I just read an excellent rant (or, venting?) by a noted business growth consultant — Andy Birol.

Andy’s earned a solid reputation based on a history of helping clients build their business and value.

He’s actually quite good at it, too.

His latest post reflects his honest frustration with how well his website is working for him.  Or, maybe not.

The Problem With Many Websites
What Andy and many advisors realize is that “good-looking websites” aren’t necessarily ‘effective websites’.  Of course, it might help to define what ‘effective’ means, right?

Effective‘ means that your website can create an opportunity to help you generate revenues.

In most cases, this doesn’t imply an online transaction or purchase.  But it does suggest your website should be able to create well-qualified opportunities from which you can generate a client (and, the revenue that suggests) in a reasonable amount of time.

Let’s face it.  Whatever your expertise, it’s safe to say you probably aren’t a website developer.  Your expertise may lie in helping your clients manage their risks, make good investments, protect their intellectual property, and the like. So the lure of a ‘pretty-looking’ website may be quite compelling.

If It Looks Terrible But Works Great . . . Don’t Mess With It!
What Andy’s learned is that ‘good looks’ aren’t all that important in producing the performance criteria he’s learned is really important — i.e. identifying a well-qualified individual for his services.  That’s a huge insight.  And, a valuable one to remember.

I am constantly amazed (but not surprised) at how often a website built on the HubSpot platform looks ‘clunky’ but works extremely well.  There’s a New Yorker magazine cartoon where two dogs are in the library and on their master’s PC.  One dog says to the other, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog”.  Very true.  And that’s why even ‘ugly’ websites can be more productive of leads than pretty websites . . . ‘pretty useless’, that is!

On a Google search, if your website or blog offers highly relevant content, it will attract traffic in the form of well-qualified visitors to you.  Once you have qualified visitors, using CTA’s (Calls To Action) and offering items of value can help reveal their identify so you can begin a marketing dialogue with them.  Just as Andy’s learned.

KEY POINT: Find Out If Your Current Website Is Working As You Wish
A valuable service of HubSpot is a complementary review of your current website.  The service is called “Marketing Grader“.  It takes only a few moments. You enter your URL (and up to 2 of your competitors) and it will give you an most insightful report on where you’re doing good and where you might be able to be doing even better.

If you’re wondering why the image of nice boats at a marina is being displayed, let me explain . . .

“I’d Like (a lot!) More Referrals!”
That’s the most frequently cited comment that I hear when I’m talking with providers in financial services, accounting, law, etc.  It’s a definite issue.  Maybe for you, too?

And why not?  After all, isn’t meeting a prospective client through a referral from someone who knows, likes and trusts you . . . about as good as it gets?  I sure think so.

Why You May Not Be Getting More Referrals

Reason #1:  You’re Not Asking
The most likely reason is that you’re not asking for them!  So obvious.  So true, too.

Reason #2:  No System
You don’t have a system for generating referrals. Referrals don’t happen by accident.  That’s why many people aren’t getting the quantity and quality of referrals they want on a consistent basis.

Reason #3:  No Skill
You have a system but you’re not skilled enough to be effective using it.

OK, So What’s with . . . The Boats?
Great question!  In our Preferral Prospecting System® — it’s like a referral, only better — we show you how to create a referral system based on four (4) elements:

Profile … of the ‘Ideal Person’ you’d like to meet
Source … of the Preferrals you’d like to receive — e.g. a ‘Center-of-Influence’
Method … the means for making your sources produce Preferrals
Plan … the coordinated schedule of actions that will generate the Preferrals you want

PROFILE . . . is based on a few observable characteristics . . . that correlate highly with the kind of people who truly understand what you do, value the benefits you offer and are willing and able to pay you a ‘fair’ price to enjoy them.

Some examples . . . “a CPA” . . . “a parent with children in private school” . . . “a homeowner” . . . etc.  The key is to choose a characteristic that doesn’t require someone to be psychic or make a subjective judgement that someone ‘needs’ whatever benefits you offer.  And that’s why we have those ‘boats’ in today’s post.

One of my clients, a financial advisor, has found that asking, “Do you know anyone who owns a big _ _ _ boat — 42′ or bigger that is kept at a marina on Long Island Sound?” is the ONLY profile characteristic he needs to use to gain an introduction to someone who is most likely to understand, value and afford his services.  See how that works?

Developing a PROFILE of your Ideal Client, based on observable characteristics, is a key element in creating a system for generating more and better referrals for your practice.

When you think about what makes for a valued relationship between two people, I think EMPATHY has to be a key factor.

Empathy Invites Emotional Engagement and Commitment
Jane Wurwand, Founder of Dermalogica wrote an article and cited author, Daniel Pink who argues that empathy is a right-brain quality.  Jane feels empathy is more ‘feminine’ than ‘masculine’ and it’s why, more often than not, highly successful business people seem to possess this quality and exercise it liberally.

Empathy Is a Key Factor in Business Success
Wurwand’s article reminds us of how both the masculine quality of ‘assertive energy’ as well as the feminine quality of ‘connective energy’ are necessary for reaching effective decisions and building consensus to implement them effectively.

Gertrude Bell’s Legacy:  Rim-Walker
Gertrude Bell was woman ahead of her time.  A graduate of Oxford University in England, she was an advisor to Arab kings, European heads of state and spoke several dialects of Arabic.

Her ability to connect with her clients was incredible.  She knew how her clients saw the world because she lived as they did.  After graduating from Oxford, she learned Arabic by living with the Bedouin tribes in North Africa for several years.  When King Faisal of Iraq (it was 1921) sought her counsel, she not only understood Arab culture, she spoke his language.

If western culture was in one ‘bowl’ and arab culture was in another, Ms. Bell was able to ‘walk the rims’ of each — seeing what both had  to offer (or, protect!).  Her role as advisor and liaison to powerful world leaders resulted from her being highly effective at providing empathetic counsel and using it to gain consensus from extremely disparate parties.

What You Can Learn From Happy Clients
Ask clients of highly regarded / desired advisors, “What do you like most about your advisor?”.  They’ll tell you.  Usually, it’s some variation on “S/he understands our business, our culture, our industry, our competitors but most of all . . . me”.

This makes it easy to ensure any recommendations you may make will be more acceptable and more likely to be implemented. But it all hinges on your ability to understand your client’s world, hopes, fears, concerns and desires.

Get out of your world long enough to get into your clients’ world and business

There’s a lot of truth to the saying, “If you want to be heard, say something worthy of my attention”.

The image to the left was part of a sidebar on a blog where the ‘offered information’ is highly relevant to the ‘Ideal Client’ or ‘target audience’ who’s seeking to use their telephony more easily and effectively.

The Lesson:  Be Relevant!
In the ADHD world of today where people may have less time to do what they want and less attention than they’d like . . . to invest in a meaningful exchange with you . . . you must be relevant or you’ll be history very quickly!

Key #1: “Have a Goal in Mind”
Anyone can create a presentation, not everyone will get a desired result.  All communications should be based on the result or outcome you’re seeking.  In business, that’s often to ‘get a sale’ or ‘move the chain’ in the sales pipeline.  But it can’t be simply to ‘communicate’ . . . a grunt will do that (and not much else!).

Key #2: “See The World As Your Audience Sees It”
“If you can show me a Tisch, I’ll give you $5,000, right now”.  If you speak German, I’m probably about to part with $5,000!  If not, I’m probably confusing you.  So ‘losing’ you isn’t far behind.  Effective communications implies getting to understand the world as your prospect sees it.  Knowing their hopes, fears, dreams, concerns, etc. is the basis for knowing what they’ll find is relevant.

Key #3: “Learn To Construct a Compelling Argument”
Most schools and universities aren’t teaching young people how to communicate ideas effectively (i.e. persuasively).  That’s a vital skill-set that’s rapidly becoming a lost art.  Good news.  If you learn how to create a compelling argument, you can move people to take action.  Often, actions that will benefit both of you.  My recommendation:  read “How To Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less” by Milo Frank.  Master what Milo is telling you and you’ll communicate more effectively than most people on the planet!

Key #4: “Communicate Consistently”
With the many distractions all around us, even a well-designed message will be ‘missed’ unless it is repeated consistently.  You’ve seen an ad on TV that seems to show up every time you watch TV?  The reason is because the marketers know you’re probably not even going to notice it unless you have a number of opportunities to see it.  Same thing with your messages.  Staying ‘in mind’ without getting ‘in face’ is an art form.  But it’s an art form you’ll want to learn and practice if you want to move people with your messages.

Being RELEVANT, having a GOAL to achieve, being COMPELLING and sharing your messages CONSISTENTLY will make you a far better communicator with prospects and clients than most of your alleged competitors!

After a week of being out of computer due to a myriad of mundane mistakes that produced a major disruption in my life, I’m back.  Thankfully.

Learning What Motivates Clients
Today, I want to recognize an insight prompted by a Duct Tape Marketing Colleague of mine in Davenport, IA — AJ Perisho.  (Check out his potent post right here!)

A Simple Three Prong Approach
AJ recently conducted a survey of his target audience — i.e. small business owners — about how they feel about ‘marketing’.  Specifically, AJ asked people for three (3) things:  “With respect to ‘marketing’, what are your biggest FEARS . . . FRUSTRATIONS . . . DESIRES?”

That’s a powerful question that YOU can use to learn more about what moves your prospective (and, existing!) clients to act on your value proposition.

People Act for Their Reasons, Not Ours
A wise person one told me, People tend to maintain the status quo more than they are inclined to take actions and make changes”.  I tend to agree.  What I’ve also learned, however, is that changes are made when the need to do so is clearly understood . . . in a context defined by the person him or herself.

THAT . . . is why knowing what makes someone feel ‘less OK’ than they like . . . may hold the key to helping them take action with you.

If people do things for their reasons, LEARN THEM . . . and use them to help them take actions that make their lives better! 


doctor patient meetingTheoretically, you could walk into a Best Buy store and buy a Sony flat-screen TV.  The location of the store really doesn’t matter.  The salesperson who helps you shouldn’t matter, either.  And THAT . . . is a big reason why Best Buy refers to the people it serves as ‘customers’ and not ‘clients’.

It’s a Matter of Balance
When the solution being sold is more or less understood and tangible in nature — like a flat-screen TV is a ‘solution’ to not experiencing the Super Bowl in an exciting manner — it’s easy to see that buyers of that solution are more likely to be viewed as ‘customers’ than ‘clients’.

But when the solution being sold is more reflective of the applied expertise and insight of the provider of a problem-solving service — like the physician counseling her patient in the above image  . . . then the relationship is less ‘customer’ and more ‘client’.

Advisors . . . Have Clients, Not Customers
When a solution requires an accurate assessment and expert insight into the buyer’s needs and situation . . . as well as the technical aspects of the solution being rendered . . . the relationship is decidely more ‘client’ than ‘customer’.

Consider the fact that if you were about to undergo a surgical procedure, you might be unhappy if you discovered — as you’re being wheeled into surgery — that your regular doctor had to leave on a personal emergency and ‘some other’ doctor would be performing your surgery.  Granted, the ‘other doc’ is licensed by the state to practice medicine and has staff privileges at the hospital but the fact that you don’t know WHO this replacement doctor is . . . might be unsettling to you.

It’s your personal relationship with someone — as well as the technical expertise of whatever solution you offer — that makes you an advisor. And the people who seek you out for the solutions they want and you offer . . . are clients rather than customers.

There’s an old joke that goes like this: Two affluent ladies are meeting for lunch.  One of them, who’s about to have her home remodeled with a professional decorator, asks the other, “What’s the difference between a bathroom with a motif and a bathroom with a theme?  Her friend, who’s been there / done that before replies, “About $20,000”.

Being a Trusted Advisor  vs. merely being an expert in your field — is kind of like that, too.

“Trusted Advisor”
This term is so overused, it’s become a cliche.  But there is serious financial benefit and value in being seen as one regardless of the professional field you happen to be in — law, accounting, financial services, consulting, etc. 

Relationship vs. Transactions
Advisors who earn the professional regard and respect of their clients are truly different from other vendors offering the same problem-solving expertise but without a deeper relationship in place.  Being in the right place at the right time with the right answer will probably suffice to generate a transaction with you.

Being a preferred provider — being someone whom a client would, all things being equal, prefer over others is probably the only sure way to operate profitably and productively over the long haul.  Why?  Because almost any thing a competitor in your field can offer a client  creates a level playing field.  That removes the competitive distinction between you and your alternatives.  So what’s left?  The unique relationship YOU offer a prospect or client.

In future posts, we’ll be exploring more about this opportunity to differentiate yourself in the eyes of your prospects and clients by becoming (or, more effectively communicating!) that you are a Trusted Advisor and . . . a Preferred Advisor, as well.

Experts who solve problems are going to get sales.  Experts who solve problems and build relationships are going to get clients.  

Converting imageThe fourth function in your client development process is . . . CONVERTING.

Some call it ‘Selling’ or ‘Closing’.   It’s critical to the ultimate outcome you’re seeking — i.e. to go to your bank with a lot more more money than you’re putting in there now.

I just returned from a business trip from the west coast.  It was a long flight – over 4 hours.  Apart from occasional turbulence, nothing exceptional.  Now we’re on ‘final approach’ to land.  Seatbelts fastened.  Check.  Tray tables in their upright and locked position.  Check.

About 50 feet off the runway, a gust of wind hit the aircraft and almost put one wingtip into the runway.  Fortunately, the pilot recovered (Thank God!) control and the landing continued ‘as planned’.  But what if, in the last 10 seconds of the flight, the pilot ‘lost control’ of the landing?  The entire flight would have been deemed a ‘disaster’.

Selling is a ‘Mission Critical’ Function
Converting qualified opportunities into realized revenues is what really brings closure (no pun intended!) to your Client Development System.  It’s the last ‘key piece’ of the puzzle that makes it possible for you to go to your bank.  So you must do it as effectively as each of the three (3) previous elements — Fueling, Qualifying and Cultivating.

If you have a business function that is needed repeatedly, done routinely and produces results that are critical to your success . . . please . . . don’t ‘wing it’.  Do it by design, not accident.  Otherwise, you’ll get the results you want sporadically and erratically instead of consistently and conscientiously.

If you’re seeking to gain the skills and attitudes needed to be effective at converting opportunities into revenues, I highly recommend you find a good sales training organization or coach and work on building the skills and attitudes you need to be effective in this key function.  (Psst — if you need a good recommendation . . . call me!  860-798-6964)


cultivating imageThe third function in your client development process is . . . CULTIVATING.

People Have The Attention Span of a Gnat
You know it’s true.  We are being deluged with 3,000 – 5,000 messages bombarding us on a daily basis.  It’s daunting!  And, it’s so easy to simply tune out anything and anyone who does not present us with an immediate need for a response or an opportunity for possible gain.

Even Your Ideal Prospect Probably Isn’t Ready To Buy . . . Today
Regardless of how you come into contact with someone who satisfies the ‘Ideal Client’ profile for your services, there’s a very good chance that they will not have an ‘immediate need’ for your services.

You buy groceries weekly, you get a dental cleaning every 6 months, and you look at buying or leasing a new car every 3 – 5 years.    

In between those periodic ‘high need’ moments, you’re still a qualified prospect but you’re not a ‘HOT’ prospect, are you?

And THAT . . . is why you want to Keep-In-Touch to Stay-In-Mind with people who, sooner or later, WILL be buying what you’re selling.

Cultivation Makes You More Competitive
Maintaining contact with your prospects — especially when they’re in the early or middle stage of their buying-cycle — builds awareness of you and preference for your brand . . . so when they are ready to do business or refer someone who is, you’ll have a competitive edge!

If you’re not cultivating relationships with people who can buy and/or refer you to others who can . . . you’re missing out.  Big time!

Qualifying imageThe second function in your client development process is . . . QUALIFYING.

Having The Right People Is a Good Thing
As you know, the real difference between your potential and your profits are the people you serve.

In terms of people, there are two key factors you’ll want to use to help you decide who is ‘qualified’ to take your time, money and energy for your business or practice.

1.  Can someone BUY the products and services you offer?
2.  Can Someone REFER or INTRODUCE you to people who can?

That’s it.  Don’t make this complicated, my friend!

“Can You Buy From Me?”
This is an obvious criterion.  If you’re not connecting regularly with people who will, sooner or later, want the kind of products and services you offer, you’ll never generate any revenues.  And that’s unacceptable.  So knowing whether someone can buy what you offer is a key to your success.

“Can You Refer People To Me Who Can Buy My Products or Services?”
Next to finding you have a viable prospect for your products and services, learning that someone is willing and able to refer people to you (or, introduce you) to people who can best understand, desire and afford the services you offer, is the next best thing.

People who are referring others to you are demonstrating their TRUST and RESPECT in you. That’s not to be taken lightly. Nor is it earned easily!

Ideally, you want to find people who will both BUY and REFER.  But at least one of these two criteria is required to have someone ‘qualify’ to get into your Client Development System.

So Again . . . WHY Are You Qualifying People?
Building your business or practice requires clients –– and the revenues they suggest.  Clients come from people who’ve come to know, like and trust you.  Some of these people may need your services themselves.  Others, for any number of reasons, may not need the products and services you offer.  But they may still be able to refer people to you who will.

Regardless of what someone may be able to do for your ‘bottom line’ . . . if you can’t see how they can help you by buying and/or referring you to others who can . . . you don’t let them ‘in’ your Client Development System.  Period.

Building relationships is the basis for building revenues.  However, if you’re working with people who cannot (or, will not) buy from you and/or refer to you . . . you’re burdening your social relationships with a business expectation that’s simply not going to happen. Don’t do it!