Win the Conversation About Fees for Your Services

Win the Conversation About Fees for Your Services

One question clients frequently ask me is, How do I negotiate when a customer claims my prices are too high? For some, negotiating their own fees is one of the most challenging tasks of owning a business, but it’s also one of the most important skills for long-term business survival. The good news is you can learn and practice negotiation skills.

Here’s the strategy I’ve shared with clients for years to help them successfully negotiate: Mount a counterattack that prevents the issue of “your prices are too high” from arising in the first place. Here are two key steps you should take before you make the pitch:

  • Do the math
  • Demonstrate the value of your offering

Do the math

Before pitching a customer, know your own numbers and the customer’s numbers. On your end, have a firm grasp of all your costs and the market value of what you offer. Clearly communicate set, firm price levels for all your offerings, so the customer doesn’t get the impression you’re making up numbers on the spot.

On the customer side, explore their business model so you can determine whether they can afford your fees. Understand how their costs and margins and learn how their transactions are structured. Do they have recurring customers or one-offs?

Research the demand for their services or products and the competition. Tailor your pitch in their language to show how your fees can fit their income model.

Demonstrate the value of your offer

Your pitch should clearly communicate the value of what you offer so that the thought, “this costs too much,” won’t cross the customer’s mind.

Start with setting the context and managing expectations. Talk to them openly and transparently about the sales process, let them know you will ask them for a decision, and acknowledge not everyone is the right fit.

The wrong approach, however, is for you to talk non-stop about the features and benefits of what you offer. Make space in the conversation for them to feel in control of their decision. Ask them what is the importance of this project or purchase to their business, so they articulate for themselves the value of what you offer. Ask them how they determined the budget. There may be an opportunity to educate them about the work, and for you to better understand whether they are looking for price or value.

Don’t be afraid to walk away

If you know your numbers, it will be easier to say no if the customer doesn’t appreciate the value of your offer. That’s not the outcome you were hoping for, but the timing wasn’t right this time. Let the customer know that’s okay.

Avoid the temptation to discount the price more than you can afford to give away–that’s not the way your business will grow. Look for other ways to get to yes: change the scope of the project, reduce the number of deliverables or offer payment plans.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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Make Every Meeting Count

Make Every Meeting Count

Employee meetings can be a huge drain on your time and energy, and they can contribute negatively to employee morale. Poorly planned meetings  leave everyone feeling frustrated, stressed, and more behind in their work than they were prior to the meeting. A meeting leader who fails to prepare in advance may be focused more on what to cover in the meeting than on listening to what others are saying, further reinforcing the employees’ perception that meeting is a waste a time.

Whether you are meeting with one person, several employees, or your entire staff, the key to making every meeting count is planning ahead. Here are some basic principles to help you.

Have a clear purpose

Identifying what you want to accomplish in the meeting will inform planning your agenda and prevent you from wasting time. Having a standing meeting on the calendar once a week is not a good enough reason; each meeting should have a defined purpose.

Your purpose allows you to determine who should attend. Not everyone has to attend every meeting, but on the other hand, you want to be sure no one who is relevant to the topic at hand is overlooked.

Create an agenda

Your purpose also will help you create your agenda. The agenda should include a welcome/introduction statement, topics, and next steps. Schedule a specific length of time for each topic, plus allow time for discussion and questions. Once you have an agenda, share it with the attendee(s) in advance or at the start of the meeting.

Run the meeting efficiently

Always start a meeting on time, but make a practice of arriving at the meeting space a few minutes early to engage in casual conversation with other early arrivals.

During the meeting, follow the agenda closely. If the conversation veers off the topic, make an assertive suggestion to “get back to the agenda,” even if you must interrupt a speaker. Offer to address the speaker’s digression at another time. 

Taking notes during the meeting will allow you to accurately summarize the next steps  at the end of the meeting. Review the action items for each person in attendance, including yourself.

Running an efficient meeting takes extra time and effort, but the rewards are shorter meetings, improved productivity, and more engaged employees.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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4 Tactics to Crush It on Social Media

4 Tactics to Crush It on Social Media

If you’re just starting out on social media or you’re not seeing the results you want from your efforts, you might be wondering what else you could do to get likes. Here are five tactics that will help generate engagement with followers and create interest in your business.

Know your audience so you can publish content that’s relevant

Great content is the most important part of effective social media marketing. Your audience has a limited attention span and they are bombarded with messages.

The better you understand your audience — what they need and want, what worries them most, what they want to do and where they want to go — the more valuable your content is to them. Keep your content fresh and varied so your audiences won’t want to miss your messages.

Use multiple channels to reach a wider audience

Meet people where they are. Some people only use LinkedIn; others may read emails but don’t have a social media account. The only way you can be sure to reach maximize your reach is to use several channels. It’s not necessarily more work; you can use your same message or revise slightly. There also are social media management tools that will post to multiple platforms simultaneously. 

Post or email consistently and frequently

If your audience likes your online voice and messages, they’ll look forward to your regular publication day — so don’t disappoint them! Consistent posting keeps your followers feeling connected to you and they won’t wonder if you’ve still in business.  

Prompt user-generated content on your social media channels

This can be anything from posing questions, conducting surveys, and inviting people to share their experiences. You’ll never know what might strike a chord and prompt an outpouring of comments, so keep posting and experimenting with different types of content.

Take your own interaction on others’ accounts up a notch. Comments serve as a signal to prompt others to contribute a reply. You’ll find there’s an unspoken code of reciprocity among many social media users — if you like and comment on others’ posts, they’ll feel motivated by an unspoken rule of reciprocity to do the same on your accounts.  Make a point of engaging with others every day — you may enjoy giving likes as much as you want to get likes!

Learn more about how leadership coaching might apply to your business:

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Winning strategies to improve your communication skills 

Winning strategies to improve your communication skills 

Communication skills are key in the workplace. They help you get your points across, build strong relationships, and create a positive workplace culture. If you want to improve your communication skills, or simply brush up on them, here are some tips that can help you get there. 

Be interested

  • Give your full attention to the conversation at hand and demonstrate empathy. 
  • Don’t look at your devices while the other person is speaking.

Ask questions

  • Ask closed-ended questions. Closed-ended questions are those that require a short, simple answer and don’t lead to the back and forth that makes for a two-way dialogue.
  • Ask specific questions: Specificity helps avoid misunderstandings between parties.

Don’t rush

  • Don’t rush through your talking points.
  • Don’t rush through your answers.
  • Don’t rush through your emails.
  • Don’t rush through meetings and presentations.

Practice active listening

  • Give your full attention to the conversation.
  • Don’t think about your next comment while the speaker is talking.
  • Make eye contact with the speaker in order to show that you’re interested in what they’re saying.
  • Nod your head occasionally as a way of showing that you’re listening and understanding what’s being said.
  • Ask questions if there is something that you don’t understand or need clarification on (e.g., “What do you mean?” or “Could you explain that again?”).

Think before your speak

Most of the time we don’t think before we speak, especially in meetings and conversations — which is when most —misunderstandings occur. Before speaking make sure that what you have to say is relevant and adds value to the conversation.

See things from the other person’s perspective

Follow the old saying: Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before judging.

These are just a few of the ways you can improve your communication skills. Remember, practice makes perfect!  There is no better way to improve your communication skills than practice — practice to become both a better speaker and listener. The more often you try these strategies and incorporate them into your daily interactions, they will become second nature. You’ll find that people begin to open up more around you because they know they’re being heard and understood.

Learn more about how leadership coaching might apply to your business:

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Will Your New Hire’s First Day Be Amazing?

Will Your New Hire’s First Day Be Amazing?

When you bring on a new employee, it’s exciting for both the future employee and you. You’ve found the perfect person for the job, and you can’t wait to get him or her started. At work as in life, first impressions matter. Plan ahead to make the onboarding process a welcoming, memorable, and positive experience.

Onboarding Your New Employee Starts Before the First Day of Work

Contact your new hire before their first day with introductions and information. If you have multiple people who will be involved in their onboarding process, for example, a human resources person as well as a direct manager, send an email introducing everyone.

If you want the employee to fill out forms before their first day, be sure to provide a direct contact who can answer any questions that might arise.

Initiate an invitation to connect with your new hire on Linkedin. New employees want to announce to their connections they are starting a new position. You can post a welcoming reply to their announcement. 

Plan a Day One Agenda in Advance

Share the agenda with the new hire before the first day. Start with introductions to other employees and a tour of your workplace. Consider planning a catered lunch so the new hire can meet people informally. 

Your email should also include logistic details such as expected time of arrival, parking, where they should enter the building (if there are multiple entrances), who they should ask to see upon arrival at your workplace, appropriate business attire, where they can find food or coffee and any other details that will help them navigate their first day.  

Set Up the New Hire’s Workspace and Email Before Day One

Help your new hire hit the ground running by arranging a workspace and stocking it with everything they will need in the way of office/work supplies. Set up an email address on your business account, so the new hire can log in on the first day. You can make the day extra special by providing a small welcome gift such as a company-branded promotional item or a book that is meaningful to the business.

Explain Rules of  Your Workplace

Set aside time on day one to give your new hire an employee handbook and discuss workplace rules. 

Set Expectations

The first day is the best time for the new employee to sit down with his or her boss and review a plan for the coming days, weeks, and months. Clearly communicate responsibilities and goals and set daily touch bases for at least the first week, but possibly longer depending on the position, to check on how things are going.

Designate a Mentor

This gives them a go-to person in case they have questions, comments, or concerns. Make sure the mentor demonstrates leadership skills.

By planning your new hire’s first day as best you can, you’re setting the groundwork for successful outcomes, a good working relationship, and a good fit with your team.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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How to Request and Leverage Customer Reviews

How to Request and Leverage Customer Reviews

In the current marketing environment, few marketing strategies are as effective as positive customer reviews for your business. According to a study, 85% of people surveyed trust online reviews as much as they trust a recommendation from a personal acquaintance – and personal recommendations rank higher than any other type of business advertising.

To take advantage of the enormous influence positive peer recommendations have on potential new customers, here are tips to help you prompt customer reviews and use them to their full potential to attract new business.

Encourage happy customers to leave a review

Don’t assume your customers know that you’d love to have them leave online reviews about your business, or even that they know where to leave a review.

Some of the more mainstream sites that publish customer reviews are Google My Business and Yelp. Your Facebook business page also provides online locations for reviews. Your industry may also have specialized review sites. You can create links to these review sites on your website homepage where they are most visible to online customers.

An upbeat, friendly request lets customers know how valuable positive reviews are to your business and how easy it would be for them to help your business thrive. If you meet customers in person, ask if they’d like to review their purchase. For sales, you might follow up with a repeat customer by sending an email that invites them to review their purchase–and provides a direct link to the review site.

Make it easy for people to leave a review.

One of the biggest reasons customers don’t leave reviews is that they’re too busy to take the time. You can remove that obstacle by providing a direct link to your review pages; for example, on Google, Yelp, etc. Provide instructions and examples of how to write a review and upload it to these sites. Be sure to state reviewing their purchase will only take a few minutes of their time.

You can communicate this information via an email campaign or in a note with invoices or receipts. If you send online receipts, you can add a link directly to the review site where you’d like them to contribute.

If customers engage with your business at a physical location, print small cards with your review request and leave them by the check-out counter.

Respond to your reviews.

A good way to encourage customers to leave reviews is for you to respond with gratitude and appreciation for their praise of your business.

Use social media posts to prompt informal reviews

If you have an active customer community on Facebook or Instagram, your posts can engage your customers and their comments serve as indirect recommendations for your business. Here’s an example of how a custom cake baker gets unsolicited endorsements. She posts images of her personalized cakes and tags the customer. Often the customer will comment on how beautiful and delicious it was.  Since the baker is posting nearly every day, potential customers who view her Instagram account will find abundant “social proof” that this baker offers a superb product.

Don’t get defensive when you receive a critical review.

Monitor your social channels so you know what customers are saying about your business. There are many reasons people leave negative reviews, and some of those may be outside your control. However, some negative reviews can be an opportunity for improvement.  If you find a negative review on a platform that allows you to respond to the review, take the high road and ask that the reviewer contact your business directly so you can work to resolve their issue offline. Don’t get into a long explanation online.

Surface positive reviews.

Once you have received positive reviews, you’ll need to make them visible wherever customers engage with your business they will see your positive reviews. For example, if your business gets a review on Google, quote that review in an ad, social media post, on your website, or in an email campaign.

Learn more about how leadership coaching might apply to your business:

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Connecting with Values to Inspire a Sense of Belonging for Your Team

Connecting with Values to Inspire a Sense of Belonging for Your Team

Values are a powerful driver of a positive culture in the workplace. Many experts, authors, and studies have explored how values inform a clear sense of purpose, make work meaningful for employees, establish trust, and inspire loyalty. Values also set expectations for employee behavior. They emphasize what your team has in common over differences that can lead to friction. When everyone aligns with the company values, the result is improved overall performance.

As the leader of your business, you champion values for your team. To the extent you make your values a real, integral part of your company culture and not just pay your values lip service, your employees will come to share and live these values at work.

Bring values into conversations

The key to shaping a values-driven business is to be authentic and aspirational. Let your team know these aren’t random business values but have personal meaning for you and your business goals.

Here’s an example of how I talk about values for my business. About a year ago, I redesigned my website, and one of the new content areas I included is a page titled “Reflecting on My Why.” Here I share not just what I value, but why these are my values. These are unique, heartfelt reflections that give visitors a sense of who I am and reasons to trust me.

Use storytelling to discuss with employees how your values inform your business activities and actions. For example, share examples of how your business helped make a difference in the life of a customer or supported the community. Shining a light on examples of your values in action makes them real, builds greater trust, and inspires a shared sense of pride among your team members.

Make your values visible

Consider ways you can incorporate your values into your workplace. Wall posters, screensavers, wallet cards, and fun promotional items provide visual reminders and inspiration to your employees. You also may be able to incorporate your values in public-facing marketing materials.

Celebrate values-driven achievements

Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate the company values at work. This positive reinforcement will inspire other employees to work towards similar achievements.

Learn more about how leadership coaching might apply to your business:

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The Power of Checklists

The Power of Checklists

Aviation and medical professionals have at least one thing in common: they rely on checklists to ensure consistent, positive outcomes. In these professions, too many lives are at stake to rely on a single person’s memory, so they require systematic use of checklists, including verbal confirmation by a second person that each step has been carried out.

Checklists are ideal for routine work processes that have many steps; require the same steps in every identical situation; and/or have steps that must take place in a specific sequence. For a checklist to work effectively, there must be a way to physically document – check the box – that each step has been completed. If the team conducting the process gets interrupted or distracted, they can quickly identify where they left off by reviewing what boxes they have already checked. This process ensures that nothing gets overlooked.

There is a famous story that the rock band Van Halen inserted a clause in their performance contracts with music promotors that stipulated the backstage area had to have a bowl of M&Ms – but no brown M&Ms. This clause was buried in a long series of clauses that ensured the safety of the band on stage. The band didn’t care about M&Ms – they wanted to know definitively that the promoter checked off each item on their safety list. If there were brown M&Ms in a bowl backstage, they knew the concert promoter had not complied with every item on their list.

Another benefit of checklists is that they are great onboarding tools. A new employee has to take in a lot of new information at one time; breaking down complicated processes into clear, repeatable steps will accelerate learning.

Think about where you might use checklists in your business to ensure consistent, positive results. This simple tool will make work easier for you and your employees.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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How to Avoid Being a Bad Boss

How to Avoid Being a Bad Boss

Not everyone is born with leadership skills. In fact, research shows that only 10% of people are natural leaders. Everyone else needs to work at it.

The good news is people can learn to become great leaders. Whether you want to boost your own leadership qualities or help team members grow into managerial roles, self-directed learning together with professional coaching can boost performance in these five key areas for improvement.

Team first mindset – Recognize that your team is more important to your business growth than your individual contributions and invest your time and resources in putting together and developing a team that succeeds without you.

Active listening – Leaders are fully present when interacting with employees. Active listening shows respect and builds trust.

Empathy – Demonstrating the ability to understand challenges others face helps leaders relate to employees, win their confidence and inspire loyalty.

Communication – Being a good business storyteller enables leaders to engage employees and inspires them to embrace the business’s goals.

Time management – Getting out of the weeds allows leaders to remain focused on the future vision and prioritize activities.

If you want to maximize your leadership skills and those of your team members, I can guide you to achieving high levels of excellence. My approach targets both personal and professional development for lasting results.

Learn more about how leadership coaching might apply to your business:

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Mistakes Are Opportunities for Improvements

Mistakes Are Opportunities for Improvements

As the speed of change continues to increase, it gets more and more challenging for us as small business owners to keep up with new ideas and innovations related to our work, let alone implement and master all these new things. We already have so much on our minds that striving to keep up-to-date and adopt new trends is bound to feel overwhelming. 

While it’s important to be aware of new ideas and embrace new ways of doing things, you don’t have to master everything. “Don’t let perfectionism be the enemy of good,” advised the French philosopher Voltaire. I take his advice even further: if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not learning anything new. If everything is always perfect, you’re probably doing the same things over and over again.

There are many things going on in the world that are new to me or that I find confusing, but I’m committed to learning. I give myself permission to make mistakes, because I know I’ll follow up my mistakes with learning how to improve.

How perfectionism inhibits growth

You may not think of yourself as a perfectionist, but it’s a tendency that sneaks up on us and influences decisions. Here are some ways perfectionism can inhibit growth: 

  • Discourages creativity, experimentation, and originality
  • Fosters procrastination
  • Reinforces rigidity
  • Eliminates excitement of discovery
  • Establishes unattainable goals

Being willing to make mistakes in the service of innovation can require patience and a thick skin. You may get frustrated with yourself or even criticized by others new things don’t work as planned. Actively adopting a more flexible and open mindset, and practicing empathy towards yourself and others, will help to create a work environment where things may not always be perfect, but they’re always getting better.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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