5 Common Business Questions and What You Should Be Asking Instead

5 Common Business Questions And What You Should Be Asking Instead

These are the business questions I get asked everywhere I go. Are they yours? (Photo by Armosa Studios)

These are the business questions I get asked everywhere I go. Are they yours? (Photo by Armosa Studios)

How much time have you spent learning the ins & outs of online business?

Go ahead. Take a stab at it.

10 hours? 100 hours? 1,000 hours? More?

This is not a post about how you need to put in your 10,000 hours to finally be a success.

It’s a post about how all that knowledge can’t answer the really important questions that will actually propel your business forward.

You see, after our last launch of Quiet Power Strategy: The Foundation, we did some research. Many of the people who said they were interested didn’t join us for 2 main reasons:

  1. They had already taken a lot of courses, had tons of knowledge, and were trying to apply that before they took any other courses.
  2. They weren’t sure if it would work for their specific business.

I totally get both of those objections. On the surface, they make a lot of sense. Maybe you’ve run into similar objections for your own products?

But if you dig a little deeper, I believe there is a fundamental problem that brings these concerns to the surface.

What is it?

People are asking the wrong kinds of questions and looking for the wrong kind of information.

If you fall into the first objection territory, it means you’ve been focused on gathering information to create your tasks lists for running your business. You believe the more information you have on running your business, the more effective you’ll be.

If you fall into the second objection territory, it means you’re looking for a specific way to make your business work. You believe that a solution that’s tailored made for your unique structure, industry, or proclivities exists and that when you find it everything will fall into place. Correct information, correct next steps.

Information can’t save you or your business unless it has a strategy behind it.

Now, that’s not to say information isn’t powerful. But information can only be powerful when it is applied toward achieving a specific goal.

What I see is a whole lot of business owners going around trying to execute on what they’ve learned with no plan or strategy. So it fails. So they go back for more information—that proverbial missing piece.

And, you guessed it, a nasty cycle is formed. One where you’re spending all your money and time acquiring new information that is hypothetically useful but ill-matched to your strategy or lack thereof.

Here’s what one of my business thinking mentors, Nilofer Merchant, had to say on a similar subject:

“Perhaps people fixate on execution (‘doing what’s required’) instead of finishing up strategy (‘choosing the direction’) because it’s easier to see progress during execution than during strategy formation and development.”

Does that sound about right?

You keep going back for information because information tends to give you a relatively tidy to-do list. You complete the tasks and that means you’re hopefully doing something right.

It is not nearly so neat and tidy to sit with big questions about the direction of your business, how you’ll achieve your goals, and how you’ll compete in the marketplace.

I know, I’ve spent the last 2 months in this place. It’s messy and hard. It really isn’t any easier for the pros, other than we have better tools and processes.

But you need to. It’s the difference between short-term success and long-term frustration and long-term success and short-term frustration.

To demonstrate how business owners that find long-term success ask different questions, I’ve made a list of 5 common questions. Then, I’ve provided an alternative question and guidelines for wrestling with the answers.

That way you get double your money back on this blog post! You get your question answered plus a better question to ask so you can make better use of the information you have.

Ready to get started? Here we go.

What do I need to do to spread the word about my business?

If I wanted a lot of cheap clicks to my blog, I could make you a list of 30 ways to spread the word about your business. I could list every social media platform, I could throw in some local marketing tactics for good measure, and then I could share some advanced maneuvers.

And, if you were overwhelmed, slightly confused, and wondering how you were going to find the time for all that at the end of the post, you’d be in good company.

Instead of asking What, try asking How.

How do you want to connect with the right people?

Forget about learning specific tactics for awhile and consider the type of relationship you want to have with your clients. Think about how you want them to feel. Factor in how you’re best able to help them get results.

Then write down a description of what that connection looks like.

I want to create long-term relationships with smart business owners who value independence, thinking for themselves, and prioritizing long-term success. I want to connect with them in ways that get them thinking and leading instead of following.

That’s how I would describe the way I want to connect with my right people (you in?). Since I know that, I don’t waste time learning about marketing tactics that don’t fit that description. The things I do to “spread the word” about my business and what I have to offer are very limited (that’s good!) because of that description so I can focus on just those few things.

Any time a new tactic comes along that everyone’s buzzing about, I can quickly make a decision about whether it fits that description or not.

What should I sell?

Well, if you’ve been paying attention to anything lately you know that the answer is an online course, right? Wrong.

No one can tell you what to sell. What’s worse is that if you’re focused on the “what” of what you’re selling, it means you’ve likely lost focus of the “who” of who you’re selling to.

Great, innovative, cult-status products (like the ones you want to create, right?) aren’t born from blueprints. They’re a process of careful design and evolution.

Design starts with knowing what the people you’re designing for what to accomplish. It doesn’t start with a form in mind.

So again, the better question to ask is not a What question, it’s a How question.

How could my customers get the best results?

We like to say: function before format. You need to know how the product is going to work, what it’s going to do before you can determine the form for delivering that result.

One of the things our clients want to do is navigate business transitions and bust through ceilings (revenue, energetic, operational, etc…) in their businesses. Often that means creating a plan for doubling their revenue, transitioning to an agency model, or building leveraged-income products.

Lately, I’ve been focused on how we could do this more easily, more conveniently, and more inexpensively for our clients. I’ve also been thinking about how traditional course delivery has failed them in this area.

Answering the question, “How could my customers get the best results?” has allowed me to pioneer a brand-new model and format for our signature program. The details aren’t quite ready yet—but if you want to know more about it, you can sign up here.

This is where real innovation is born. Not just innovation for innovation’s sake—innovation for business sake. Innovation that is people-focused and prioritizes function before format sells extremely well.

If you want to know what to sell, the only person you can ask is yourself.

Who should I hire?

I get it: you’re overworked and out of energy. If I could just tell you who to hire, then maybe you’d be less overworked and have a little more energy.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a very good question, either.

In this case, Who is masquerading as our What, but the How question is still the real answer.

How could others create value for my business & my customers?

Lately, I’ve been focused on getting my clients who are building teams to forget delegation. Seriously!

Okay, delegation certainly has a role and there is always something on your plate that could be done better by someone else. However, delegation is a super base level tactic when it comes to getting help growing your business.

If you really want dynamic team members who contribute to the growth of your business—people who add to your bottom line instead of just your expenses—you need to think in terms of value contribution.

People who create value for your business don’t just do the things you’re already doing. They create better experiences for customers, they solve problems for customers, they enhance customers’ ability to get results.

In my business, my whole team is creating value for our customers outside of what I delegate to them. For instance, I hired Breanne Dyck to consult on operations last year. By creating more robust onboarding systems, smart systems for delivery content, and better ways to track user behavior, we’re able to create better customer experiences.

That’s also decreased the percentage of people who need help from our support team—which is essential to our ability to scale.

Instead of thinking of what role you should hire for, consider how you could enhance your customer experiences and business capabilities.

What technology should I use?

Last week I did a webinar with LeadPages—they create software that makes it easy to grow your list—and next month I’m hosting a webinar with ConvertKit. I love apps and technology and I’m lucky to have friends who develop it.

But that means I hear this question quite often.

Here’s how to change this What question into a How question.

How can I use technology to create the best experience & results for the people I want to work with?

The reason this question works so well is because the answer is essentially a shopping guide for the technology that’s going to work best for you.

Let me give you an example: I was a devoted MailChimp user for years. All the years, really. I knew I had outgrown them but I didn’t leave because I loved them so much. (I still recommend them for many business owners, by the way.)

As my email list grew and grew, it became harder and harder to manage to send the right campaigns to the right people. The question, “How could I use technology to create the best experience for my readers?” became ever more important.

The answer to the question is that if I could use technology to better understand what my audience wanted to read, what problems they were facing, and what offers they might be most interested in, I could create an amazing experience for them.

So when Nathan Barry called me up to talk about ConvertKit and explained how he designed the software to do exactly that, I was hooked.

It took time to set up and I’m still getting the hang of creating those experiences. But, I love it!

Focus on how technology could improve experiences or results for your customers (and you too!). And then go looking for something that does specifically that. You don’t need to compare what everyone else is using—the best solution for you might be something you’ve never heard of.

What content should I create?

Alright, last question. You want to know what to put in your blog posts, emails, podcasts, videos, and Facebook updates to get more attention and more sales.

Again, totally understandable. Content marketing is super important, right?

Unfortunately, there’s no prescription for content. If you look at the prescription content that’s out there, it’s super boring. You don’t want to bore your customers into buying from you, do you?

Someone somewhere recently was talking about the difference between content marketing with information and content marketing with insight. Oh, how I wish I remembered who it was so I could properly credit them.

For the people I often work with, I’d throw in another category: content marketing with inspiration.

For business purposes, insight will when over information or inspiration any day. Information is a commodity. Charlie Gilkey said at the Quiet Power Strategy Summit: “If you try to sell information, Wikipedia will win every time.” Inspiration is increasingly a commodity as well.

So your imperative for content marketing is to provide insight into your potential customers’ challenges or goals.

How do you do that? Answer this better question.

How can I provide insight into my customers’ situation so that they become more prepared to buy?

Sure, I might be stretching it a bit on the How part here, but you get the idea.

An example of this is in action is this very blog post. I could easily have written this post with a number of resources (my own or others) with the “answers” to the 5 most common business questions. It would have gotten links and traffic.

But instead, I wanted to shed some light on why these questions don’t help you grow your business, how they keep you stuck and dependent on others.

Because I want to connect with smart, independent folks (see Better Question #1), it’s important for me to show you that distinction. If you love this post, there’s a good chance we’d work well together and that you’d dig my methodology for thinking about and planning for your business.

If you don’t dig it, you probably aren’t reading this far. I’m totally okay with that.

If you’d prefer answers to all the What questions, there are plenty of people who will sell that to you. I won’t. Sure, I’ll give you some options and I’ll tell you what I think but I’d much rather help you think through the problem for yourself. I want to help you make independent, strategic decisions about where your business is headed.

You down?

Click the Facebook post below to share this article with other smart, savvy, independent business owners you know.

5 Resolutions to Bring About Your Next Business Breakthrough

Why do some businesses seem to “tip” over and over again while others never quite seem to break through? I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure that out. 

Often their businesses look identical on the outside. Many times, the difference boils down to a misunderstanding about what’s going on beneath the surface and how they engineer the success they achieve. 

You can’t possibly hope to recreate a business’s success by recreating what you see at the surface level. You’ve got to dig in and figure out what else is happening.

In this post, I’d like to reveal some of the actions that are causing big business breakthroughs for the entrepreneurs you’re admiring and how you can apply them for yourself as New Business Year’s resolutions—now, or anytime throughout the year. 

If you’re trying to engineer a tipping point or breakthrough in your business right now, you’re not alone. It probably goes without saying, but everyone I work with is in that situation: they’re ready for change. They’re tipping from part-time to full-time, one-to-one sales to leveraged sales, paying the bills to creating wealth, going at it alone to growing a team, moving from one business model to another to generate exponentially more revenue.

They each tell me, “I know what got me here won’t get me where I want to go.” And, I wholeheartedly agree.

What tipping point are you at? What breakthrough do you want to engineer for your business in the next year? Maybe you’re ready to break through to a new revenue threshold. You’re ready to hire a new team member. You’re ready to expand operations or roll out new offers. You’ve got growth on your mind and you’re busy putting the pieces into place to make that happen.

Here’s what is going on behind-the-scenes of the businesses that are constantly making it happen. What can you incorporate into your next plan?  

  5 Resolutions to Bring About Your Next Business Breakthrough

1.) Put boots on the ground and find new customers.

It might seem like your next revenue breakthrough is just a traffic-building tactic away. You’re probably regularly on the look out for new ways to get more eyeballs on your blog posts, Facebook page, or sales letters. Maybe you’re looking at running Facebook ads, or the finer points of JV webinars, or constantly building new welcome gifts to entice people to your email list.

But the most effective community builders and salespeople know that nothing beats putting boots on the ground to find new customers. Literally. They’re at conferences, hosting events, picking up the phone, and meeting with prospects.

It might be slow going but the results are staggering. These people land bigger gigs, sign better contracts, and create strong relationships with influencers that put them in front of hundreds or thousands of more customers in the end.

2.) Set prices based on goals and hard data.

Sales solves most business problems. Except, when it doesn’t. Sales can’t get you to your next business breakthrough if the prices of your products or services just make things worse every time you sell something.

Breakthrough business owners use hard data to set their prices. And, they set prices based on what they want, instead of what they have.

How do they do it? They figure out how much it costs to run the business they want (not the one they have) and they figure out how much it costs to live the life they want (not the one they have).

Then they break it down. How much can they reasonably sell? What does that knowledge lead to in terms of price points? Where do those price points lead you in terms of positioning? To have a big breakthrough, you need to think of price as a way to reach all of your goals—not just revenue.

Price tells a story that can position your brand, woo the right customers, and lead to big life changes.

3.) Decide to spend more.

I’m all for finding the leanest, meanest way to make your business run. But I’m so tired of hearing business owners always looking for a free solution to their problems.

You see, free solutions have a cost. Every time someone dials your conference line and hears, “Service provided by Free Conference Call,” they make a judgement about your business. Every time you can’t use an important feature of an app because you’re not paying for it, it costs you effectiveness and functionality. 

You’ll never hit a breakthrough that makes you feel comfortable spending more. It’s a decision you make that you are worth it, your customers are worth it, and your business is worth it. This kind of worth doesn’t come from revenue—it comes from intense focus on what the vision of what you’re creating.

4) Don’t try so hard.

Business breakthroughs rarely come from working harder. In fact, working harder can make your breakthrough far more difficult to achieve. Why? Because innovation doesn’t come from working harder, it comes from creative constraints.

Whenever you feel yourself pushing to make something happen, take a step back and reevaluate. What’s really going on?

  • Is there a skill you’ve avoided learning?
  • Do you need help from someone more experienced?
  • Is your current business model holding you back from earning more?
  • Is there a fatal flaw in your plan?
  • Are you avoiding the temporary discomfort of growth by relying on what you know (working harder)?

If working harder is your usual MO, put new constraints in place by answering these questions. Give yourself a limited number of clients to reach your revenue goal (price accordingly). Learn a new skill (stop spinning your wheels). Connect with a mentor (stop trying to figure it out yourself).

5) Take advantage of a solid support network.

Stop trying to grow your business in isolation. Stop waiting for others to catch up. Stop cultivating relationships that feel safe. There is no more pressing time to break out of your comfort zone than when it comes to building your support network.

You need to connect with people who intimidate you, use different methods, and work in different industries. You need people in your corner who are making things happen at the same—or faster—pace as you are. Sometimes, you need to pay money to establish these relationships quickly. That’s okay.

Other times, you need to make serious investments of time. That’s okay, too. Relationship-building has a cost. But the return on investment is incredible.

Stop waiting for people to come to you and start building a network that catapults your business forward. No matter how you choose to set resolutions (or not) for the new year, integrate these ideas and watch them transform your business.

Now, I’d like to hear from you. What’s your big business goal for the next 12 months? Click here and tell me—and please be specific!

How to Build the Next Phase of Your Business When This One is Paying the Bills

At some point, you decide to make a change. Deciding to change the way your business delivers value or the type of services that your business offers isn’t the hard part.

The hard part is deciding when to stop what you’re doing now.

How do you plan for the next phase of your business when this one is paying the bills

 

What you’re doing now pays the bills. It’s safe. It’s (fairly) comfortable. People expect it. It’s shaped the way people see your business and how they think of you as a leader.

Even as you start to envision what’s next, it seems like all outside forces are pushing you to double-down on what you’ve got.

This is a problem that many of our clients face and a question I regularly ask myself: How do you build the next phase of your business while you’re working the current phase?

Business model innovation is a key activity of any business.

Okay, that’s jargony. Evolving, adapting, and optimizing the way your business creates, delivers, and exchanges value (i.e. transformation and results) is something you need to do on a regular basis.

That means testing prices, adjusting sales messaging, and iterating on existing products. But it can also mean sweeping change in the what your business offers or how it offers it.

The prospect of this is often exciting.

The reality of making it happen can be terrifying and paralyzing.

When something is working, it’s incredibly difficult to find the motivation—let alone the time—to change it. But change it you must.

Stagnation simply isn’t an option.

If you want to move from 1:1 coaching to group programs, at some point, you need to stop offering 1:1 coaching. If you want to move from physical products to digital products, at some point you need to stop offering physical products. If you want to move from small retreats to large conferences, at some point, you need to stop offering small retreats.

There are two main ways I work with clients on this big change—both of which I use myself in steering my own company.

Option 1: Shadow Offers

If the work you do is paying the bills, but you want to stop doing it, stop marketing it. The good news is that just because you stop marketing it doesn’t mean you have to stop getting paid for it.

Last year, Whitney Hess, a leader in the user experience field, worked with me to back off of her corporate gigs and add more coaching (both individual and group) to her business model. She stopped marketing her corporate consulting and started positioning her business for these new coaching offers. After a taking a few months off at the beginning of 2014, she put the plan into overdrive taking on enough corporate clients to pay the bills while welcoming a whole cohort of coaching clients. That led to her best year yet.

Often the businesses that employ this technique are getting their clients on a referral basis. Their happy former clients are sending them eager new clients, regardless of their sales pages or outside lead generation strategies. That means those sales pages can come down and their lead gen activities can stop while the revenue keeps flowing—right up until they decide to say “no” to it.

Once you take down the offers and stop actively marketing them, they become what I call “shadow offers.” They’re a part (even a big part) of the way your business generates revenue—but they’re not in the light anymore. Your business isn’t defined by them.

Often, the hardest part of making a change in your business model is teaching people a new way to see your business. By employing shadow offers, you can start the process of repositioning your business much sooner without damaging your revenue stream too early.

Option 2: Progressive Business Model Planning

In Quiet Power Strategy, one of the highlights of the program is creating a Business Model Plan. It’s not just the framework for how the business creates, delivers, and exchanges value, it’s a plan for how it will do so when all the right pieces fall into place.

However, even a forward-looking business model plan isn’t the solution for some business owners and the changes they want to make. In this case, we make 2 plans.

The first plan is a framework for how the business will create, deliver, and exchange value in the interim. It’s generally heavy on the offers that are currently generating the most revenue and incorporates an offer or two that indicates the direction the business is heading. It allows the business owner to see how she can start making decisions that support her future positioning without jeopardizing the safety of her current revenue streams.

The second plan is a framework for how the business will create, deliver, and exchange value in the future (often 12-18 months out). This is the goal plan. It reflects the projected changes when they are complete.

Moving between the first plan and the second plan isn’t like flipping a switch. It’s progressive and incremental.

We set milestones (number of sales, dollars in savings, etc…) that signal the time to make a single change from one plan to the next. Eventually, the enough milestones occur that the business model is transformed from the original plan to the new plan.

This is always how my business has evolved its model. I make a plan with a smaller change first, then make a plan for what it will look like eventually. Then, I set milestones and benchmarks for when those bigger changes will be made. That’s allowed me to transition my brand multiple times while leading my audience toward the next set of offers I’ll make.

Is it time to make a change in your business model? If that question makes you think, I guarantee the answer is yes.

Both of these options allow you to mitigate risk as you move from one business model to the next. Which one is right for you?

Like a Machine: How Randi Buckley Created a Cohesive & Effective Business Model

You’re a passionate pro. Customers and clients love your work. You help people achieve their goals. But… your business seems stuck in a rut.

Mind you: it’s not a bad rut. You’re bringing in pretty consistent revenue. You know you can create new offers and sell them. You feel like people are listening.

But getting to your next big milestone? No clue.

Well, you have a clue. And that clue seems unpleasant: way more work, way more sleaze, way more money. So what do you do?

I’d been watching Randi Buckley for a long time before she came to us. Oh, how I longed to get my hands on her business. The situation I described above is the situation Randi found herself in. The answer to me was clear: Randi needed a machine.

Randi’s business model was nonexistent. Sure, there were offers (great ones!) and marketing (effective!) but there was no system.

Your business model is the way your business creates, delivers, and exchanges value. But what’s more, it’s a system by which you create exponentially more results from less work. You put effort (say, marketing for an entry level product) in at one end of the machine and lots of little cogs (say, revenue from your high-end program) spill out the other end.

When you have a complete business model, you understand how all of your offers work together to create something better than the sum of those parts.

That leads to profit. More than how much you take home, more than how much you’re charging, you can finally start to see how your business is going to generate the profit you need to grow, feel comfortable, and get excited about the future of what you’re creating.

Here’s Randi’s own words:

Randi Buckley, Truth, Depth, and Beauty School

Randi Buckley, Quiet Power Strategy alumnaI’m pretty dang pleased with how my business is evolving, or dare I say growing up, after interpreting and applying my learning and insights in Quiet Power Strategy™. It’s been a shift from a feeling of scramble, to a feeling of grace. So what’s new?

The concept of profit. 

The idea of “charge what you’re worth” has always been hallow and empty to me.  Not only is it impossible for me to try to put a price on someone’s, much less my own, talents and gifts, it doesn’t provide a framework for what to charge.  It’s nebulous.

Looking at my offerings through a profit lens woke me up to the realities of why my business was never feeling like it was getting ahead, despite solid offerings, reputation and an exquisite tribe. Without considering profit, I always felt like I was in hustle mode.  And that didn’t jive, because I’m not a hustler.

Note:  if something doesn’t jive, it’s not going to happen.

What does jive is the creation of a new business model that houses my various offerings and provides structure and continuity for my clients to deepen their work with me. With the new structure of Truth, Depth, and Beauty School, I no longer feel like I am scrambling to care for the diversity of my offerings. Now, everything is under one roof:  Healthy Boundaries for Kind People alumna can now become trained facilitators of the work; Viking Woman Workshop alumna can graduate to the Wise Women of the North Retreat in Norway, and my Maybe Baby, workshop, and my-one on-one clients can find their next step with me, in my school. It’s a structure I love, and supports my next step, writing my book.

There’s more to come.  DIY won’t support long-term growth or sustainability of the spirit.  Naturally, systems and the building of my team are next.  And that’s both surreal, a relief… and full of grace. (Thanks Tara!)

***

Thank you, Randi.

If you’ve been wondering whether there really is a “next step” available to you, I can assure you there is. But it does take strategic planning.

If you’d like to find out more about Randi and her work, check out her Healthy Boundaries for Kind People program.

If you’re ready to make the time to create your own machine and a strategic plan for reaching your “next step” and a few beyond that, join me for 5 Ways to Make Time to Work on Your Business, a free training I’m offering with Brigitte Lyons. Click here to register.

The Biggest Sales Objection: Trusting Yourself

Have you ever crafted the perfect offer, put a perfectly reasonable price tag on it, sent it out to all the right people, and still come up empty-handed in the sales department?

I know I have.

One technique you’ll hear over and over again for combatting this problem is to address your customers’ objections. Are they worried about the time commitment? Show them how to fit it in. Are they concerned that your product is right for the kind of person they are? Explain why it’ll work for them, too. Are they concerned about price? Demonstrate what kind of return on investment they could get.

But the biggest sales objection I’ve run into over the years—and from conversations with our Quiet Power Strategy™ strategists-in-training last week, I’m in good company—has been an objection that’s exceedingly difficult to combat.

How to Combat the Biggest Sales Objection

It’s trust.

But not trusting you. The biggest objection to buying is trusting themselves.

As providers, makers, and marketers, we spend an exorbitant amount of time helping our prospects trust us. We share personal stories, create valuable free content, and demonstrate through testimonials that we can be trusted.

But many times your “ask” doesn’t require any more trust in you and requires your customer to trust their own ability to get the kind of results you know you can deliver.

Getting value out of a product or service requires personal responsibility. Unless you’re a snake oil salesperson, you’re not saying that your product is the magic formula. You’re not the kind of marketer that promises that “one weird trick” is going to reduce the number on the scale by 20lbs or that this secret formula will result in triple the sales.

Even if you design clothing or make jewelry or create paintings, your customers need to feel that they can put your work to good use in order to buy it. People generally don’t buy things they don’t have the confidence to wear or put things in their homes they don’t have the attitude to match.

An Example

Let’s look at an example: Amy is a career coach. She knows she can help people manage career transition, discover a new path, or land a big promotion. She’s done it many times.

On her website, she talks about the clients she’s worked with, the successes they’ve had, and spells out specific outcomes new clients can expect when working with her. She doesn’t make promises—she knows better than that—but she does clearly articulate what she can coach you to if you’re willing to put in the work.

Amy’s practice sustains her own career but it’s not thriving the way she would like it to be. She has a hard time closing new clients. They start with long drawn out emails, they evolve to long initial consultations. They come back and ask more questions. Maybe then she can close the deal.

Yet, her existing clients rave about her. They keep coming back to her even after their initial packages complete. They ask her advice (and pay her) on the little bumps in their careers.

So why don’t more new prospects sign on the dotted line? And why can’t she, for the life of her, get people to sign up for the awesome career change program she put together?

Trust.

As a potential client, when you’ve had some career missteps, maybe a bad boss or a difficult-to-work-for company, you’re hopeful but cautious. That caution leads to the long sales conversation Amy is having to have to land each new client. It also means that even those who feel like she’s the right person for the job won’t pull the trigger. It’s them, not her.

And if they’re not willing to trust themselves enough to get results from working with her 1:1, they’re not going to trust themselves enough to get results working with her in a program.

Again, it’s them, not her. (It might be them, not you.)

This Sales Objection is Also a Question of Risk

We are exceedingly bad at understanding risk. And a majority of your prospective customers think they themselves are a sizable risk to their own futures when it comes to spending money on goals that can’t be guaranteed. Every time you make an attractive offer, your customers are weighing the risk that they won’t be able to put it to use.

We, of course, think they’re considering whether it will be good enough or not, whether we’re smart enough or not, or whether we’re experienced enough or not. And that may be the case, but it’s far likelier that they’re asking themselves whether they are good enough, smart enough, or experienced enough to get the results they really want out of what you’re offering.

Breanne Dyck, who started this conversation on our Quiet Power Strategy strategist training call last week, explains that to help people feel more comfortable with perceived risks, you need to help them gather more information. More information comes from experimentation (action), not from more data (inputs).

Most of your marketing strategy to this point is about data. Blog post after blog post you’re explaining concepts, telling stories, and sharing experiences. But it’s all just data until someone takes action on it. The result of their experiment becomes true information that allows them to better understand and predict future outcomes. It allows them to better assess their own personal risk and increases their level of personal trust.

That means that in order to combat this stickiest of sales objections, you need to build action and experimentation into your business model—not just data.

Knowing is not enough. Knowing too much can encourage us to procrastinate. There’s a certain point when continuing to know at the expense of doing allows the mess to grow further.

— Abby Covert,  How to Make Sense of Any Mess: Information Architecture for Everybody

The best way to ask your prospects to act is to ask for a commitment.

Trust (and True Information) Comes from Commitments

Think about the way you develop a romantic relationship. If you meet your special someone online (as I did), you start with committing to email them—it’s an initial experiment. This is about as low of a commitment as you can go. Then, hopefully, you commit to a first date. It’s probably just a coffee or drink date. Then, maybe you do a dinner date. And then a day hike.

Yes, this is a process of learning to trust the other person. To suss out whether they’re the one for you or not. But it’s also a process of learning to trust yourself. Do I like myself when I’m around them? Do I trust myself enough in this relationship to know I won’t make stupid decisions or follow them blindly?

Each commitment helps you learn to trust yourself as much as it does the other person.

As you’re building your business the same process needs to apply.

People generally don’t jump from discovery to purchase—especially not high-end products or services. You need to establish a series of commitments first.

Here are some commitments you might ask for:

  • Like your page on Facebook
  • Join a webinar
  • Exchange an email address for a welcome gift
  • Share a post with their friends
  • Regularly open emails and read content
  • Attend a workshop
  • Buy a book
  • Read a detailed case study
  • Visit your booth at a show
  • Purchase an entry-level product
  • Engage in an initial consultation
  • Book a short-term, project-based package

If you want to seriously combat this huge sales objection and dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes you to close a prospect, don’t pick one or two of these. Pick 3, 4, 5, or more of these smaller commitments. Create systems around them. Build them into your marketing calendar.

Relentlessly ask for small and escalating commitments so that when you’re ready to make a much larger offer, your prospect trusts herself enough to say yes.

Now you might be asking, “Isn’t this why I’m blogging every week?

Sort of. The thing is, blogging isn’t enough. Content strategy is huge, don’t get me wrong. But marketers who are only blogging (even blogging and sending it out through email) aren’t establishing that trust spiral that allows their readers to get closer and closer to feeling really good about making a purchase.

In my own business, I’ve built action and experimentation into all levels of my marketing:

  • I write ebooks that have built-in workbooks. The action is both the purchase and the results.
  • I host webinars that promise results during the call. The action is decision-making and discovery.
  • I teach workshops that build action steps into strategic concepts. The experiment is committing to watching and doing the homework.
  • I offer Goal Discovery sessions as part of my on-boarding process. The experiment is vulnerability and commitment.

Together, these pieces work together so that I don’t have to worry about the “trusting myself” sales objection. If you’ve made it that far in my business model and still don’t trust yourself, you’re probably not a good fit for my programs.

Amy’s Strategy

Remember our career coach Amy? I would ask Amy to think of 3 common scenarios that send people looking for career help. They probably don’t know they need a coach yet (and maybe they don’t), but they know they need to consult Google, a friend, or the network to get an answer. Those 3 common scenarios are:

  • I’m bored at work. I want a new challenge. I’m ready for a promotion.
  • I’m tired of this career. I want a new one. I’m ready to figure out a new direction.
  • I’m not making enough money. I want a raise. I’m ready to ask for one.

Then, I’d ask Amy to create a commitment trigger for each of those scenarios. Maybe she has a free ebook on asking for a raise, a free audio & workbook that helps you pinpoint your interest so you can figure out a new direction, and a checklist for preparing for a promotion. Each of those she puts behind an email wall. The “ask” is for an email address.

Now, let’s follow the free ebook on asking for a raise. The ebook shares exactly how to put together your pitch. The prospect finds that extremely helpful–but now she has a new problem. She needs to combat the fear of asking for a raise. Amy knows this, so she’s got a free webinar that she invites people who downloaded the raise ebook to. It’s all about getting over the 3 biggest fears you face when you ask for a raise.

Of course, asking for a raise is personal. So every month, she leaves 5 spots open on her calendar for a free initial consultation. Once a month, she asks this same group who is ready to work with her privately and invites them to this no-hassle consultation. She books all 5 appointments effortlessly. On that 30 minute call, she equips the prospect with at least one tactic they can use to suss out the possibility of getting a raise.

Finally, she follows up and asks if they’d like to book her Get That Raise coaching package. She offers to guide them through the next 6 weeks so that they’ve got a helping hand for each part of the process. She can’t guarantee a raise, but she can guarantee they’ll feel really good about the procedure.

Each part of Amy’s process has helped to build the prospects’ trust in herself. She’s taken action and already gotten results. Now it’s just an easy assessment of risk (what risk?!) to determine whether the information she has makes her feel good about working with Amy. Does she trust herself enough to really make use of this? Of course! She already has.

Sale closed.

Now it’s your turn.

How will you ask your audience to act, experiment, and commit in order to build their trust in themselves? There’s likely something you could do today. So do it!