“If you don’t like the way your prospects and clients treat you, then look in the mirror. Most of the time people treat us the way we teach them to treat us (and the implications of this run far beyond business relationships).”
Nailing Your Colours to the Mast
I’m very fortunate in the clients I work with, but it wasn’t always that way. When I first started my business I was fresh from the world of grant-writing where I mostly dealt with bureaucratic monoliths where process is more important than timeliness or results so I was used to working on someone else’s schedule and program but I quickly realised that this got in the way of the results I could deliver. That’s when I started to take Dan Kennedy’s advice about controlling your day and directing your clients seriously.
I discovered four things very quickly:
- Client satisfaction skyrocketed along with their results;
- Clear expectations eliminated most of the tension for both myself and my client;
- Life is much harder when you don’t set your standards and adhere to them;
- Once clients understood the why’s and wherefores of the process, they realised the benefits.
The reality is that following the process I’ve set up enables me to work faster and tune-in better to my clients’ needs creating wins for both of us. When something happens that interrupts the process or I have a ‘compassionate’ impulse that causes me to move the guidelines there is a visible flow-on effect.
It Worked for Me… But What About the Other Side?
In fact, after seeing how I operate, many of my clients have asked me to help them build expectations and boundaries into their marketing as well and have quickly seen the benefits reflected in the quality of the prospects they talk to and the speed with which they close deals.
Companies large and small recognise the importance of onboarding staff effectively to minimise stress and increase productivity, the same is true of your process for screening prospects and onboarding clients especially if you provide a service. First impressions count. They are often the key to the success or failure of subsequent interactions because you train people how to treat your deadlines, standards, and requirements. I take deadlines seriously and rarely miss them because I recognise that delays cost my clients money and opportunity, when I do miss a deadline I work out some kind of compensation.
Of course, you can’t guarantee what you can’t manage so when you set up processes and automations (whether by staff members or by software) you also need to set up a system to monitor them.
Creating Processes You Can Live With (and Live Up To)
As much as I believe in the human touch, I believe that systems and automation can increase human effectiveness. I don’t want to live and work with robots, but there are many ways that AI helps us accentuate our human interactions and give us more time to truly engage with each other.
Process in Action
One of my B2B clients outsourced their monthly newsletter to me about 6 months ago and replaced their in-house custom newsletter and e-newsletter with a monthly 4-part template campaign that includes an e-newsletter, postcard, micro-newsletter and physical newsletter. The core content fits around an Australian monthly theme with a custom offer for each month provided by the client.
Six months into this arrangement his reservations about scrapping in-house creation were laid to rest by the numbers. His database has grown by 50%, but the cost of the physical mailing to all these new subscribers is more than offset by the fact that income directly related to the mail out is up by nearly 600% and, in addition, the staff member who previously created the newsletter is spending those precious hours on calls (using reminders triggered by automation) with his most valuable customers leading to greater customer satisfaction and new income.
Is Spontaneity Overrated?
Creating processes and collateral that can be used repeatedly may feel as though we are surrendering to the pressures of an increasingly mechanised and impersonal world, but what if those things help us to explain ourselves better and engage more with our clients?
From observation, I would say that those people who genuinely start each interaction or sales conversation from scratch deliver less value, close fewer sales and expend more energy than those who are well-prepared with carefully thought through answers and collateral as long as they are also familiar with the product or service they are selling and aware of the limitations of their knowledge. I think this not only applies to sales and marketing, but also delivery. Almost everyone I know would rather be told, “I don’t know the answer, let me find out,” than confidently provided with erroneous information.
Are there situations where we should make an exception to our own rules?
Yes, but they’re fewer than you probably are allowing. Most people justify their exceptions on the basis of expectations that are rarely fulfilled.
In general, you will find that you are not only much happier and less stressed, but also delivering better results when you outline and enforce your processes. Exceptions should be few and far between and should hardly ever be offered to new clients. Save them for existing clients who have demonstrated their loyalty and value.
There are two main reasons that people make exceptions to their sales and delivery processes:
- They don’t have processes in the first place; and
- They need money so desperately that they’ll do anything to close the deal.
Neither of these are good for your business and they can both be addressed by some strategic thinking and planning so if these are the reasons why you are letting your prospects and clients control your life and business, know that it’s OK to experience this in the short term, but it’s not something that you should allow to continue.
Setting Your Magnetic Marketing on Autopilot
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