; by giving a compelling reason for them to ignore the price.

But there’s one more thing that we need to talk about.

When my business was primarily all about software development, I made one change in how I did things and suddenly the invoices I was sending to clients increased in value by a factor of 10. And the clients were happy to pay it.

It was incredibly simple.

It was also really, really, really difficult.

I just said “no”.

I had been meeting with potential clients, going in to meetings with the expectation that I would be trying to persuade them that what I offer is really good, that the software I could build for them would solve their problems, that the price I wanted for it was something that they could afford.

But I realised that I had it all wrong.

My best clients were ones that I had a long-term relationship with. Because we trusted each other. We knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we dealt with them. We worked well together.

So I brought this to my sales process.

Every meeting, I started looking for reasons to say “no”. I started giving them reasons to go with someone else. Have you considered outsourcing the job to India? I know a really good app guy in Aberdeen who could do this for you. This isn’t really my strength, so I should turn it down. Actually, looking at it, the cost is going to be at least three times your budget. There’s no way I can get this finished before next March.

This worked. Some people went away. But the ones that stayed really stayed. I had put all their objections up in front of them, before they had even thought of them. They looked at the objection, came up with their own answer to it and moved on to the next stage. So when it finally came to the deal, I could name my price and set my own payment terms – they were so invested in the project that they didn’t want to go with anyone else.

Take action: Make sure you “qualify” everyone who comes in to your sales funnel. Do you really want their business?

Cheers

Baz

PS: This was really really tricky for me to do – it’s hard to say no to people. If you’d like any help email me – hello@clientrobot.com

Photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash

I know someone who can do it at half your price

That’s one of the most frustrating things you can ever hear.

Someone who complains about the price.

The thing is, it’s actually your fault.

Now there are some businesses where you don’t have much control over the price. Commodities – where there are so many available vendors that the “market” sets the price and you can’t differentiate yourself.

But most businesses – retail, products, services – have room for differentiation.

Your difference might be that you’re cheaper than everyone else. Personally I think that’s a dangerous game to play, as there’s always someone who is willing to go cheaper – maybe as a loss-leader to destroy your business.

But if you know your ideal customer (who we spoke about earlier in the week), you understand why they want your stuff and how much it’s worth to them, you should be able to choose points of differentiation that make price irrelevant.

Let’s say you’re a second hand store. You buy up used goods, clean them up a bit and then sell them on. Necessarily, the price you offer for a particular item is going to be less than the price someone can make from it by selling it themselves. You need to spend some time cleaning it up (which costs) and you need to add some markup, in order to make a profit.

So, straight away, we’ve got a price discrepancy. I can take my X and sell it with you for £20. Or I can take my X and sell it on the local Facebook buy/sell page for £30.

Why would I go with you?

This is where your story comes in. You need to go back to your customer’s “why”. You need to connect it with you.

So maybe you tell the story of how you were selling something on Facebook, got scammed and ended up out of pocket. The burning injustice of it, though, was you were going to use the money to buy your niece a present for getting through her exams. When this happened, you vowed to ensure that no-one had to go through a scam buyer like this again. And you make sure that everyone who sells through you is treated fairly, with guarantees, up-front pricing and safe and understandable terms.

Suddenly, there’s a reason to take the £20 instead of the £30. It’s all to do with peace of mind. Of trust. Of safety. Which is easily worth the £10 difference.

Take action: Don’t compete on price – come up with a differentiation

Cheers

Baz

PS: If you’d like a hand coming up with your differentiation, drop me an email – hello@clientrobot.com

Photo by Jordan Rowland on Unsplash

They seemed really interested but then I never heard from them again

People are amazing. I love people because they’re so interesting. It’s very rare that you can figure someone out, even if you’ve known them for years.

But there are patterns that you can spot. Stuff that applies, more or less, to all of us.

And one of those things is most people hate disappointing other people.

So when you’re telling them all about your incredible product or service, they’re going to sit there, nodding and smiling, replying that it sounds fantastic and it’s exactly what they’re looking for.

Until the time comes to sign the contract.

And then they’re gone. Vanished. Never to be heard from again.

It’s just human nature.

But there are things you can do about it.

Firstly, make sure you don’t waste time on people who definitely aren’t going to buy. This means setting up a “qualification” stage where you ascertain if this is someone who could be a customer or not. We’ll talk about this later in the week.

Secondly, structure your offer so that it’s so compelling, they genuinely do feel that it’s exactly what they’re looking for. Not just that, but they need it today.

There are four aspects to the structure.

Number One – you need to hit their emotional buttons. This training course isn’t about how you can increase your revenue by 10% over three years. This is about how Susan is going to look like the automatic choice for promotion next year. This car isn’t about the leather seats or air conditioning. This is about how your neighbours will be secretly jealous and twitching at their windows whilst you wash your car every Sunday.

Number Two – you need to show them that they’re not alone. It’s not just Susan that you’re going to get promoted; you’ve already done it for George and Hardeep. It’s not just your neighbours who are going to be jealous, Annette gets compliments on her car all the time.

Number Three – you need to take away the risk. If you’re not satisfied with the course materials after seven days, we’ll give you your money back – no questions asked. Why not borrow the car for the weekend and you’ll see how easily it handles the shopping, as well as being amazing to drive on a Sunday afternoon in the countryside.

Number Four – subtly add some urgency. Drop hints that it takes time to get results – so if you want that promotion in September, you better get started now. Let them know that there have been a couple of other people interested in the car; you can order another direct from the factory but then it takes 2 months to arrive.

None of this will help bring back the prospect who’s just ditched you. But if you get those four aspects across with your next prospect – without laying it on too thick – you’ll find that the people who get past your qualification stage will be genuinely interested in what you have to offer.

Take action: Put a sales system in place that guides people through the four stages

Cheers

Baz

PS: If you have any questions about this, drop me an email – hello@clientrobot.com

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

I can’t find any potential clients

If you’re on the hunt for potential clients and you can’t find them, you’re probably looking in the wrong places. Which sounds glib, but is actually pretty true.

You need to understand who your customer is.

What do they want? Why do they want it? What is it worth to them? And why would they choose you over anyone else?

How do you figure this stuff out?

Look back over your existing customer list – what patterns are there amongst them? Give a couple a call and ask them why they choose you over the competition.

Once you know these things, you can then start searching for them.

Where do they hang out? Both online and offline.

Online:

Is it on Facebook or Instagram? LinkedIn? Is there a subreddit for them or maybe a website with a discussion forum?

Offline:

Do they go to networking events? Is there a user group? Or evening classes?

Next, you need to go and meet them. Either online or in person. Ask them questions. Find out what makes them tick. Learn to use the same words and phrases as them.

Because, you need answers to these questions:

  • Who are they?
  • What do they want?
  • Why do they want it?
  • What’s it worth to them?
  • How do they describe it?
  • Why would they choose to buy from you?

And once you have those answers, you can use their language to mirror back at them and they will sense that you understand their need and they will be happy to talk to you to find out more.

Take action: Who is your ideal customer?

Cheers

Baz

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

How do you get clients and grow?

If you’re new to freelancing, you’ll probably hear these stories about people getting loads and loads of emails. And you’ll find that you aren’t getting anyone. Even though you’re not doing anything “wrong”.

Does this sound familiar?

  • You don’t get many responses
  • The ones you do get end up disappearing mid-process
  • Most complain at your prices, saying they know someone who can do it for less than half that price
  • Some of them even ask for work for free, on the promise that they’ve got a whole load of work lined up for the right person in three months’ time
  • The ones that are OK with your price say they will pay 60 or 90 days after completion

So how do you get more clients? And how do you get good ones?

Take action: Read on tomorrow when I’ll run through each of these in turn

Cheers

Baz

Photo by Katerina Radvanska on Unsplash

The Two Dogs

Photo by Carlos Fernando Bendfeldt on Unsplash

So this week, I’ve been writing about my friend’s dad, Bob. He was an amazing guy, but this is my absolute favourite thing about him.

I’m a dog person, and Bob had a beautiful black labrador called Bruce. As you’d expect of a lab, he was incredibly friendly, very laid back, just happy to be involved as we all did our thing.

But Bruce was getting on a bit. You could see it in his muzzle, his movements were getting slower, there was a tiredness in his eyes.

Bob knew Bruce’s time was coming to an end. So he set out to look for a new dog for the family. He wanted another black lab. They were his favourite. He set out on the search for one.

One day, I turned up at Bill’s house, to be greeted by a brand new black labrador. Obviously not Bruce, as this one was a youngster. Full of energy, excited by everything.

“Wow – new dog. What’s his name?” I asked, very excited myself, as I love dogs.

“Bruce” came the reply from the kitchen.

“Bruce?”

“Yes, that was his name when we got him and I didn’t want to change it”.

So Bob ended up with two black labradors, both called Bruce. Anyone would think he was set in his ways.

Cheers

Baz

The importance of time off

Photo by Khachik Simonian on Unsplash

I’ve been writing this week about my friend Bill and his dad Bob.

I’ve not seen Bill in many years. I’ve not seen Bob in even longer. But as you can probably tell, they’ve both left a big impression on me.

One of the things that struck me about Bob was he only ever took two weeks off work. Every year, he would spend that two weeks in Whitby (an absolutely beautiful part of the world). Then after his refreshing break, he would get back to it.

As I said yesterday, I think this is a problem.

People like us, who work for ourselves, we work incredibly hard. We take on more risks than employees. We suffer anxiety and depression and mood swings because we’ve chosen to take control of our lives, yet so much of what we do remains just out of our grasp.

And because of that, we deserve our breaks. We need our holidays. Not one a year. But several. A weekend away, a week with friends.

It feels like we can’t afford to, because the business won’t work without us. But we have to, because if we don’t there won’t be an us for the business to work for.

Take action: Make sure you take a break. And take it before you need it.

Cheers

Baz

PS: I used to worry about taking time off because I wouldn’t be earning. Some people worry about it as they don’t trust their staff. Everyone’s got a reason. None of those reasons is truly valid. If you’d like to talk about it, I’m sure I can point you in the right direction. Let’s have a chat.

Why Bob was wrong – or time management for small business owners

Photo by Tevin Trinh on Unsplash

As you can probably tell, I really liked Bob. He was a good man.

But, he taught me completely the wrong lesson.

On one of our nights out, we got back home in the early hours. We piled into the living room and started chatting away. I don’t remember exactly, but Bill probably put on the sex scene from the beginning of Betty Blue (he had a tendency to do that – it was quite embarrassing the first time he showed it to me as his mum was in the room, saying “not that again William”).

Bob comes charging into the front room, yelling at us, because we were making too much noise. Fair enough; it was either very late, or far too early.

But the thing is, Bob was working.

I don’t know if he’d not been to bed. Or if he’d just got up early.

He used to say that it was the only way he could get all his paperwork done.

You always hear of the never ending struggle of the small business owner. How you have to do the 70-80 hour weeks. It’s hard work that will see you through.

Well, it’s not true. I learnt entirely the wrong lesson from Bob that day/morning.

Take action: Get the right systems in place, make sure your people know what they are doing, because frankly, you shouldn’t be working in the small hours.

Cheers

Baz

PS: I’ve really struggled with this over the years. I still do. It’s not easy. I’ve got a really simple method to retrain my brain and make me take the time off. If you’d like to know more, mail me at hello@clientrobot.com