Time Wise Clients

One of the things I’m probably a little too uptight about is time. More specifically, my time! I hate wasting time or letting my time unnecessarily be eaten up for no apparent reason. And where I struggle a lot with this, is with clients.  Maybe it’s the fact that it’s always beautiful and sunny that makes people in Los Angeles want to linger longer, share more stories and squeeze in another joke.  I don’t know, but whatever it is, I have seen hours of my time slip away because of side conversations and random randomness.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that the best way to keep a client is to build a relationship with them .  And because I travel to my clients, this is is always done in person for me.  With that being said, so many of clients get a little too comfortable with me and our conversations will digress onto other topics unrelated to the business at hand.  And what happens?  2 hours just turned into 6.  Not very responsible, I’ll admit, but the reward — if we’re looking on the bright side of things — their business and referrals.  Some of you may say, well in that case, go ahead and give them 6 hours.  But the truth of the matter is, I may keep their business and earn someone else’s, but 6 hours (which is 25% of the day) doesn’t leave much time for other important things.  What else could be just as important as a client?  Uh, other clients?  Working on the business?  Tweaking my marketing efforts?  Sleeping?  Just to name a few.  And if I give a client 25% of my day, then I’m allowing that person to only monopolized my time, but also my business.  And one of  the first rules I learned about being in business was never let one client dominate your business to the point they are your business.  Because when they leave, so does your business.

But I’ve gotten better with managing my clients on my schedule.  Because I have to responsible for my time, even when they’re unaware of it.  And it’s made a huge improvement, because now I can better assess where and how to spend my time with them when I’m done meeting with them.

  • For starters, I tell them before we meet what time I have to leave.  That way they get an idea how much we’ll be spending together and better helps them organize their questions for that meeting.
  • I set my alarm.  Oh, hell yes, I do.  It’s rude. It’s loud. And disruptive.  And that’s the point.  When I say I need to leave by 3;00pm, I need to show them I mean it.  So the alarm goes off as an audio reminder.  They still have questions?  Email them to me.
  • And since I brought it up, I make email the first point of communication.  Let’s meet for the pertinent stuff, email all the other, please. That way I break the habit of having to meet for every little whim.
  • Keep in-person meetings down to once a month, if necessary.  I tried this with one client, and it went over superbly.   For the secondary meeting, we held a Google HangOut session which shaved off a total of an hour from our normal meetings and I loved that. Not too mention, gas is still over $4 for gallon here in L.A.  Let’s save the road trips for something more meaningful, right?

It was suggested to me to charge for in-person meetings to deter those clients who feel they need to meet all the time.  I’m not comfortable with that yet, but there may come a point sooner or later.  I figure if someone’s paying for my services, I’m not going to nickle and dime them along the way.  No one enjoys that and very few, if anybody, returns for that kind of abuse.  But I’ve found the strategies mentioned above very helpful thus far.  I get my time back.  And that’s what I really wanted.  Yes, I want to meet with my clients — work in the business — but, I also want to be able to work on the business.

 

 

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Annoying A$$ Clients

You know those people — they have to send us an email, a text, or dial our number every 5 minutes because they forgot to tell us something when they called 5 minutes ago.  Do they think that’s cute, because it’s not!  And we have clients who are just like this — unless you’re one of the fortunate few.  Seriously, there are clients who become very — I already used annoying in the title, so I’ll say — attached.  They cannot go a single day without texting, or emailing or leaving a voice mail making sure we’re doing our job because they want to make sure we’re on the ball.  They’re trying to lightly keep tabs on us, but in fact, they’re driving us crazy.

But it’s understandable.  I don’t necessary welcome the obsessive attention, but I completely understand where it comes from.

Put yourself in your client’s shoes, who has gone from service provider to service provider with little to no results.  Every time they change persons or companies, they have to start all over again building a relationship and trust only to be let down when it doesn’t work out.  So when they finally come to someone (us) who are actively showing more promise than all the others they’ve dealt with and paid out to, it feels almost to good to be true to them.  They become a little more hands on than they need to be because they want to make sure the progress they’re seeing is real and is going to stay real.

Now, sometimes you’re dealing with a micro-manager, someone who’s use to overseeing every little detail because they want to ensure any work done is getting done to their specifications and to their liking.  In this case, draw a line with them upfront or it’s going to be a battle till the two of your part on unfavorable terms.   For everyone else with an annoying client, but not a micro-manager, the best way to remedy this situation is beat them to the punch.  After your first couple of meetings with your client, get a feel for their expectations, their ideas and the gaps they’re trying to fill. The more often you’re able to provide close to, if not exactly what they need, the less likely they’re going to be nagging at you.  It’s really that simple.  You may find them a little frustrating to work with in the beginning, but start over-delivering and surpassing their expectations.  That annoying-ness will disappear.

You can call it good business sense, you call it Psych 101, just don’t let them keep calling you.

Overqualified

It seems like the only time it’s perfectly acceptable to be well-overqualified is when we’re self-employed.  Because that’s exactly what our clients want.  They want someone who they believe is an expert, has more than enough experience and can ultimately resolve their pain points.  At any other time in our professional careers, we would never want to have too little or too much experience — just the right amount.  Just enough to land us the job.  But now that we’re running the show, being overqualified is in our favor.

And we are overqualified.  Sometimes we just don’t realize how much experience we have.  Any time a client ask about our professional background and how it relates to our business, make sure they hear about ALL of our related experience, no matter how unique their issue or project is.

Keep in mind, our experience didn’t begin from the moment we decided to go into business for ourselves.  It started well before then. we just need to backtrack:

  • If we ever worked for someone else — and most of have — that’s experience under our belt
  • If we’ve ever volunteered, no matter the organization or the length of time, although more time equates to more experience
  • If we ever helped out a friend or family member, or a friend’s family member, or a family member’s friend or whoever, that counts
  • Any and all related school and training is experience
  • If we’ve ever freelanced, that most definitely counts as experience
  • If we’ve ever taught — and make no mistake about it, not all education takes place in the classroom.  We’ve could have taught a community class, hosted a workshop, we could have been the ones providing the on site or on the job training, whatever.  Teaching someone else clearly illustrates our understanding and knowledge base

So the next time a client requests to know a little more about your experience and professional history  — over share and share it all.  It is so much more better to be overqualified to a client than to not know what the hell you’re doing.

Media Kit It

Every business, no matter how small, large, the employee size, industry type or location should create for itself a media kit.  If you don’t know what a media kit is, think of it as a business’ résumé — it highlights the accomplishments, the goals and the journey of the business.  It tells the brief story of the company’s creation to its present standing.  Media kits have commonly been associate with publications such as magazines, journals, newspapers and books, but no longer.  If you operate a business, you need a media kit as part of your marketing package.

When writing a media kit, focus on three (3) primary elements: (1) What is your business and what is it about, (2) Who do you serve; who is your target audience and how does your company serve/help them and (3) the cold hard facts and figures about your company.

What is your business about — is a service based business, product based, B2B?  What industry is the company in, what niche; how much technology is infused — simply put, what does your business do and for you?

Who do you serve — who are the people your company caters to and makes it products/services for and why?  This, you gotta know.  This you should’ve known starting the business.  And when writing about who the company serves, look further past the demographics and into the lifestyle of your customer/ client.

The cold hard facts — This is the most straightforward aspect of the media kit.  It deals is measurements, reach, dollar signs, because it’ll be mostly made up of figures.  And these figures should as accurate as possible.  If you have a following (such as social media) include how people, if you have a newsletter include the subscribers.  Always include sales figures that play in your favor.

Utilize every glitter and sparkle that makes your company stand out and stand up against your competitors.  Remember, this is your business’ résumé.  Make it work.

Who Are You Trying To Kid?

I don’t know about anyone else, but I have no clue what makes the Friday and Saturday operating hours so much different from the Monday through Thursday schedule.

Why do businesses do this?  Is this some sort of witty joke and the rest of us just missed it?  Are we supposed to just assume that Friday and Saturday are unique by definition, although they share the same hours?  Or are we just having our intelligence insulted here, as per usual?

Over Simplifying.fw

Is this something you do to your clients or customers?  In an attempt to oversimplify for their benefit, you’re just downright insulting their intelligence?  You know, there is a balance of keeping your clients informed and in tuned without dumbing it down or confusing the hell out them.  Just be straight-forward.  Simplify, but don’t over-simplify.   Make it clear without confusing.  Make it plain without the puzzles.  Don’t know how?  Ask the client.  They may not always know what they want, but they’re quick to share what they don’t want.  And they don’t want to be confuzzled.

Group Bang

Social Media.  Not whatever else you were thinking… (cochinos!)

Groups, to be exact… on LinkedIn.  No longer the underdog to keep a watchful eye on, LinkedIn is the number on professional social media network every professional should be log onto.  I first created my LinkedIn account in college because our university’s career advisor told us how important it could be in landing our ideal job.  She proclaimed it was going to be more effective and promising in helping young graduates find employment opportunities than CareerBuilder and whatever it was that came before Monster (come on, I know somebody out there remembers what I’m talking about).  So I created an account and filled out my profile — poorly, at first.  No picture, no description, just the mere basics.  And all of my connections were my classmates and friends because I didn’t know any better.

It wasn’t until after graduation that I took LinkedIn more seriously — because, hey, I needed a job — but LinkedIn too, got more serious.  In fact, that same year, LinkedIn rolled out its mobile app version for hipsters, yuppies and real professionals on the go.  So I sat my butt down, uploaded a cleaner looking picture, described my strengths, asked for recommendations, gave recommendations (in hopes of getting more recommendations), updated my skills, included academic information and joined groups.

Over the past few years, I’ve tweaked my profile, filling out more sections to my profile as LinkedIn offered more for me to add.  But the game changer for me  — joining groups.  At first, I was like everyone else.  A bystander watching others start and guide conversations and share valuable information.  Every so often I would click “like” to beef up my participation.  But no one cares so much if you just “like” a thought, a question or an article.  LinkedIn Groups are about conversation, feedback and most importantly, answers.  It’s one of the most viable places to get answers from professionals from diverse fields and backgrounds.  But you gotta be willing to be an active participant.

It can be a little intimidating in the beginning when you share your first article, blog post or question.  You don’t know who’s going to respond, what they’re going to say, or if they’re going to outshine you with their comment.  Oh, well.  It’s a worthwhile gamble in which you’ll never lose.  How is that? Most people are bystanders.  They’re watching the interaction and conversation without ever joining.  Those that do reply rarely attack (in my experience) shared content — as long as you’re sharing something valuable or thought provoking  — and anything they add in conjunction will be of value to you.  You’ll even find that some of these people you’ll add to your connections and continue many more conversations outside the group.  Quite honestly, you cannot lose.

Forget about how you might measure up.  These are other professionals, not perfectionists.  Start by sharing what matters to you and you’ll find it matters to someone else too.

 

Do It If You Can Measure It

I had a good friend and colleague ask me my opinion the other day about attending a women’s expo sell a cookbook she recently published for sale.  She started to the conversation by first telling me she needed some business advice, then proceeded to ask me if I have ever been to an Ultimate Women’s Expo.  I have, I’ve been to one.  And I told her so.  I told her all the things they had readily available for the attendees including a panel of women experts to talk about health, workshops that spoke of expanding your income and giveaways throughout the event.  Then she asked me should she be an exhibitor at one.

My answer to her was “Do it if you can measure it.”

She went on to tell me all the things she’d want use the venue for — sell her cookbook, have little recipe cards ready to hand out, have her promotional t-shirts for sale, possibly do a giveaway and interact with other women there.  She continued by telling me all the things they had to offer for exhibitors at this two-day event.  I could tell she was excited about it because she told me it was “the perfect venue to sell, market and promote [my] recipes to active and enthusiastic women, all searching for great fashion, beauty, health, nutrition, fitness, financial planning, careers, home decor, direct sales opportunities and more!”

I said it again, “Do it if you can measure it.”

I don’t think she entirely understood what I meant when I told her that.  She replied asking if I could look into it for her and see if it’s something she should do.  I told I could (and I will) and let her know my thoughts once I delve into it.  But what I meant by “do it if you can measure it” is that I didn’t want her to walk blindly into something without having a measurable goal in mind.  If she wants to sell her books at the expo, then she would need look at the number of past attendees, see how many other vendors attended last year, how many of them sold their products, which vendors were similar to hers and figure out from those number how many she could aim to sell.  Yeah, it seems like a lot of work (the right way always is), but it’s better than losing out on a whole lot of money needlessly.

The same would apply to interactions and networking, since that was a goal of hers too.  I do this all the time.  Whenever I drag myself out to a networking event, my goal is to meet and keep in touch with 5 new people.  I don’t ever change that number, actually.  5 is a simple number to keep up with.  I can email 5 new people when I return home from the event, I can call 5 new people to schedule a meeting with, and I can share useful information with 5 new people.  And from those 5 new people, I can measure my success in building a relationships.  Even if only 2 or 3 people keep in touch with me afterwards, that’s a 40-60% of  new people addition to my network.  Not bad.

Do it if you can measure it.