It’s not about being everywhere. It’s about being where your prospects and clients are. It’s about attracting paying clients you can dazzle!
“I don’t have time to blog,” he tells me. “Do you have time to answer your phones?” I ask. “Of course I do,” he replied with extreme indignation.
“How would you characterize most of your phone calls?” I inquired. “What do you mean?” he asked. “Are most of the calls from people trying to sell you something? Are they from existing clients who need to talk with you? Are they from prospective clients who have questions?”
“I’d say many of them are from existing clients who have questions about their case, but quite a few are inquiries asking us about our services,” he replied.
“Are you ever asked the same question over and over again?” I wanted to know. I knew the answer, but I wanted him to hear himself say it. “Of course, all the time!”
“And naturally, you take the time to answer that question every single time, don’t you?”
“Then why don’t you sit down one time and create the very best answer to that question and answer for anybody who may ask it? Get out front with answering it because you know it’s coming anyway. Don’t wait until somebody asks. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to answer it one time and make that answer available to anybody online than to answer it individually every single time?”
Pause. More pausing.
He looked from side to side. Then he glanced up at the ceiling. Looking for a good answer I suppose.
And suddenly there it was. The real problem. His constraint and challenge.
He just didn’t know how to do it.
Taking my own advice, I spoke first. “I know you don’t know how to do this. That’s why I’m here. That’s what I’m here to help you with. Mainly, I want you to understand that I know you’re busy. I know you need one more thing on your to-do-list like you need a kick to the teeth. I’m not here to lay more work on you, but I am here to give you a workflow and process* that can help you grow your practice. I want you to be able to serve more people and then to serve all your clients better. And none of that matters if you go crazy in the process. This is about sanity as you build your practice.”
His shoulders relaxed. His eyes widened. I could tell he was beginning to believe. Just beginning, mind you, but it was a start. Realizing that he might – MIGHT – be able to incorporate some new marketing strategies into his practice.
Service professionals have a lot of things other than time. They have significant overhead. They have a business model that is tough to scale. They have high touch clients. Many of them begin their careers with student loan debt. The one thing many of them lack is TIME. Well, there’s another thing many of them lack, too – enough clients.
Convincing them to take on another task is like asking them to miraculously create a few more hours a week. Impossible. Or so they think.
Honestly, service professionals are just like you and me. They know what they know. But they don’t know what they don’t know. And it can be tough to admit not knowing something when you’re a service professional who is an expert in some field of law, or medicine, or architecture, or finances. You’re hired to be the person who knows, but here’s an area where you feel somewhat lost – except you don’t want anybody to know. The result? You just keep doing what you know to do, which tends to be what you’ve always done. Even if what you’ve always done isn’t working so well. It’s comfortable.
What Should I Do?
That’s almost always question one…after an exchange like the one I recounted. Some have told me I’m an idiot for trying to help this crowd – the service professionals – because they claim it’s not a hungry market. “They don’t know they need help,” one friend told me. “You’re always talking about not wanting to push water up a hill (my description of trying to help people who don’t want help or don’t know they need help), but isn’t that what you’re doing?”
I’ll talk more about that in an upcoming episode about business building and marketing, but for now – I’m convinced this crowd, SERVICE PROFESSIONALS, need help and I’m driven to provide it. So there!
“What should I do?” is a valid question, but it doesn’t provide a framework to give enough detail that a service pro can use. For instance, to simply answer, “You should blog” is an injustice to blogging and the service pro.
Answering WHAT is like framing up a house. It’s necessary, but it’s just the start after you’ve put down the foundation. There’s lots of work before and after the framing. So it is with any answer to the question, “What should I do?”
How Should I Do It?
Frequently this is the next question. Again, it seems logical. Once we know what, then we naturally want to know how.
I don’t avoid these questions, but I’m pretty quick to tap the brakes because first and foremost I’m a business builder. Yes, I love being creative. I enjoy all the “soft” aspects of business and I’m equally fond of those hard “let’s measure it” aspects. However, one overriding question trumps all the other issues for me because it’s the one question every successful business builder must deal with first.
Why Should I Do It? I’ll Give You 5 Reasons.
All of these are purposefully framed from the prospects point-of-view, not yours. This is about your clients, not you. It’s about service and building a more profitable and successful practice (or business).
1. Your prospects and customers get a better experience.
Every service professional (just like every business owner I’ve ever encountered) confesses to answering many of the same questions every week. Sometimes daily.
Think of the number 1 question you get asked by prospective clients. How many times in a month do you answer that question? Now, take that number and multiply it by the number of minutes it takes to answer that one question. That’s how many minutes every month you spend answering the same question. And we’re just focused on one question, your top one.
If prospects ask you the same question 10 times a week, that’s 40 times a month. Assuming it takes you 10 minutes to properly answer the question, that’s 40 (times per month) multiplied by 10 (minutes each time). That’s 400 minutes, which is over 6.5 hours a month. One question. Answered 40 times a month.
Now, figure out the second most asked question. Do the same thing. Let’s assume it’s only asked 25 times a month and it takes half the time to answer (5 minutes). There goes another 2 plus hours a month.
Two questions and we’re up to almost 10 hours a month. Here’s where I get “real world” on clients. No, you may not be able to fully escape answering questions individually for people, but do you suppose you could cut it in half? If so, you’ve gained 5 hours a month. Could you shave 25% off the time spent privately, individually answering these two most often asked questions? Then you’re still saving about 2.5 hours a month.
But we’re not saving that time in one month. We’re saving that much time month, after month, after month. And the more questions (and answers) we can scale, the more time we’re saving. That’s time you can spend any way you want. You can spend more time serving clients better. That means you may be able to elevate your fees because you can provide greater service. You can invest that saved time any way you want.
It’s nice to have choices! When you scale your time by incorporating content marketing strategies into your business building, you can decide how to spend the time you save.
But that’s a benefit for YOU and we’re focused on the benefits to your prospects and clients. We spend hours in search engines because we want answers. We go to YouTube if we want video answers. We look for blogs if we want text-based answers. Maybe we visit Stitcher or Apple iTunes if we want audio or video podcasts to give us the information. As a content creator – an educator in your space – you can give your prospects a better experience by providing content suitable to their tastes.
You can also go into more depth maybe. Or you can provide an abbreviated answer if they don’t want the details you may normally provide (because you give everybody the same in-person experience). Why not give them the experience they want? If they want details, give it to them. If they want a brief outline, give them that. Your prospects want what they want and they want it the way they want it. By using content marketing you can construct the content to ideally suit a wide variety of people, making yourself more visible to more people.
2. Your prospects can get better answers.
You are attending a professional conference. It’s a small affair of about 100 people. The presenter scheduled for the first session after lunch has fallen ill. The organizers approach you, asking you to fill in. They know it’s a last minute request, but the topic is in your wheelhouse and you’ve only got to fill a 45-minute time slot. It’s a terrific opportunity for you and it helps the organizers escape a pickle. You agree to do it.
Question: Will your presentation be better than if you had known weeks prior that you’d be scheduled to present?
Very few people can deliver a superior presentation on the fly versus a presentation that has been carefully prepared and rehearsed. Good speakers and presenters know the power of the edit. They work on their speech or presentation and hone it until they have it just right. When you’re going on the fly, there’s no opportunity to craft a better speech or presentation. You’re live and done.
But there’s another phenomenon that salespeople and service professionals (and every other business person) suffer – falling into a rut. Saying the same things in the same way. Every. Single. Time.
Go back to those top 2 questions asked by your prospects. I’m betting you have a rote answer that drips from your lips without much thought. You’ve answered it so many times your brain (and mouth) go into auto-pilot. You don’t even pay much attention to the result of your answer. Is it the most effective answer? Does it fully engage the prospect? You may not know or care at the time. You just want to answer the question. It’s not that you’re insensitive or uncaring. You just turn into Pavlov’s dog. They ask the question and you hear a bell. Then, off you go answering the question just like you have thousands of other times.
Stop. Think about what you’re saying. Think about the answer. Can your auto-pilot impromptu answer be improved? I imagine it can be GREATLY improved. You know it’s true. Now’s the time to craft a better answer. Prepare. Edit. Hone it. You can put it in a format to help your prospects learn a better answer than the one you’ve been giving live on the fly for years.
3. Your prospects get answers when they want them and more conveniently.
The other evening my son called me. He wanted to know if had any experience with Apple’s iCloud, especially as it relates to iTunes. I told him I didn’t, but I quickly got online and told him to visit the Apple website where he could access their support pages. Like most companies, Apple has a knowledge base where visitors can find answers to their questions. It was about 9pm when my son and I were talking.
What about your clients? I imagine you’re not answering your office phone to answer questions at 9pm. Am I right?
So your prospect has a question. It’s 9pm. They go to your website. Can they find the answer or do they have to wait until your office opens?
What if they can find somebody else who will answer their question right now? Do you think you risk losing them? You bet you do!
4. Your prospects can share the answers.
Gastroenterologists are doctors who deal in digestive problems and that sort of thing.. There are about 15,000 in America. How many patients do you suppose hear the exact same explanation of a procedure or a diagnosis? TONS. Now, how many of those patients do you suppose are asked by family and friends to recount what the doctor said? All of them. I guarantee 100% of them repeat what the doctor told them — to somebody!
Think about it. 15,000 doctors with dozens or hundreds of patients each, repeating the same diagnosis and explaining it (and answering more questions about it) — only to have those patients try to repeat it to others. The phrase “lost in translation” comes to mind.
What if these doctors recorded a detailed explanation of a procedure – one they could share with their patients? Online? They could go into more detail, giving patients the opportunity to not only learn more about the procedure, but to share it with their family. And you thought social media was just Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Social media is sharing. It’s interacting. It’s what you do every day with your prospects and clients. Now you can do it 24/7/365 even when you’re on vacation or closed.
5. Your prospects can decide if they like you and are willing trust you before they ever meet you.
In sales, we call it pre-qualifying. That just means we can narrow down prospects to find out who is most serious about buying from us. You’ve likely done it before when you applied for a loan. You complete a form and that information is used to pre-qualify you — that is, to find out if you’re suitable or not. Well, our prospects can use online resources, if we provide them, to decide if they like us, trust us and want to pursue doing business with us.
This gives the service professional a number of advantages, but let’s focus on the prospects first. They don’t have to call and make an appointment to get some sense of who or what you are. In the comfort of their own home or office they can check you out. Maybe they can read some articles (or blog posts). Maybe they can watch some videos, or listen to some podcast episodes. Some of them may immediately think, “I don’t like her at all.” Others may think, “She’s very, very good.”
They save tons of time and hassle. As they scour your website getting to know you, they make some decisions. They don’t have to book an appointment, get dressed, drive down to your office, then spend time waiting…until they meet with you.
This rubs both ways. You don’t have to do any of that either. How cool would it be to have a person book an appointment and they tell your receptionist, “I watched a couple of his videos last night and I really liked how he explained things. I’m interested in having him help me.” By the time this person walks in, they’re pre-sold and you’ve never met them before, but they feel as though they’ve met you.
Do you realize what this means? Think about it. Depending on the realm of your work, the sales cycle can be compressed. This may not apply so much to medical professionals, but I can tell you it can apply to legal and financial service professionals who are used to multiple meetings before finalizing a commitment. If a financial advisor has to meet with somebody three times before they land a client, they’ve just been able to shorten it by one if the prospect has booked their first meeting because they liked what they found online.
There are many more reasons and benefits, but these are sufficient to prove the point. You’ve got to make the time and take the effort to do this. I know you’re tempted to think that your competence and expertise should suffice to attract people. As Dr. Phil says,
How’s that workin’ out for you?”
Your practice success is gauged by how many people you can serve and help. Namely, by how many clients can you land and dazzle! World-class professional service providers – attorneys, financial advisors, accountants, health professionals, architects, etc. – have extraordinary client bases. Annually, you invest money and time in maintaining (and improving) your professional competence. I’m merely suggesting that you do the same to improve your visibility so you can serve more clients!