Start your Follow Up BEFORE you meet someone for the first time

This is a follow up(!) to an earlier posting about my old colleague who had loads of lunches and meetings with anyone and everyone because ‘you never know’.

To improve the value of such encounters I have suggested that it’s important to follow up.  And when is the best time to do that? Well, you need to start BEFORE the meeting and you also need to do it DURING the meeting. That way you can do it most effectively AFTER the meeting.

Before the meeting, check that you know what booklets, newsletters, info sheets, leaflets and freebies you (or your firm) produce and which might be of interest to the person you are meeting. If you don’t have any such things you may want to spend a few minutes, perhaps even on your way to the meeting, thinking about how you followed up on the last meeting you had with a similar contact (eg: another solicitor, IFA, banker or whatever).

During the meeting, listen to what your new contact is talking about and try to find a relevant time to indicate that you have something in the office that you think they will find of interest. Promise to send it to them when you get back to the office. It isn’t critical to identify what it is you will send them and you will rarely be asked either!

After the meeting, follow through on your promise. Don’t just send a bland ‘thank you for lunch’ note. Fulfil the commitment you made. Evidence your trustworthiness.

Keep track and make a note to follow up AGAIN a few weeks later. Send something else, even if it’s just a link to a website item or blog entry that you have seen and which you thought they might appreciate as it relates in some way to your conversation at the meeting. (You did make a note of those key topics on the back of their business card so you could remember this didn’t you?)

This approach to Follow Up will repay dividends and make those ‘you never know’ lunches and meetings far more likely to generate some valuable follow up for you.

Edit 2013: You can get my 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to Network more effectively. Just click here for full details>>>

If you would like to book me to speak on the subject at your in-house conference or training session, do get in touch. There’s an outline of my talk on ‘How to ensure your networking activity is successful’ here>>>  

 

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Client testimonials: A key mistake to avoid (part five)

I introduced this topic in four previous postings on this blog. Parts one and two introduced the subject and in part three I explained one simple way for ambitious professionals to obtain testimonials. In part four I explained how to choose which testimonials to use.

In this final posting in this series I want to highlight a classic mistake that people make when using testimonials and how you can destroy your credibility if you do the same thing.

First though let’s just remind ourselves why we want to use testimonials in our marketing materials. It is to add credibility to our sales messages and to evidence the promises we have made. Essentially we are acting as a conduit for a third party who is telling our prospective client how good we are.

So what is the key mistake that we need to avoid?Well, let me ask you a question. If you were thinking of engaging me to mentor you which of these two (fictional) testimonials would have most impact?

I have overcome the issues that were halting my progress in the firm and, thanks to Mark I am now a confident networker and more effective in my new partnership role.
-Joe Soap, KPMG

I have overcome the issues that were halting my progress in the firm and, thanks to Mark I am now a confident networker and more effective in my new partnership role.
– Joe Soap, Wander, Cloak and Co (6 partner firm, Hertfordshire).

The only difference is the name of the firm. The first one is recognisable. The second is not.Which is the best one to use?

It can be a big mistake to assume that the quote from someone at a large firm or big name company is automatically the best to use. Why? Well, the starting point is, as always in marketing, to go back to think about who is your audience? Am I trying to influence people in other large firms or in smaller practices? Will my prospective clients relate better to someone in a Big 4 firm or a smaller practice? Will they be more interested in the impact I can have on someone in a Big 4 firm or in a smaller practice?

These are key issues to consider. Whilst it might be nice to have testimonials from recognised names and from partners in the largest firms and high street companies, this can work against you. It can alienate your target audience who may well conclude: If he works well with people in companies like that he’s probably not right for us.

Of course if you have a range of testimonials and the ‘big name’ is just one of many, it may add some further credibility but don’t make it the first one in the list just in case it works against you.

As I’ve already said, the key thing is always to focus on your audience. The primary audience for your testimonials is likely to be prospective clients that need further evidence that you are a credible adviser and right for them.

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more marketing insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Avoid the downsides of the “you never know” syndrome

In an earlier posting I referred to old colleague of mine who would go to lunch with anyone and who suffered from the ‘you never know’ syndrome.  He thought that it was worth attending all and any networking functions and lunches as ‘you never know’ when or where the next piece of work would come from.If time were unlimited this might not be a bad ploy.

In practice we need to either be more discerning or to maximise the prospect of getting value from the ‘you never know’ meetings we fix up. So how can we do that?

There are two basic ways:

1. Pre-qualify

This effectively involves gathering a little info so as to enable you to pre-judge the person. If you value your time and/or you’ve plenty of work flows then you can afford to limit yourself to meeting up with people who fit certain criteria. These will vary depending upon your business and your service offerings.

2. Effective follow-up

My old colleague did very little by way of follow up so as to build on or develop new contacts. At best the business cards he collected were added to the firm’s marketing database. So his new contacts received newsletters and ‘Budget’ booklets each year. I doubt this is the most effective way to keep in touch but that’s another subject for another day.

Edit 2013: You can get my 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to Network more effectively. Just click here for full details>>>

If you would like to book me to speak on the subject at your in-house conference or training session, do get in touch. There’s an outline of my talk on ‘How to ensure your networking activity is successful’ here>>>  

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Client testimonials: Which ones to use? (part four)

I’ve addressed this topic in three previous postings on this blog. Parts one and two introduced the subject and in part three I explained one simple way for ambitious professionals to obtain testimonials.In practice such testimonials will not always be immediately suitable to incorporate in your marketing literature.

In this fourth part of the series I will explain HOW to choose and use the testimonials that you receive. The final posting in this series will highlight a classic mistake that people make when using testimonials and how it can destroy your credibility.

Most importantly, you want testimonials that are not just positive but also that explain specifically what you did and how the client benefited from your service. Select testimonials that are brief and focused. Each one should be about a specific and measurable result, as much as possible.

So if you receive a particularly positive testimonial but it’s too generalised, thank the person concerned. Indicate how touched you are by their kind words and ask ‘a small favour’. Explain the style of testimonial you’re really after and ask if they could adapt theirs to fit that style.

When it comes to my talks I ask for and regularly receive written testimonials on the course feedback forms. I tend to choose those that say something more specific than “Great speaker” or “Liked his style”.It’s great to be able to choose from a large number of testimonials. If you are in a similar situation you might want to follow these guidelines when choosing which testimonials to use:

1. What are the key benefits of engaging you or your firm, and do you have short testimonials that support or prove those top benefits?

2. Do you have testimonials that tell about specific and measurable results you helped the client to achieve?

3. Are any of the testimonials from recognised names in your profession or from businesses that prospective clients will recognise.

And how can you USE your testimonials? Include them as appropriate in your marketing materials, on your website, in your proposals, award entries, publicity material. Just keep in mind who is your audience in each case and ensure that the testimonial speaks to that audience in an appropriate way.

I must admit I don’t use all the testimonials that I have received to best effect. At the moment there is a collection on the testimonials page of my website and also plenty on of recommendations (which are akin to testimonials) on my Linkedin profile.

In the final part of this series I will highlight a classic mistake that it’s all too easy to make when you get a really good testimonial. It’s a mistake that can really work against you and negate all of your efforts to satisfy a prospective client that you’re the right adviser for them.

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more marketing insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Carry on bumping?

Do you recognise the following quote?

“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.”

It’s from the opening lines of “Winnie-The-Pooh” (by A.A. Milne).

Can you think of anything that you continue to do the same way you have always done it even though a casual observer might have good cause to question that approach and to suggest there might be a better way?

If you run your own practice you may be quite happy with the rate of growth or the lack of it. You may get a raw thrill from going into your office each day and love both what you do and the way your business operates.

Alternatively,  if you are honest with yourself, you may recognise that you are effectively just bumping down the stairs, bump, bump, bump because that is the only way you know to do things.

One mistake I realised I was making recently, thanks to some very valuable feedback, was that I have made it seem that my mentoring programme is only available to people in larger firms. In fact I am happy to mentor sole-practitioners, those running their own smaller practices and also ambitious professionals who work in business or for institutions of one sort or another.  I need to revise my marketing literature to make this clearer. I can’t blame anyone else for my oversight. It was just me, bumping down the stairs. Mind you, my mentoring services are not cheap and I know that some smaller practitioners will not want to invest sufficiently in themselves to engage me.

What about you? Can you think of anything you do that you’re doing the way you’ve always done it even though it may not be the most effective or comfortable ways of doing things? Do you ever take time out, do you ever MAKE time to work ON your business rather than just keep bumping along working IN your business?

If any of this resonates it’s upto you to do something about it.

I’m always happy to have a conversation with ambitious professionals who sense there may be some value in developing a relationship and engaging me as their mentor. Such conversations are always without prejudice and will not always lead onto anything further. We have to like the idea of working with each other, for starters!

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more marketing insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Client testimonials: How to get them (part three)

I introduced this topic in parts one and two so will avoid repeating the points I have already made. This time the focus is on one simple way for ambitious professionals to obtain testimonials.

I regularly address this point in my talk about ‘How to make more money from your tax work’ (a popular session for smaller firms of accountants).

The easiest way to obtain the sort of testimonials you want is to…

..ASK for them. That’s right. Just contact clients (past or present) and ask them for feedback. There are various less direct ways you can do this if you are embarrassed by the idea or if you think it’s not ‘professional’.

I don’t think it’s professional to provide a service without making it clear that you want to do a good job and to receive feedback to ensure you have done all that was required to the client’s satisfaction.

Here’s one of the first testimonials I received last year. I’m still feel very proud whenever I read it:

I have known Mark Lee for almost 15 years. He is a first-rate speaker and seminar leader and has a real in-depth knowledge of the accountancy profession. His knowledge and experience also make him an excellent consultant.

– Chris Frederiksen, Chairman The 2020 group

If you’re like many of the accountants I know you will initially be puzzled by my suggestion to ask for testimonials in respect of your professional services. Surely it’s dangerous to ask for feedback from clients. What if they weren’t happy? What if they have a complaint? What if they won’t say anything good?

Well, in any of those situations the response you receive presents you with a wonderful opportunity to rectify the position.

Let’s be honest. You are hardly likely to ask a client for a testimonial if you expect a negative response. So if you find out that a client who you thought was ‘happy’ is actually dissatisfied you can do something about it. If you hadn’t asked you would have continued in blissful ignorance assuming that ‘no complaint = happy client’.

Unhappy clients tell a lot of people what they think of the adviser who has provided less than satisfactory service. Why? Because it’s human nature, sadly, to share complaints more frequently than to share stories of excellent service. In the same way the media is full of ‘bad’ news stories rather than ‘good news’.

You don’t want your clients to be bad-mouthing you, especially if you thought they were happy so it’s really helpful to KNOW whether no news really is good news and whether or not your clients were happy with the service you provided.

Asking for testimonials and not getting them is a SIGN that something isn’t right and it’s upto you how you deal with that situation. But a fear of such a response is not a good reason for holding back from asking for a testimonial.

In the next part of this series I will explain how to choose and use the testimonials that you receive.

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Client testimonials: Why they are important (part two)

I introduced this topic in a previous posting on this blog so will avoid repeating the points I made last time.

Recommendations, referrals and testimonials are among the most effective ways for ambitious professionals to establish their credibility.

In an ideal world prospective clients would seek recommendations and referrals from trusted friends and family. Where this isn’t possible the testimonials given by third parties are a powerful alternative. In effect they are confirming to prospective clients, “Yes, this adviser is for real, they are good and this is how they helped me.” The implication of the testimonial is that when the prospective client engages you, they too will be pleased and have their problems solved. They start to believe in the promises you have made and the assurances you have offered by reading that others either recommend you or have been glad they used your services.

A useful testimonial includes these things: Full name (forename and surname). If possible, enhance the effect by including a title and business name/type. Anonymised testimonials are less convincing.

Compare the impact of the following two testimonials I have received about one of my talks:

1) A very entertaining talk on a dry but serious subject.
– I. Goldin

2) 180 people in the audience tonight and you kept them all riveted with your dynamic presentation.
– Michelle Fisher – Chairman, North West London Society of Chartered Accountants

I’m sure that the second one has a greater impact generally than does the first.

Subsequent posts in this short series will contain ideas as to how you can obtain testimonials, what to do with them and the key mistake you will want to avoid making.

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Why you should never simply say: You're welcome

In my last post I stressed the need to clarify expectations and to avoid over-promising the speed with which you will undertake work for a client.

Let’s take that a stage further. Assume for a moment that you’ve really put yourself out for a client (or indeed for anyone). You’ve pulled out all the stops and the client is really grateful. They tell you how pleased they are and what a great job you’ve done.

What do you say in response?

If you’re like most people you probably say something like: “You’re welcome”, “It’s a pleasure”, “All part of the service”. And in so doing you immediately diminish the VALUE of what you’ve done because you are underplaying the effort involved.  Is that what you want to do?

Next time this happens think about using one of these phrases instead of a simple “you’re welcome”:

  • How kind of you. I really appreciate that because I did work hard on it.
  • That really makes me feel good  as it wasn’t an easy thing to do.
  • That’s great to hear as I did work hard to meet the deadline you set.

In addition to reinforcing the level of service you have provided, responses along these lines also compliment the client (or whoever has thanked you).  So it can really create or enhance a win-win scenario.

What else can you say in such situations?

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Why you should never simply say: You’re welcome

In my last post I stressed the need to clarify expectations and to avoid over-promising the speed with which you will undertake work for a client.

Let’s take that a stage further. Assume for a moment that you’ve really put yourself out for a client (or indeed for anyone). You’ve pulled out all the stops and the client is really grateful. They tell you how pleased they are and what a great job you’ve done.

What do you say in response?

If you’re like most people you probably say something like: “You’re welcome”, “It’s a pleasure”, “All part of the service”. And in so doing you immediately diminish the VALUE of what you’ve done because you are underplaying the effort involved.  Is that what you want to do?

Next time this happens think about using one of these phrases instead of a simple “you’re welcome”:

  • How kind of you. I really appreciate that because I did work hard on it.
  • That really makes me feel good  as it wasn’t an easy thing to do.
  • That’s great to hear as I did work hard to meet the deadline you set.

In addition to reinforcing the level of service you have provided, responses along these lines also compliment the client (or whoever has thanked you).  So it can really create or enhance a win-win scenario.

What else can you say in such situations?

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Never offer to 'get it done by the weekend'

Many ambitious professionals are really good at what they do. Even those who aren’t yet at the top of their game recognise the importance of client service. However it doesn’t matter how a good a job you’ve done if the client doesn’t appreciate your efforts.

One of my favourite examples of how easy it is to go wrong here is when you promise to do something for a client by the end of the week, or before the weekend. What does that mean exactly?

To you, it might mean that you’ll stay until the work is done on Friday. You won’t go home until you’ve fulfilled your promise. On Wednesday, when you said the work would be done by the end of the week, you didn’t mean to put it off until Friday but other things have got in the way. Still, you’ve got all day Friday. Well, after dealing with another client matter, you’ve got all afternoon. Indeed, after taking another client call it looks like you’re going to be working late. In the event you start the work at 4.30 and don’t finish it until 7.30.

Still, you’ve kept your promise to get the work done before the weekend. So you’ve shown how trustworthy you are. Have you? Have you really? What counts is not what you think but what the client thinks.

The client knew you’d said the work would be done by Friday. He’d been hoping to get it Thursday but Friday wasn’t so bad. Then Friday zipped past and he didn’t hear from you. There were other things on his mind so it wasn’t until he was packing up at 6pm that he realised that you hadn’t kept your promise. He went home.

How critical was it for the client to have the work from you before the weekend? Before he left the office on Friday? You don’t know. You didn’t ask. You didn’t check for mutual understanding of the ambiguous deadline you had agreed. Maybe that suited you. BUT did it suit your client?

In practice there may be no appreciable difference between getting the work to a client before close of play one day and by 9am the next day. Sometimes it will make a big difference. If you don’t ask you’ll never know. You may be putting yourself under undue strain to meet a deadline that doesn’t matter to the client.

My tip: Always ASK by when the client wants the work and then CHECK what that means to the client.

Do you have any other tips to share along similar lines?

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