Dealing with rejection

Nobody likes being rejected. 

Whether it’s being turned down for a date, getting overlooked for promotion or failing a job interview, rejection hurts. 

But when it comes to business, rejection is inevitable. 

Unless you successfully win every project you ever quote for, you will occasionally face the disappointment of being turned down. 

(And if you are winning every project, then chances are you’re pricing too low). 

Most businesses have a conversion rate somewhere between 10% and 90%. 

If you’re at the higher end, then don’t dwell on the rejections. 

If you’re at the lower end, then there’s probably some things you need to address, (I can help you with that if you get in touch). 

But for now, let’s concentrate on how to deal with rejection effectively. 

It’s not personal

People aren’t rejecting you; they are rejecting your approach. 

Perhaps you haven’t made the benefits of working with you clear enough.

Maybe you didn’t show how you add value. 

Or perhaps somebody else was just a better fit. 

Don’t take it personally. 

Get feedback

If your proposals are getting turned down regularly, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. 

Not everyone will respond, but if you ask politely, some clients will be honest. 

There may be something wrong with your pitch that you can easily change, but you won’t know until you ask.

Learn from rejection

Use every rejection as a learning opportunity. 

What could you have done better? 

How could you have made your proposal more appealing to the client? 

Could you have done more research around their business before you met?

Should you have followed up sooner? 

Was your proposal detailed enough? 

Could you have done more to prove your credibility? 

There is always room for improvement so use rejection as an opportunity to learn.

Move on

Don’t dwell on rejection. Understand the reasons, learn from them and then move on. Don’t waste time mulling over the ‘what if’s’ or letting self-doubt creep in. 

You win some; you lose some – focus on the wins. 

Look at the clients that accept your proposals. 

What was it that made them choose you over a competitor? 

What can you do to win more of the clients you want? 

How can you keep the clients you’ve got? 

Get the systems right

Sales is a process. 

If you don’t understand your process, you are essentially just sitting there with your fingers crossed. You’ll struggle to get consistent results, and you’ll spend too much time focusing on the wrong things.

The good news is that I can help you understand your process and put a system in place to make it efficient. I will help you build a business that works for you. If you’d like to find out how, let’s have a chat

Working alone: how to combat the isolation

There are a lot of benefits to working alone. 

Nobody telling you what to do. 

Nobody holding you up with their incompetence.

And nobody distracting you with office gossip or personal dramas. 

Working alone is great. 

Or is it? 

Running a business can be a lonely place, and it helps to have someone to bounce an idea off, discuss a problem with or get advice from when we need to make an important decision. Even the most anti-social of us can find ourselves missing human company from time to time.

So, if your only conversations in the last week were with Alexa, your cat or the guy that called about mis-sold PPI, then it’s time to get out and mingle.

Attend networking events

Networking is a great way to meet people and build connections. There are loads of events on offer – each with different formats and different people. 

Referral based networking groups are good for building long term relationships and getting more business. 

Peer-to-peer boards tend to be smaller and are beneficial if you have specific obstacles you need help overcoming. 

Industry meet-ups are good if you want to stay up to date and share advice with people in your field.

And, if you really can’t bear the idea of formal networking, then attending an exhibition might be a less daunting option.

Attend a few different events to find the ones that work for you. Even if you’ve had a bad experience of networking, give it another go. Think of it like eating out – just because you’ve had a bad meal at one restaurant doesn’t mean you’ll never try another one.

Work in a public place

Co-working spaces are brilliant for business owners and freelancers who work alone. Not only are they far cheaper than an individual office space, you also get to network with the people you share the space with. 

If co-working feels like to much of a commitment, try working out of a coffee shop, bar, library or even the train station once or twice a week. You get the feeling of being around people all day, but interactions can be kept to a minimum. 

Get training or coaching

Personal development is essential if you want to succeed in business. Look for training courses in your area. Not only will you learn a new skill or build your expertise, it’s also a great opportunity to make some new connections. 

If you want someone to help you get your business to the next stage, a business mentor or coach is hugely beneficial. They will be there to bounce ideas off, hold you accountable and help you reach your potential. Different coaches and mentors have different personalities and styles, so find someone who feels like the right fit for you. 

Need some help?

When I first started out, networking was a scary prospect. Now I regularly attend networking events and training courses. I have also worked with various coaches at different stages of my career and have taken advantage of co-working spaces. 

If you’d like a chat about what options could work for you, then get in touch. I’d be happy to share my experiences and help you figure out what to do and what not to do. 

How much should I charge?

I talk quite a lot about pricing. It’s one of those things that most business owners struggle with at some point. Price too high and you won’t win any business. Price too low and you won’t cover your costs. Both have the same outcome – you can’t pay yourself. And if you can’t pay yourself, then what’s the point of putting all that hard work into running a business?

Stop just guessing!

The first mistake many people make is using guesswork to set the price. They pluck a figure out of the air and say, ‘that sounds about right’.

But what is that figure actually based on? Competitors? Costs? The price their mate suggested when they asked for advice?

Don’t just guess.

Do some research. Do some planning. Do some calculations.

Start with the end in mind

Nobody goes into business wanting to work for free, or even worse, at a loss. So, when setting your pricing, the first thing you should write down is how much you want to earn.

There’s no guarantee you’ll earn it, and you need to be realistic, but this gives you a starting point to work from.

For easy calculations, let’s say that in year one, you want to earn £24,000 before tax. That’s £2000 per month.

Calculate your costs

The next thing you need to know is your expenditure. Add up all your monthly outgoings. If you’re just starting out, you’ll probably need to estimate some of the costs, for example, you might set yourself a limit of £500 per month for marketing. For the purpose of our example, we’ll say our costs are also £2000 per month.

Do a bit of maths

If we want to pay ourselves £2000 per month, and our costs are £2000 per month, then we need to bill at least £4000 per month. That’s our target, and now we need to break it down.

By the hour

Let’s say we want to work 40 hours a week, 48 weeks of the year. That works out at 160 hours per month. So, we just take our target of £4000 per month and divide it by 160 hours, meaning we need to bill £25 per hour, right?

Wrong!

While you might work 40 hours a week, not all of them will be billable. There will be time spent doing marketing activities, going to meetings and attending networking events. Time spent on calls, sending and replying to emails, completing admin tasks and doing all the other things that come with running a business.

If there’s just you in your business, you’ll be lucky to spend more than 50% of your time doing actual billable work once you factor in all the other stuff. This means the billable rate for our example should be at least £50 per hour. Make sure your hourly rate covers your non-billable time too.

Note that I also fundamentally disagree with billing by the hour.

At it’s heart, billing by the hour punishes you for doing well.

Imagine you take on a novice plumber. It takes them 3 hours to fix a leaky tap. If they charge £25 per hour, then that’s £75 you pay them.

Now imagine you take on an expert plumber. It takes them 5 minutes to fix your leaky tap. Even if they charge £100 per hour, you might end up paying them £50 for that first half hour.

In other words, spending years becoming an expert and learning how to be good at your job means you get punished when it comes to billing.

Now do you see why I think hourly billing is crazy?

By the project

Project pricing can work in a similar way to hourly pricing. Just work out your hourly rate as above, then work out how long it takes to complete a project on average to get your project price.

Alternatively, decide how many projects you can complete each month and divide your target by that amount. Let’s say you want to build four websites per month. Your target is £4000, so that works out at £1000 per site.

But, if you’re charging by the project, there’s an even better way to think of your prices. That’s value pricing – and it takes some real confidence on your part – but if you can get it right, it can transform your business.

The basic idea of value pricing is no-one actually wants whatever it is that you do. They don’t want a website, they don’t want someone to write an employee handbook.

What they actually want is more different. Instead of a website, they want more sales. Instead of an employee handbook, they want to not taken to a tribunal.

What is it worth to someone to get more sales? Well, if their new website brings in £100,000 of extra sales, that’s a real boost.

What is it worth to someone to not get taken to a tribunal? Well if it avoids a compensation claim of £50,000 then that’s a real benefit.

And of course, all we’ve looked at here are the direct benefits. Underneath those are indirect benefits – more sales mean you can show off to your neighbours with a brand new car. No tribunals mean you can actually sleep at night. What are those things worth?

So to get started with value pricing, you need to figure out what your work is worth to your client. What value are they getting out of it? Both in monetary terms, the direct benefit, and in emotional terms, the indirect benefit.

These benefits are going to be different for everyone – so the process of value pricing is complex.

But if you get it right and you get your client to agree that this piece of work could be worth £50,000 or £100,000 – plus immeasurable emotional security, you can then use that figure as an anchor for your price.

I’m not going to build you a website – but for £10,000 I will give you a pathway to £100,000 in sales and a car that your neighbour will be jealous of.

I’m not going to write you an employee handbook – but for £5000 I will give you a cast-iron mechanism for avoiding employee tribunals, so you can sleep at night.

So you can see how value pricing can be really hard to do – and takes utter confidence and belief in your abilities. But when you get it right, it can transform your entire business.

Focus on what you can control

It’s all very well having these fantastic numbers for your prices. But you actually need customers, not prices.

The best way to do that is to focus on the things you can control. How many leads do you have coming in? How many of them become customers? And how long does it take for them to become a customer?

Magic numbers

You might have heard me mention the two magic numbers. Knowing these figures allows you to forecast for the months ahead and ensure your pricing structure works.

If you’re struggling with pricing and would like to know more about building a sales process that helps you achieve your targets, then I’d love to hear from you. Let’s arrange a call, and we can work through your pricing and create a business that works for you.

Photo by Mohammad Saifullah on Unsplash

Value, Sales, Money & Profit

I had the great honour of being interviewed by Steve Twynham for Great Yorkshire Radio and Podcasts for Business.

We chatted about giving value to your clients, how sales isn’t the sleazy process it often appears, how getting your money sorted can trigger the improvements in the rest of your business and how you need to put your Profit First.

Do I need a business coach?

There’s a quick answer to the question “do I need a business coach?”

NO

No-one needs a coach of any kind. 

A coach doesn’t actually do anything. 

So why are there so many coaches out there?

Well, the whole idea of coaching came from sport … in fact, it’s accepted that it’s impossible to be a successful sports person without a good coach. Because that coach makes sure you turn up, tells you what to do during training, watches how you prepare for things, makes sure you are making the best use of your time and encourages you to beat your personal bests. 

Business coaching is slightly different to sport coaching – but essentially a business coach does a similar thing. 

There are some differences. 

Coaching isn’t the same as training – training is where you follow a pre-defined programme of learning, that’s laid out in front of you. 

Coaching isn’t the same as mentoring – a mentor speaks and advises you from their experience. 

Coaching isn’t the same as consultancy – a consultant will work with you and advise you on a particular aspect of your business, and then will do at least part of the work needed to move you forwards. 

Coaching is about finding out what you want and helping you come to your own answers on how to get there. And, most importantly, holding you accountable to make sure you stick to those decisions. 

So a better question is “is it worth having a business coach?”

The simplest answer there is I have three. Sort of. 

The first is my Profit First coach. He leads me through the Profit First system, helping me pick out and adapt the parts that work well for me. So this is as much a training programme as it is a coaching programme. 

The second is my marketing coach. We discuss how I want things to be, what’s going well, what’s going badly, how it makes me feel. Then she comes up with a list of tasks, some of which are for me, some of which are for her. 

And third is my business coach. This is a pure coaching relationship. We talk about where I am now, where I want to be, what is stopping me from getting there and making sure that I approach my business in the right way to get me there. 

Personally, I love coaching. Unlike mentoring or training, it’s all about the client. I have to discover what they want, I have to help them discover their own answers and figure out what’s holding them back. And then I have to keep them accountable, so they actually make the changes that they have decided that they need. 

And because of this, I’ve designed my own coaching programme. 12 weeks to move your business towards financial security.

So if you know anyone who runs their own small business but feels that the road is too precarious, who feels that the business isn’t giving them the life they want, who is always short on time – ask them to give me a shout. There are probably some really simple things we can do that will make a huge difference. 

Arrange a call back

Surviving the rollercoaster

Feast and famine.

The phrase is thrown around often, but it’s only once you work for yourself that you truly appreciate what a rollercoaster it can be.

One minute, work is coming in faster than you can keep up with it. You’re working day in, day out, evenings, weekends and even through the night. Taking a day off seems impossible and the thought of a holiday is unimaginable.

Suddenly, things ease off.

You can breathe again. And you start thinking you might have finally got this business malarkey sussed after all…

Then you realise there’s barely anything in your pipeline, your biggest client has gone off the radar, and the project you had scheduled in next week has fallen through.

Sound familiar?

The good news is you’re not alone. And the even better news is that there are some things you can do to make the fluctuations less severe.

Understand the magic numbers

Most problems occur because business owners don’t understand their magic numbers.

How many clients do you need to win each month in order to cover your overheads and pay yourself the amount you want? What is your conversion rate and the average length of time from enquiry to invoice? How many enquiries need to be generated each month to hit your target?

If you know these figures, you can forecast for the months ahead, predict when a quiet period is coming up, and feel confident enough to turn away the projects you don’t want.

Pay yourself a set amount each month

When the work is flooding in, it’s tempting to spend a little more than we should. It’s great while it lasts, but when the work quietens down, it can leave us wondering if we’ll be able to cover the mortgage next month.

I’m a big fan of the ‘profit first’ way of working. Rather than paying yourself whatever is left at the end of the month, you take out the profit you want first and then invest what is left into your business.

Of course, if you want this to work, you need to have figured out your magic numbers.

Manage your marketing

When you’re busy, it’s easy to neglect your marketing. When you’re busy, you focus on the work you already have, not on winning more.

The problem is, once you’ve completed all your current projects, you’re left with nothing in your pipeline except tumbleweed.

So what happens now? Well, you go back to everything that worked last time of course.

You have a real push on marketing and advertising and networking. Your follow-ups are awesome, you spend hours putting together detailed proposals, and you take time to go and schmooze potential new clients.

All your hard work pays off at once, and you get an influx of work. Brilliant!

And now you’re back to being too busy to manage your enquiries properly, and you’re working on a load of projects you don’t really enjoy.

And so the cycle continues.

Up, down, up, down, round and round you go.

Take control of your pipeline; don’t let it control you.

To ensure consistent sales, you need consistent marketing.

Even when you are crazy busy, take time to nurture future clients. And when business is a little scarce, don’t fall into the trap of taking the projects nobody else wants.

It’s time to get off the rollercoaster

If you’re struggling to break the feast and famine cycle, I can help.

Every business needs a system.

A system for making sure you’ve got enough cash. A system for generating enough sales. A system for making sure you’ve got enough time to live your life. I work with you to create that system.

If you’d like to know more, let’s arrange a call, and I’ll explain exactly how I can help you build a business that works for you.

Photo by 2Photo Pots on Unsplash

How to escape the Survival Trap

Have you ever sat down and thought about your goals?

If you’ve got a business coach, then they’ve probably made you do this.

And if you haven’t got a business coach, it’s definitely worth getting one. It might sound like a weird thing to spend your money on, but running your own business can be lonely at times, it can also mean that often you’re just shouting into the void. A coach is there to listen to you and make sure you do the things you said you were going to do – which is incredibly valuable when you work for yourself.

So, back to goals.

Do you have any? Do you know what they are? Are they written down, where you can see them?

Because the goals give us a direction to move in. Even when there are obstacles in our way, we can align with the goals and choose the best path.

Imagine you’re a lawn-care specialist. Your goal is to franchise the business, so you get to work when you want to, whilst having a network of people all following your expert tuition and giving householders across the country amazing looking lawns.

But you’re not there yet. It’s still just you, driving from client to client in your little van.

One day, you notice a client has a load of leaves in their gutter. You’re a bit short on cash, so you ask if they want the gutters cleaning out (for a bit of extra money of course). Your reasoning is this – I buy myself a ladder, which costs a bit of money, but then I can offer this additional service to all my clients.

So you head off to the trade counter and buy a new ladder. You get up onto the roof and start clearing the gutters out. And while you’re up there, you notice a few loose roof tiles. An easy fix for someone with your skills. So again, you ask the client if they want it fixing, head back to the trade counter, buy the stuff you need and get them fixed.

Now you’ve got two additional services you can offer your clients.

Great eh?

Well, maybe not. You might have made a bit of extra money, but you’ve also spent a load extra – on additional tools. You’re going to need to sort out the Health and Safety for working at heights – and keep up with the certification. You’ve not spent as long on the lawn, so you’ll probably have to come back tomorrow and finish it off – so a one afternoon job has just spread out to two days.

And you’re now spreading yourself thin.

Has this extra helped you move towards your ultimate goal of a franchised lawn-care business?

Or is it just a distraction?

Even worse – is it now an excuse? I don’t have time to look into the franchising side of things because I’ve got so many gutters to clean?

It’s worth knowing what your ultimate goals are – and keeping them front of mind. So when you come to make the small decisions, you can just check them to make sure you’re still heading in the right direction.

Why your money is just like a tube of toothpaste

Every now and then, I hit the bathroom jackpot.

No, don’t worry – it’s safe to keep on reading.

Every now and then, I have a brand new tube of toothpaste. On the same day that my electric toothbrush is fully charged. And has a brand new head on it.

When those three things happen together, it’s like a toothpaste party.

But, have you noticed that when you’re starting a fresh tube, it’s not just a toothpaste party – it’s a free toothpaste party. You’re slapping that paste all over your brush … some slipped off and fell down the sink … no worries, I’ve got tons of the stuff, let’s just fire another colossal ball of it onto my brush. No pea-sized amounts for me my friend.

And then, a few weeks later, as the tube is almost exhausted, you pick up your toothbrush and eke out the final few scrapes of paste. You fold the tube back, rolling it in on itself. A pea-sized amount would be a luxury. I’m going to make do with a third of a pea. I can handle it.

And you know what?

Your teeth stay clean. A third of a pea is all it needs.

But when you’ve got a full tube of toothpaste in front of you, you don’t think like that. Because it feels like it will last forever. Even though you know it won’t.

This wasn’t my analogy – it was Mike Michalowicz’s. He uses it to describe how actually, when you’re spending money in your business, you can be mislead by your bank balances.

If you’ve got £10000 in your bank account, it’s going to look like that full tube of toothpaste.

You know you’ve got to keep some aside for your tax. You know you need to pay yourself at the end of the month.

But that little voice at the back of your mind is saying “no pea-sized amounts for me – I’ve got ten grand!”.

And you spend it.

And it’s gone.

And when it comes to paying yourself, once more, you have to make do with scraps.

If you put some money aside before you begin, you might only have £5000 in your bank. It still seems like a lot. You still feel like spending it.

But this time, you’re safe to do so.

Because the other £5000 is safely locked away in a different account. Ready for when you need it.

It’s just human nature.

Play to your strengths, don’t fight your instincts.

Take your Profit First and then you’re free to spend whatever you want.

If you’d like to download some free chapters from the book, just click here.

How Two Magic Numbers can give you a predictable and reliable business

Running a business is hard work isn’t it?

That’s the truth of it. 

Sleepless nights. 

Long hours. 

Financial stress. 

That’s how it goes for a good few years, while you get yourself established. 

And then, some magical lever gets pulled, and then you’ve made it. 

Out the other side. 

But how do you get to that magical point? What makes the magic happen?

There are actually two things that make it happen. 

Two Magic Numbers. 

These two numbers, once you know them, give you a level of certainty and confidence in your business. 

They mean you can plan ahead. 

They mean you can predict the future. 

They give you the space to concentrate on the things that matter. 

And they allow you to safely turn down the bad clients, the ones who always hammer you down on price, the ones who take up all of your time, the ones who are always complaining. 

The first Magic Number is your Conversion Rate. 

Suppose you go out and get 100 business cards from a load of networking events. You go through those business cards, calling each person up on the phone, and you end up with 30 people who are willing to have a meeting. You go to those 30 meetings and you end up with 15 people who would like you to give a presentation to the board. You give the presentations and you end up with 10 people who would like to buy your services. 

10 out of 100 leads turn into business. Your conversion rate is 10%

Your second Magic Number is your Sales Cycle Length.

Let’s say you spend all of January getting those 100 business cards. Throughout January, you’re on the phone to people, but some are busy, others are away – so your 30 meetings end up being booked across January and February. Your first new client from this round of networking signs at the beginning of February – barely four weeks after you started. But after meetings and presentations, delays and postponements, the tenth new client, signs up in April – almost 16 weeks after you got their card. 

On average, the 10 new clients you got signed up 8 weeks after you received their business card. Your Sales Cycle Length is 8 weeks

Now you know those Two Magic Numbers, you can start making predictions about the future. 

Suppose in April, you did another round of networking, but this time you only got 50 business cards. Based on your Two Magic Numbers, that suggests you’ll get 5 new clients at some time in June. 

The real power of this comes when you decide to use it to your advantage, however. Let’s say you want to raise an extra load of money to go on holiday. If you know your Two Magic Numbers, you can use them to calculate how many leads you need to generate – and when – so that you’ve got the new clients, and the money in your pocket, at just the right time. 

If you’d like to know more about how to calculate your Two Magic Numbers, check out my video and email sequence

The trouble with Post-it notes

I’m one of those people who loves stationery shops.

There’s not much better than a really heavy sketch pad and a 4B pencil.

Or a fountain pen, freshly filled with ink.

I love sketching in biro too – there’s nothing else like it.

Notepads, pens, card. It’s fantastic stuff.

It’s also really simple and understandable.

Physical.

No surprise that the most used internet application is email – because it mimics the way a paper letter works – and it’s still the best way to get in touch with someone today, despite the myriad of alternatives.

When getting your business organised, using something physical is often the very best first step.

Go to any office – how many people have their computer monitor covered in post it notes.

How many people have a whiteboard on the wall with the plan for the next few months – or their sales figures.

This is great.

It’s better to have a plan than have none.

Starting out you need to get organised as quickly and cheaply as possible.

But there comes a point when you need to move on.

While I love paper, I love fountain pens, I love notebooks, I also have a real fear around them.

What happens when I lose it?

So much important information. My to do lists, my detailed notes on how a particular project needs to work out. My diary for the next few weeks.

It would be so easy to leave it on a train. Or spill tea all over it. Or have it fall out of my bag.

And then I’d be screwed.

At one place I used to work, we had a giant whiteboard, listing out all the tasks we had for our variety of projects. Each one was placed exactly where it needed to be, so the right team knew what they had to do next. So we knew when it was due for completion. Our entire work schedule for the next few months.

At the time, we were working in a Portakabin, as we had outgrown our main office. The door for the cabin was annoying and hard to open. So you sort of had to kick it to get it open.

One day, someone came in, kicked it open, just as a gust of wind blew outside. The wind caught inside the cabin and blew half the post-its off the board and on to the floor.

In a fraction of a second, our plans for the next month were just ruined.

It was only a small issue. We guessed at where everything belonged and were back to normal in quarter of an hour.

But it’s a reminder that there comes a point where paper won’t do the job you need it to. Even worse if we were spread across multiple offices.

One advantage of “cloud” systems (which basically means that it’s someone else’s responsibility to look after it) is the data is backed up, it’s replicated and it’s accessible wherever you are.

Are you getting to the stage where it’s something you need to think about? If so, I’m happy to advise – click here to arrange a call-back at a time that suits you.

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash