This is an age-old question and quandary for many service providers in all types of industries.
I’ve heard of people embracing the policy that the first two hours with a new potential are free. Wow! That is a lot of volunteer time that gets racked up over the course of a business career!
One of the problems with not charging an initial fee is that you’ll end up wasting a lot of time with “tire-kickers,” people who are just shopping around for the lowest price and/or using other less- than -desirable buying criteria.
I also understand the reticence to charge an initial fee. You may scare off a potentially good client. However, charging an initial fee does serve as a filtering mechanism; just make sure the client knows about the fee BEFORE you arrange to meet with them.
Having said that, I suggest a different approach:
- After a potential client has contacted you and expressed an interest in speaking/meeting with you, have them fill out a brief questionnaire that gives you background on their situation.
- Then after you have reviewed that questionnaire, schedule a time to speak BY PHONE for up to 20-30 minutes. Then share any suggestions and recommendations you might have.
- If appropriate after that, offer a fee-based strategic planning session as the next step in working with you.
This initial session coupled with a questionnaire is not only an efficient approach, it gives you the ability to assess whether this would be a good client for you, moving forward.
Once you get comfortable and confident with this approach, you can actually charge significant fees for an initial strategic session.
Here is an example…
One of the bookkeeping services that I suggested this approach to ramped up their business to $100k in the first 12 months of being in business. 5 years later, $1M.
Coincidentally, this very day, I happened to get an email from the owner thanking me. This is a snippet of what he wrote: “All of our time together years ago, especially around paid-consultative sessions, is coming to fruition in some fun and interesting ways this spring. Several large companies who want to work together with us have approved 10-15 hour blocks of time at $150/hour for us to scope out our work together, so that we can give them an accurate proposal. Thanks again for the great coaching and belief years ago!”
So this approach can and does work.
In my work with participants of the current Get Paid to Get Clients Acceleration Program, one of the things we’re working on is codifying their “signature system,” or “Core Client Process.”
The Core Client Process is a step-wise methodology that takes your client, customer, or patient from where they are now, to where they really want to be. Said differently, it’s your unique approach to delivering your services and products and, in turn, delivering value.
You probably recall that I’ve written previously about how clients, customers, and patients buy outcomes, rather than process. But at a certain point, after they’ve learned about the value and outcomes you can deliver, they will want assurance that you have a reliable approach for taking them to the “promised land.”
I’ve taught the participants in my program the principles and “best practices” for defining and articulating your own Core Client Process. It would take a few hours to take you through how to do this, but I want to share something from this training that you can apply immediately in your own business… As you take clients through your signature system/core client process, show them frameworks and models that visually illustrate important concepts, principles, ideas, and structures.
Such visual frameworks and models support your “core client process” because they give you a way to tell a story visually. They provide your audience with reference points that are critical for understanding your way of seeing the world. In my own experience, these visuals (and the descriptions and explanations that I include with them in verbal and/or written formats) help my clients to see their “blind spots.”
Key Pillars of Life: This is an example of key aspects of being human. I use this for describing different areas for personal growth.
The “Kitchen Table” model of value delivery: I use this visual to describe the main ways that businesses can deliver value to their buyers.
Optimizing Human Performance Model: I use this model to illustrate the key elements that I objectively measure that help me to guide clients in selecting the best business development strategies, structures, and working environments that are suited for their unique style of thinking, decision-making, and taking action.
Sequence of Client Flow: I use this model to describe the various stages that clients go through when they work with a service-oriented professional or business.
Your Audience Will Value You and Thank You
Approximately 60-70% of the general population is comprised of visual learners. Including visual models and frameworks provides a visual reference that makes it faster and easier for learners of all types to grasp the concepts and principles you wish to impart.
If you include relevant models and frameworks into your conversations and presentations, whether in groups or one-to-one, they will serve to maintain awareness, learning, and retention. And they help the brain to process and store information, for easier recollection and application later on.
At first, this approach may take a little extra thought on your part, but in my own experience, remembering to present visual models and frameworks has become second-nature. I believe the extra effort is worth it; simultaneously, you’ll enhance the learning experience of your audience and enhance the value that you provide.
P.S. If you are interested in a training on how to define and articulate your own comprehensive Core Client Process, add yourself to the list using the form below. If there is enough interest, I’ll run a special training on the principles and best practices. And I’ll show you real-world examples of numerous ways to use your Core Client Process (including your visual frameworks and models) to work exclusively with higher-end, highly profitable clients.
If you’ve ever found yourself verbally, mentally, or emotionally berating yourself or berating someone else, I have a story for you that will help you to snap out of it, so you can go on being the best that you can be and living a life of freedom, fulfillment, and joy.
Over twenty years ago, when I was in General Surgery training, one of my service rotations was covering the busy Emergency Room of inner city hospital. We used to joke that we were right in the middle of the “gun and knife club.”
During this rotation, I was “on-call” every other day, which theoretically meant that I was awake and on-duty for 24 hours straight, then I supposedly had the next days off. In reality, it was more like being awake for 36 hours straight, crashing right to sleep, then waking up to start all over again. Functioning like this for three months was a physically, mentally, and emotionally intense and demanding time of my life.
One night, the paramedics brought in a young, otherwise healthy male, who had been stabbed in the chest, apparently while standing on a street corner. I don’t know any other details, such as whether he was an innocent bystander or involved in some sort of altercation or drug deal gone bad.
As the paramedics rolled him in on a gurney, the nurses hooked him up to monitors, so we could monitor his vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. We started cutting his clothes away, which is standard procedure when a trauma victim is brought in, so we could determine where his injuries were. Suddenly he “flatlined,” which meant that all the readings on the monitors went flat: his heart had stopped beating, he had no blood pressure, and he stopped breathing.
Anytime there’s a penetrating chest injury, “flatlining” is an indicator that the heart has lost its ability to contract and pump blood. There’s a sac around the heart called the pericardium. If there’s a penetrating injury like a bullet or knife wound, blood can leak out from the heart and into the pericardial sac. If too much blood leaks into this sac, the heart cannot fill with blood and then pump it out. It’s a showstopper.
When a trauma patient suddenly loses all vital signs, what we have to do is to perform a procedure called “cracking the chest”. This means that we literally cut through the chest to get to the heart, then open up the pericardial sac to relieve the tension, allowing the heart to start beating again.
And when I saw the flatline, I called for a scalpel, then immediately started opening his chest. And then something that never should happen happened: One of my junior residents took the scalpel out of my hand while I was cutting, the equivalent of surgical sacrilege. I was so taken aback that this happened, that I just let him continue opening the chest wall. I wasn’t willing to let my ego or rank get in the way of saving this man’s life.
So I switched my mindset to supervising the procedure, but I was still mentally thrown off. Once the incision in the chest wall skin and muscle was made and rib spreaders were inserted, we could see that indeed, the pericardial sac was tense will blood. So the next step is to take a pair of scissors and cut through the pericardium, to release envelope of blood that prevented the heart from filling and pumping. My junior resident opened the sac with scissors, just like cutting wrapping paper.
Immediately, the heart started pumping again, spewing a fountain of blood through the knife wound. To complicate matters, the patient also immediately regained consciousness as blood flow returned to his brain. So image this: His chest is spread wide open, his heart is gushing blood with each heart beat, and he’s trying to sit up, struggling and flailing about. And everyone on the trauma team is yelling at him to lie still! Yeah right! Got the visual here?!?
In this situation, what is needed now is an inexpensive medical device called a “Foley catheter”. A Foley catheter is a rubber tube that normally goes into the bladder. It has a balloon at the end, so it stays inside the bladder and collects urine. So the proper maneuver at this point is to take the Foley catheter and insert it into the knife wound and then inflate the balloon at the end of the catheter. This temporarily stops the blood from gushing out of the heart and buys you enough time to put sutures around the laceration, stop the geyser of blood. Simple enough. But for whatever reason – maybe it was my fatigue and/or the shock of my junior resident taking over this procedure – I didn’t perform this maneuver. Within a minute or two, the patient lost consciousness again, this time because most of his entire blood volume was now on the floor of the emergency room. I instructed the nurses to pumps resuscitation fluids into his body as I performed open cardiac massage – I placed his heart between my gloved hands and pumped the heart.
Lacking anything else to do, we started literally rolling the gurney to the operating room, as I continued cardiac massage. We took a shortcut to the OR, rather than taking the regular exit out of the emergency room. We rolled right through the waiting room that was jammed packed with patients and families of all ages. Can you imagine their shock and horror of seeing this bloody, wide-open chest, with me holding his heart in my hands, desperately pumping it?
But at this point, it was already too late to save his life; that opportunity had already been lost moments ago.
So for many, many years, probably for over a decade, I felt guilty about that incident. I felt guilty that I didn’t save this patient’s life. I felt guilty that I knew what to do, and I didn’t do it. I didn’t execute on my training. And with the thought of “I didn’t say this patient’s life,” what naturally came as a thought after that was: “I must be a loser;” “I must not be very good doctor;” “I am incompetent,” “I am not worthy,” “I just wasn’t good enough and will never be good enough.” And you can imagine the cascade of that “gremlin voice” that only serves to keep me small.
One day I was driving down the freeway on the way to my office when I was practicing as a plastic surgery and I was thinking about this. Wishfully, I was thinking, “Why can’t 100% of my surgeries go well? If I was a good enough surgeon, then it should always go well. Why is it that I see these guys present at the plastic surgery meetings and it seems like they all go well; they never have any complications, their patients are always happy, and they never get sued. Why is that? I must be a loser.
Then I realized, it’s none of that. I realized in that moment, that perfection is my life as it is this very moment. And, excellence is the process of fulfilling my commitments.
And I realized that I did my best given who I was and given the circumstances with that patient came in and when that patient died. And I also realized that in doing the best I could do, that that patient also had a role in his death. It may have been an innocent death, I don’t know. He may have been up to “no good; ” I don’t know.
But the point is, I discounted the role of this patient’s responsibility in being where ever he was when he was stabbed. And whatever he may have done or said that contributed to him getting stabbed. And I didn’t understand the role of responsibility, personal responsibility, and the role of living out one’s karma. I just focused on myself in a very subversive, egotistical way. But once I realized that I did the best I could under the circumstances. And that I am committed to excellence, and that there is something for all of us to learn and grow from, even when things don’t go well, as well as intended, I was able to forgive myself. And it gave me a tremendous degree of freedom.
I never used to tell anyone about this event, about what happened. I felt too guilty, I felt too ashamed.
So in forgiving one’s self, there is freedom. There’s the freedom to create beyond your wildest dreams and imagination. So in forgiving yourself for the beliefs, the thoughts and feelings and actions that you have taken and that you’ve held, there is also the flipside, which is forgiving yourself for the beliefs that you’ve not had, the thoughts you’ve not thought, the feelings you’ve not felt, and for the actions that you have not taken, that have either held you back, held others back, or hurt you or others.
Forgiving yourself is an area not commonly thought of when it comes to enhancing performance and productivity. You don’t usually wake up and say to yourself: “Today is December 2nd; I’m going to forgive myself today!”
I assert that if you are willing to take on forgiving yourself, it will open up a world of relating to yourself, to others, and to the world at-large that gives you greater abilities to make the impact, make the contribution that you are committed to. It will give you the ability to make all the money that you envision for yourself. It will give you a greater framework for the healthy, for being well, and all the other important aspects of being human. It will open up the possibility of possibilities in your life.
This is easier to talk about than to actually do. And in my personal experience, I’ve found that if you can practice, the more you practice forgiving yourself, the easier it becomes. And then, the easier it becomes to forgive others.
Through my years of medical training and practicing as a plastic surgeon surgeon, I’ve gained a great appreciation that one’s health and well-being is the foundation of all wealth, material and otherwise.
Inclusive of our own health and well-being, the greatest asset we have is our personal energy. That energy is comprised of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy.
Every second of our lives, we get to choose where we invest our personal energy. Are you wasting it thoughts, feelings, and activities that aren’t in alignment with your core values, your passion, and your true mission in life?
For a variety of reasons, such as fear of saying ‘No,’ concern about disappointing others, or fear of failure, many of us do…
If you’re really honest with yourself about it, you’ll probably find that you’ve committed to other people, events, and projects that are “energy leaks”; things that suck life out of you, rather than filling you with energy.
Now, that’s a real waste of energetic resources!
So, get in the natural habit of asking yourself: “What is the highest and best investment of my energy?”
Start by asking this of yourself as you start your day. Then progress to asking it of yourself throughout the day.
The shift in your energy, enthusiasm, productivity, and life experiences may astound you!
And that’s a real blow for freedom!
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines a habit as “a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance.”
Now nearly 100 years-old, my yoga master and WWII fighter pilot ace, Dr. Michael Gladych has frequently reminded me that “repetition is the key to mastery.” At the age of 93, he underwent cardiac bypass surgery – without general anesthesia. Do you think he’s mastered a thing or two in his lifetime?
In their course syllabus from The Principles of Financial Freedom: Duplicating the Nature of Spirit in Your Financial Affairs, Reverends Lloyd Strom and Marcie Sutton write that:
“The old adage that “practice makes perfect” contains great wisdom. Whenever we practice anything, our entire psycho-physical being reorganizes itself toward perfection of performance. Consequently, we will always become skillful in anything that we practice. This is because the divine intelligence within us responds to our willingness to change for the better, by changing us for the better. Our willingness for this change to occur is demonstrated by practicing. When we are unwilling to practice, we are unwilling to change, and the “status quo” will always prevail. Every great human achievement has come to those who have engaged in practicing the disciplines of their chosen endeavor.”
It is commonly stated that “successful people have successful habits.” Unfortunately, this statement is an oversimplification of an extraordinarily critical success factor.
Your habits are a product of your beliefs, thoughts, and feelings.
Successful people have developed habits that enable them to be successful, given their particular combination of beliefs, thinking power, emotional intelligence, and style of taking action.
Note the emphasis on “… given their particular combination of beliefs, thinking power, emotional intelligence, and style of taking action.”
Each of us possesses a unique blend of beliefs, thinking power, emotional intelligence, and style of taking action. And this is why what works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for another.
Some of these beliefs, thoughts, and feelings work for us. Some of these beliefs, thoughts, and feelings work against us.
And so it follows that if we develop habits, based on those unproductive beliefs, thoughts, and feelings, these in turn, result in outcomes that are less than desirable at best, and catastrophic, at worst.
So what can you do about this?
Make a list of habits that work for you. And, make a list of habits that work against you. Some of the habits that work against you will be habits of “not doing something” that actually would benefit you.
Once you’ve created these lists, start with the list of habits that work against you. Then, identify the limiting beliefs, thoughts, and feelings behind these non-productive habits.
In addition, be sure to make the list of habits that work for you and identify the beliefs, thoughts, and feelings that work for you. This is an important counterbalancing exercise, so don’t overlook its value.
This simple exercise of creating a list of desirable habits along with a list of undesirable habits holds great power – the power of acknowledging one’s self for productive habits and the power of awareness of those beliefs, thoughts, and feelings that no longer serve you or honor who you really are at your core.
Five Simple Steps to Habits That Lead To Freedom
- For those habits you desire to eliminate or change, becoming aware of them is the first step toward freedom.
- Commit to altering or eliminating those habits that no longer serve you.
- Commit to adopting productive habits to replace the old ones.
- Address the beliefs, thoughts, and feelings that keep those non-productive habits in place.
- Establish a structure of accountability to ensure that you are supported in following-through on practicing your new habits and getting support and encouragement when you get stuck.
This five-step approach to altering habits is simply said, though not as easily done. But if you are truly committed to adopting habits of success that jive with how you are uniquely ‘wired,’ repetition is truly your key to mastery. And, you’ll reap the rewards for years to come.