Here’s How You Build Trust With Clients

It’s hard living in an imperfect world, especially with people that might expect perfectionism. Perfectionism is not realistic. There are too many variables, players on the field and unrealistic expectations to muddy the waters of doing good business.

But, being in the connected human economy affords us the opportunity to work with imperfection and even build trust through it all by simply communicating well.

If you want to build trust with clients, as a given, execute well. However, when you can’t deliver, communicate. It’s how I have built trust with clients for many years and it astounds me how poor most people are at communicating timely, honestly and with leadership. In the end, it does take leadership and guts.

Don’t hide. Don’t rationalize. Don’t wait for your client to dictate. Don’t be a coward.

I overcommunicate all the time.

I educate clients and ensure they are comfortable.

I listen carefully and dial into how clients like to be communicated with.

And it keeps things from building up into unnecessary crises. You can stay ahead of most things by addressing issues, being clear and being humble.

I can’t say it enough, when you can’t deliver, communicate. You will easily stand apart from other service providers and the many other options of people out there trying to deliver value. You will build trust by being transparent and leading.

Trust is hard to build and easy to lose. So, unless you want to churn through relationships, you can work on this specific skill and ensure your communications, whether in writing or verbally, always focuses on problem-solving, empathy and goals.

Trying to be perfect is not realistic. But trying to be more human and leading proactively with care can even turn problems into amazing opportunities for connection as you get on the same side of the table with those you serve. You get to go down the journey together with your clients this way.

A Little Strategy Please

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Any fool can muster up motivation and go for it. You may finally want to act on an idea or make your business work more efficiently in a moment of inspiration.

However, acting simply on emotion and motivation without thinking through options, strategies and ideas can get costly and wasteful. It’s a loser’s mindset.

Doing a bit of upfront thinking about the problems you want to solve – make more money, building stronger relationships, growing a team, being more efficient – can save you heartaches and headaches. Thinking, not hard work, has a lot of cost avoidance.

We have this immense advantage of living in a world where all the pieces are either already invented or able to be put together to solve our problems. We have too much, not too little.

And what you want out of life and business is all there for the taking. Nobody is going to hand you a solution, however. You have to think a little and get clear on:

  1. What you want
  2. Wanting it
  3. Designing the solution
  4. Working the design

A little strategy and thinking can keep you from working on the wrong solution or limiting yourself to an inferior option. There are so many options available.

So, are you hating your job like the 70% of other Americans out there? Yet there are millions of jobs and you merely have one. What about doing a bit of thinking and getting clear on what you want, overcome what is holding you back and find the options that fit you? Then act.

What about being stuck in your current business? Little to no growth year over year can be frustrating. What will happen this year? Same input and same output? How about thinking about what drives your sales engine and either magnify what works or pivot to something more creative. There’s always something more creative.

You need a plan that is well thought through to change the mundane and predictable way of business and life you have today.

Assume everything’s possible and all the resources are there to get what you want. It starts with a little strategy and clarity on your thinking to make anything meaningful happen.

Keep Score Everyday

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I don’t find games very engaging without keeping score. My kids are the same way. Once we inject some kind of scoring, it becomes much more fun, and the focus and intensity go up right away.

It’s natural.

We’ve had decades of socializing trying to tell us otherwise, but I don’t see that working much for desperate and scared adults who bought the lie. And those people who told them scores don’t matter, aren’t around anymore.

When you have to survive, meet goals, provide for others or make your vision happen, you have to keep score. How in the world would you know how you are doing if you left it to an ambiguous feeling of doing well?

If you are serious about success and getting results, you have to know your score every day.

Your brain is a problem solving machine. When it sees a void, it wants to fill it. When you compare your goal and your score today, there will be a gap. That’s ok. We are always walking around with the gap between our present reality and our future desire.

The important thing is that your mind is aware of where you are at today and simultaneously sees what you want down the road, so it can begin working on that gap.

Numbers are easy to see these days. You have a ridiculous amount of technology that feeds you information daily. Your:

  • Bank account balance
  • Current monthly sales
  • Pipeline of opportunities
  • Expenses and cash flow
  • Deals you are working

Every morning, look at these numbers. Automate your Google Chrome or browser to open separate tabs upon opening so you have to look at the score on each of these numbers. See where you are, and compare it to the number you are shooting for.

You can also build a Google Sheet to keep track over time by updating your numbers. When you keep score, you are focused on winning.

Yes, some days can be discouraging when you have a big gap. But it’s far better to know where you are at and where you want to be than not know.

Think about getting concrete and building your own scorecard. You can simply:

  1. Figure out where you want to be in three months or six months. Quantify every goal.
  2. Put those numbers in a Google Sheet.
  3. Every day, update your current numbers. Let the Sheet calculate your gap by percentage or amount.

This daily habit can take a few minutes every day. It gets your heart and mind focused on the game. And you are in a game. It’s called life.

I like getting my goals. I’ve seen plenty of unhappy people who insist they can be random and laissez faire. No thanks.

Reality has a way of keeping score whether we acknowledge it or not. If you care about yourself and getting results, keep score daily. You will be giving yourself a gift.

Productivity Hack: Get Scheduling Commitments

It’s Friday and most of the world is checking out. These days, with the connected economy, it’s not much of a work day.

But it’s a great ritual every week to line up your next week. So, here’s a little strategy you can use at the end of the week so you don’t simply launch unintentionally into a Monday of chaos:

  1. Make a list of people you want to connect with next week. See my advice on Starring Contacts.
  2. Schedule calls using your calendar. Here’s the best practices on being a leader with your calendar. Your invitees will react with a yes or a no.
  3. Move the invitation to another time if need be.
  4. Meet.

Weeks simply keep going by relentlessly. This is a little hack so you can get a little control and make your time align with your goals. It’s about getting results.

How about checking in with your network before checking out for the weekend?

Hard Work Beats Talent When Talent Doesn’t Work Hard

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I saw this t-shirt at one of my son’s track meets. That does sum things up when it comes to the playing field of life and business.

I don’t have much sorrow for talent that doesn’t work hard. And I love the overcomer that can use perseverance, tenacity and hard work to get to their goals. These are all within our grasp and a choice.

While our talent may not be a choice, but a discovery process, it’s not much use in the long run without steady, consistent pushing, testing and usage.

Sure, you can pick easy goals to go after. We have a nicely set up world that offers convenience. Often, the trade is simply our freedom, time and attention.

Bigger ventures will be hard. Anything worth doing, typically is hard. But if you have perseverance, then you have what you need to get results over time.

I not only speak from experience, but I also have conviction around this truth from observation of how life tends to play out for those on the playing field and in the marketplace.

Don’t get discouraged. Simply control what is in your grasp and keep moving forward.

Get Real and Ignore Vanity Metrics

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Are you wasteful with your time?

My clients and friends know that I beat that mantra, “Most things don’t matter.”

One area that this particularly applies to is vanity metrics. These are the stats, conversions or data that simply do not matter or are too cluttered to manage towards the one thing that does matter – results.

Your carefully defined goals are what matters. How much money do you want to make? Are you clear on this?

Who do you want to have a strong relationship with?

Where do you want to live? What work do you want to do on a daily basis?

What activities will make you happy?

Put a number down or a specific person or place for your goals.

The activities you choose to engage in will produce results that either get you closer to these carefully defined goals or simply make you feel better emotionally.

We have to be careful of simple feel goods. You can’t say you want a fit body and feel comfortable running 5 miles, but you spend your time eating donuts and socializing when you should be putting in the work. The results are not related to the goal.

You can’t talk about growing a business with a team and ignore or misjudge each member’s competency because you favor personal likability more.

We have this amazing ability to rationalize our choices and activities and insist on goals we want, regardless of whether those actions are related or not. This is where getting real with yourself, either from someone advising you, or your personal choice to wake up, becomes critical.

You may be feeling good because you see things like:

  • Lots of Facebook likes
  • Many different social media logins
  • Lots of emails in your inbox
  • PR in an industry publication
  • Hundreds of handshakes at a conference
  • Flying all over to meet prospects

Perhaps you have a dashboard and you measure these activities. It feels good to talk about the social connections. How long have you been connecting with this many people, and how many customers have you gained?

What about all that traveling or activity? What did it turn up in business or friendship?

We have a lot of sexy technology that arises in our lives. But does that translate to meaningful results? We can be seduced into thinking that the activity we experience matters, when it does not.

If you are looking at vanity metrics which have no relationship to your goals, then its simply delusional. What you claim you are wanting will not happen. The activities don’t relate to the outcomes.

The better strategy, if you are serious about winning, is to ignore all the hype and do the following:

  1. Decide that most things don’t matter and are a waste.
  2. Define clearly what you want. Quantify it.
  3. Review how you have achieved your desired result in the past. Evaluate whether you can replicate the process.
  4. Set up a scorecard that measures the activity that contributes to the result.
  5. Look at the scorecard daily. Keep yourself accountable or have someone that will do the job honestly hold you to your goals.

This takes thought. You have to think it through and get off the high of vanity metrics and get real with yourself. It’s how winning is done.

Test Your Strategies to Discover the Truth

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The amount of information that flows into our lives is bewildering. The continual ticker tape of news feeds and stock prices in the old days pales in comparison to every person getting their own say. It’s so easy to push out a post or have an opinion and make it known.

I often wonder, especially with the prevalent fear of public speaking people have, whether they would clutter our attention if they had to stand up and say what they think. Likely not.

Instead we get a lot of noise. There’s not much cost to hearing every angle, opinion and rant.

But what really works? What is really true?

You may see someone’s success in their career, life or business. And there’s often not public disclosure of how they did it – what strategy did they implement?

There are many possibilities to the success we see:

  • A simple strategy with intense, hard work over a long period of time
  • Connection to a special person of position that opened a door
  • Being first in a new market or platform
  • Finding some kind of loophole in the rules
  • Exploiting a narrow opening

Have you ever noticed, in whatever game you are playing, there are a few that sit atop the success ladder? The mass of others may have good intention and effort, but they tend to lag.

Can the masses simply copy what others did? Do they lack discipline and consistency which would otherwise propel them?

Or is there a strategy that they are missing that the leaders have found?

The best use of your energy if you want results is to test the strategies you see and hear that the winners have applied and see if it is replicable.

If a few have achieved results, then why not anyone else that simply follows the process and steps?

If the data, research and findings lead you to emulate the practices of those that have gone before you accurately, then you should see similar outcomes.

However, if you do not find replication based on similar actions, then there may be something else at work you can’t quite detect. You may not be able to replicate a special relationship or the timing of a pursuit.

The testing of your strategies can reveal what the truth of the matter is.

We see models out there that tend to be replicable:

How to build a law firm.

How to grow great children.

How to get a paycheck.

These are replicable by simply watching and mimicking and they work in scale.

But if you don’t see a lot of replication, then dig a little deeper to see if it is even possible in the game you have chosen. Find that truth that is powering the success you see, but the reasons may be elusive.

If you find something is not replicable, then you have the choice to replicate the luck you see or move on to another game.

Reinvent Yourself Before You’re Forced To

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“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ~ Robert Greene

Things work … until they don’t.

We bought stories previously that made sense. Advertising works because people pay attention. A horse and buggy is the way to travel. Everyone should meet for lunch to do business. Conglomerates are responsible for the news.

There were entire industries and armies of workers ready to fulfill what scaled and worked. And there was reward for a time with cash flow and stability that all the participating players enjoyed.

However, we don’t have the luxury of a static world that simply allows us to drink forever from a wellspring of opportunity. Too often, we have to get slapped hard out of our delusion and heed Baltasar Gracian’s words,

“Fortune soon tires of carrying anyone long on her shoulders.”

We did not have a world where everyone carried a supercomputer in their pocket, 24/7 news continually streamed and anyone could put their opinion out in the endless information stream of social platforms. The story people tell themselves continually changes and consumers are able to make choices for themselves on their time, attention and buying based on convenience and innovation.

I can remember too many times where work was hard. Building systems, sales engines and collaboration processes were hard. It’s much easier. We don’t have to code anymore or lay out inflexible, expensive requirements to test our ideas. We don’t even have to be perfect from the start. We can try what we conceive and tear it down and rebuild technologies and platforms to see if they work in reality or not.

Innovation is sweet and relentless.

We don’t even have to sweat the underlying mechanics or even hope for infrastructure.

However, the flip side of innovation is that it threatens the current position you find yourself in. Things will be different. They have to be. The collective is forcing and demanding better, faster, cheaper and entertaining.

Whether you align and reinvent yourself today or are forced to change when the world ignores your value is not something you control.

IT will be different. So will education, medicine, law, marketing, and every other industry out there that has enjoyed some form of stasis.

Sure, there’s a latency for Luddites that can ride the down wave. However, they can’t control the forces at play and the demand side that is creating this ridiculous pace of innovation we are all riding and insisting on.

The strategy for the value provider that wants to get paid has to move towards continual relevance. You have to stay in tune with what works, but you don’t need to get so far ahead that consumer demand lags.

Reinvent yourself by:

  1. Having a parallel path of selling/doing that ramps up while your current cash flow ramps down.
  2. Experimenting with and integrating new technology that makes things more convenient for your customers.
  3. Creating new use cases for your competencies.
  4. Selling something new and test for traction.

The last thing you want to experience as a businessperson is irrelevance. Fear and comfort can blindside you. The great news is that you can always get ahead of the inevitable changes to your position by keeping your own innovation habits in play.

What’s next for you and how can you keep reinvention continuously going?

Building the Boring Business

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I enjoy drama, action and suspense when I watch a movie to relax and let my mind and emotions wander. However, I don’t find heroics and craziness entertaining or useful in business. In fact, my goal with entrepreneurs and business owners is to build a boring business based on systems, processes and execution that produces consistent cash flow.

That sounds reasonable, but often it goes against the programming and nature of the owner operators that believe charisma and heroics has won the day. I get it. We like superheroes and long to be one.

Emergencies pop up and uncertainty continually deals a hand here and there. When I see volatility or repeatable drama, then my conclusion is that something foundational is not working.

If you ever have gone on factory tours of large manufacturers of cars, electronics or packaged goods, you don’t see chaos and frenetic energy. You see systems that drive output. The systems are there to drive towards a singular result. It’s a boring business and it works to get goods into the hands of customers. The goal is making the customer happy and drive revenue.

But well-run businesses do not simply appear overnight. There’s thought around how materials, information and talent flow. Systems work well with focused results by removing the crises, variables and gotcha’s that snare lesser performing operations.

The boring business happens because of strong leadership and a commitment to not repeat insanity from continual failure. This not only includes project management or operations but in how the business cares about and manages client relationships, grows revenue via a continuous pipeline and continually innovates. These are all parts of a business that can be creatively systematized. The energy and creativity for a boring business can be put in the design and execution of processes that stay ahead of chaos.

Sure, you can spend time getting lost in details and putting out daily fires. But when you step back and take a look at anything that repeatedly pops up and slows down the main event – making your customer happy – have you really solved the root problem of poor systems? Is a lack of commitment to process simply leaving the door open for problems later?

Perhaps team members need regular training and testing of their knowledge and skills. Or you may need a knowledge base and repository to keep information so you don’t have to keep reminding people how business should be done.

In many cases, you might simply need to notice the repeatability and frequency of problems. Do you like heroics simply because it appeals to the ego or makes you feel like you are working on something?

I like drama to stay at the box office or in my recreational fun going up or down mountains. When it’s completely possible to keep a business focused on delivering value and driving revenue, no thanks. Give me the boring business instead and leave the adventures for other parts of life where it belongs. #nodrama

What Executive Productivity Hinges On

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As work relentlessly gets democratized, it’s hard for people to get formal training that was once consolidated within large industrial companies. The internet does continually grow with knowledge and content and this should suffice to educate everyone. But it’s hard to make sense of all the information or put it into strategies that make an impact.

Knowledge work demands that we move information and make decisions quickly. While everyone is not officially titled as an executive, we have to make decisions efficiently.

There’s a lot written on creating big visions, mission statements and developing strategies. But there is something even more foundational that should be part of any good executive’s daily ritual. It is a critical daily habit that allows for extreme leverage across projects. It is the habit of list management.

Managing Across Your Lists

Think about how many logins you have. You have a login for your email. You have plenty for your social media accounts. One for your bank accounts, accounting systems, client management databases and the list goes on.

Ultimately, these are all lists. And they are data dashboards to keep you informed of what matters in your world.

When you look at your email, it’s essentially a list. Learning to manage that list will move communications and decisions along. You can become extremely quick and free with a ZeroInbox approach to this list. It’s a core list you have to stay within.

Then there is your daily task list. You need a quick capture of anything that comes your way and check things off quickly and efficiently. I use Google Tasks heavily and manage my Today List this way.

If you are managing cash, then you need to look at your accounts receivables and payables. Put those into meaningful lists with due dates and follow up. Make it actionable.

Your calendar is a list that requires moving intentional engagements within finite time slots. Manage it well and you can get a lot accomplished in a week by being focused with your choices of time.

A lot of the above lists are around data and tasks. Those tasks break out into various lists for actions and next steps. Most of what we do is define what has to be done and put it in the right list.

We also have to manage relationships. Building and maintaining relationships doesn’t just happen on its own. You have to work hard to create the opportunities and life you want. Everyone is busy and they are better at reacting than driving.

So, it’s important to organizes your list of Contacts in your address book or CRM. Then review those lists regularly and move towards communications – emails, texts, social posts, etc. – to follow up with relationships that matter to you.

If you wrote a list of all the lists you manage, you might find that it could end up being 10-20 places. This is not uncommon. But, your world revolves around your ability to keep those lists organized, current and moving.

If you can get rid of or consolidate lists, you lower your own management commitments.

Every morning, check your lists. Make it a daily habit. Spend that 30 minutes to send, post and comment within the lists you need to participate. Don’t skip a day and be relentless. And always be pruning.

If you are talented, then doing the work is less of an issue than knowing what work to focus on. List management is core to executive productivity and getting your big goals accomplished with consistency over time.

So what lists do you manage?