Well meaning consultants have this habit of giving advice about things they sometimes know nothing about. If you’re foolish enough to follow it you may end up like they do – out of business, unemployed or working as an employee.
Here are my five favorite lies consultants have tried to lay on me over the years
You Must Have a Live Person Answer The Phone
Not only don’t I have a live person answer the phone – nearly 90% of my support is via email.
That’s right – almost all of my support starts and finishes via email.
Clients don’t care whether they reach me via tin can and string or smoke signals — provided the response is fast and solves their problem. Whoever floated the rumor that you needed a live receptionist must have never called into a consultant’s business where the bored receptionist made it sound as if your call was interrupting their Perez Hilton or TMZ web browing session.
You don’t have to pay a live person to juggle phones and take messages. Hardly anybody does this anymore. I use grasshopper for outsourced PBX and my BlackBerry for incoming email.
And while your outsourcing technology (which I strongly recommend) – take your Microsoft Exchange email system and throw it out the window.
Google Apps for Domains is cheap ($50 per mailbox per year) and provides 25 GB of storage and tight integration with BlackBerry. Point your company’s domain name to Google’s Mail servers and clients are never the wiser. The benefit to you? If the email or phone service breaks – it’s someone else’s problem — not yours! You can stay out consulting with clients where you make ALL of your money – not fixing your internal technology which costs you money.
Customers Will Only Pay Hourly For Phone Support
We stopped doing hourly phone support about 10 years ago. So much for this piece of advice.
With over 60 clients subscribed to a prepaid phone support plan (we charge $2,800/year) there’s never a fear on the client’s behalf about getting a bill for a quick question. And we don’t argue over whether a call for support should be billable because it only lasted three minutes.
Does this mean we turn away clients?
There are anywhere from 6 to 12 suspects that we refuse every month because they don’t see the value of going onto a prepaid phone support plan. Over time I’ve learned that customers who are only interested in a per call fee arrangement are most likely to use your services for one call and then never be heard from again. They just don’t turn into what most of us would call a client.
Don’t sell your services cheaply. The people who want to pay less than going rate will only draw your attention away from companies willing to pay an annual fee to be covered under your support plan.
The key to success with phone support? Stick to your guns. Have a plan already written up (here’s mine) so when you go into a meeting you’re ready for the question. Without a plan to offer you’ll often wind up backing down and entering an hourly support agreement.
Offer More Than One Accounting System
Don’t do “onesies and twosies”.
What I mean by this is if you cannot get reasonably proficient with an accounting system – don’t get involved with trying to sell it to your clients.
Don’t get suckered into installing an industry (aka niche) software program to a client who will be your only user of that system. This is a recipe for disaster. If you only have one client on the system how on earth will you get proficient at it?
Installing only one or two systems per year won’t give you enough experience to be profitable offering (and more importantly supporting) the system. It’s a total waste of resources to make a big profit on an initial software sale only to have to refund the money or offer a hundred free hours to make the software work.
Chase Every Sale And Win Sales Awards
The fastest way to lose money and possibly go out of business is to pay any attention to the annual or quarterly sales goals set by the software publisher.
Unless you’re on their payroll it’s not your problem whether the publisher makes their quarterly sales goal or not.
So don’t stock product because you’re a few bucks short of some arbitrary sales goal.
Certainly never push a bad sale just because you need to make that same arbitrary number.
It’s the worlds worst feeling to walk away from a sale.
It’s even worse not being paid — or “eating” time put into a job that cannot be billed or collected.
Stick to your guns and only offer your solutions where they are a good fit. It makes your clients fiercely loyal and develops your reputation as reliable consultant. Top notch clients seek out the reliable consultants while the company’s who want to pay $20 to $30 for a quick support question will take the first name that appears in their Google search.
Turn Your Cell Phone and BlackBerry Off After Five And On Weekends
I smile deeply and for a long time when I hear a competitor brag about how they turn off their BlackBerry at night and on weekends.
Little do they know that the weekend and after hours is when most decision makers are working. The people sending you urgent emails are also the people whose hand makes the signature on the checks. I’ve won more multi-year support clients just because I’ve responded to an after hours email or two. This goes down in the all time book of lies that consultants tell.
My BlackBerry gets turned off at 11pm (usually long after I’m in bed) and turns on at 4:30am.
How often do I get calls on the BlackBerry after hours? Maybe twice a month. But for clients just knowing that they can reach you after hours is a major psychological boost that helps them decide to hire you.