So here I was. A young, eager, hungry, software consultant. Business was going o.k. with a fair amount of small jobs coming my way. Then I got “the call”. The call came in from Jody, the V.P. of manufacturing of a fairly large manufacturing company. Jody had heard about my work / identity from another client. Jody was looking for someone to design a software system for their manufacturing process. She needed to “start right away”. The funds for the project had been budgeted………and it was a BIG number. ”When could I start?”, was Jody’s only question for me.
Well, that was easy. Pick up phone. Listen patiently. Get contract. This is my kind of business! Or so I thought.
With gusto, I plunged into the project. I spent hours upon hours researching analyzing, examining, and documenting their arcane manufacturing processes. I then produced a report of recommendations. Not just any report mind you. This was art. A masterpiece, laying out in every detail, the specifications for a new system. Revenue here I come!
Now for the presentation. I’m talking charts, graphs, circles and arrows. Lasted about an hour. At the time, it didn’t strike me as odd that they didn’t have any questions as I flashed my forty-fifth Powerpoint slide. Must be stunned by my brilliance, I concluded.
Jody: “This isn’t what we wanted. You just told us what we already know. We need “X”, and you gave us “Y” (detail omitted here to prevent boredom).
So what went wrong? I neglected to specify the most important part of my offer, the Conditions of Satisfaction (COS). Very simply stated,
conditions of satisfaction are what you, the service provider, need to produce for the client to declare she is satisfied with your work.
In this case, Jody had a completely different expectation than I did about what was going to be delivered. In my eagerness to grab the largest assignment of my nascent business, I neglected to specify and agree on the COS.
Here are some tips on how to specify the Conditions of Satisfaction with a client:
* be clear, in writing (especially if this is a new client) about what you will deliver
* make a promise of when you will deliver. There are two dimensions that clients use to assess satisfaction with service providers. Quality and timeliness.
* get the client to agree to the conditions. Sounds basic. I like to get a signature and a verbal acknowledgment.
* here comes the most important one. Get the client to agree, that if you meet the COS, she will:
1. pay you on time
2. speak well of you in the marketplace and refer other customers to you. Setting this expectation is critical to the growth of your business.
Specifying the COS upfront, will position you as a true professional and differentiate you from your competitors.
May 23rd, 2010
Trust is the new currency. The more people that trust you, the wealthier you are. Trust converts into money, an artifact, when people trust you enough to refer you (your services / offer) to others.
Trust is domain specific. I will recommend (trust) you to a friend for graphic design work. I will not recommend you for auto repair. However, “star power trust” can transcend beyond the domain you are expert in. Oprah’s star power trust is immeasurable. People trust her recommendations in many, domains (books, appliances, clothes). 37 Signals has achieved star power trust. Trust from producing quality software and education via their blog, has been used to sell the NY Times best selling book, Rework.
Trust is built by fulfilling, recurrently, on promises. You deliver what you promise, on time, on budget. Trust is the fuel for generating a positive identity in the marketplace.
Do people look to you for trusted recommendations in the domain that you are expert? How often? Do you aspire to “star power” ?
May 19th, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
B2Bee Simplifies Invoicing and Expense Management for Small Businesses with Web-based Tool
The Bee delivers the right size solution for professionals and small businesses that were not made to handle numbers
CINCINNATI – May 19, 2010 – With the launch of the Bee, a web-based invoice and expense management tool, B2Bee, LLC is encouraging small business owners and other professionals to “step away from QuickBooks and stop pretending you’re a part time accountant.” The Bee, which is available online at www.GetTheBee.com, provides three core financial tools that small business owners need to invoice and get paid, manage their expenses and track their profitability. The Bee is available from any Web browser, providing an easily accessible, always-on solution to create and send invoices, document, categorize and track expenses, and produce reports to help monitor the pulse of the business.
For small businesses, the Bee provides:
- Simple, one-time set-up;
- Branded to look like a part of customer’s business;
- Pre-designed, professional invoicing templates that can be emailed or mailed to clients;
- Ability to document and categorize expenses by client or project for quick accounting and invoicing;
- Online dashboard for quick view of financial state of the business;
- Online profitability report provides quick comparison of revenues and expenses; and
- Accountant’s export report that generates a spreadsheet that can be shared with external bookkeeper or accountant for tax preparation or analysis.
“The reaction of most people when they open accounting software like QuickBooks for the first time is ‘Wow, what have I gotten myself into?’” said Scott Miller, founder and CEO of B2Bee. “Most small business owners don’t need a complex piece of software to manage their finances, but in a way, we have been trained to turn to these types of solutions. We all use bulky pieces of software every day, but we are likely only using a small percentage of their capabilities. For small business owners, all they really need is a simple solution that will help them get paid while managing the money that is coming in and going out of their businesses.”
“For many of our service clients with simple accounting needs, the Bee is a great solution.” said Terry Grear, CPA of Grear and Company. “The Bee offers the right tools for small businesses to help quickly manage and track their finances, while collecting all the data our firm will need to help them with their quarterly and year-end taxes and planning.”
Miller added, “Credit goes to companies like Apple and Google that have really pushed the concept of the ‘App,’ which is an intuitive, right-size tool for a variety of business and entertainment needs. I started the Bee because I wanted to make my customers’ lives easier. For freelancers, small agencies, and other professionals that don’t work with numbers all day, the Bee is all they will need.”
The Bee is available to try for free for 30 days and on a monthly subscription plan of $14.00 per month thereafter. A portion of every monthly payment from every customer is donated to help fund honey bee sustainability research at Penn State University.
Visit the Bee at www.GetTheBee.com for more information or follow the Bee on Twitter.
Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, B2Bee, LLC delivers a SaaS (Software as a Service) to entrepreneurs and freelancers who “aren’t made to handle numbers.” Ideal B2Bee customers include consultants, small creative agencies, web developers, copywriters, and freelancers. The Bee is a right-size solution that includes invoicing, expense management, and profitability reporting; three core financial tools for helping small businesses manage their businesses. B2Bee has committed to help fund honey bee sustainability research at Penn State University, and a portion of all software subscription revenues go to help save the honey bees. For more information, visit www.getthebee.com.
May 19th, 2010
May 18th, 2010
In the game of business, our personal identity is our most valuable asset. More valuable than our computers, our car. Even more valuable than the cash in our bank account. As a service entrepreneur, your business’s identity and your personal identity are one in the same.
Like other productive assets, our identity allows us to generate revenue. It does so by providing the much needed differentiation in our services versus our competitors. Sure, flashy brochures and websites help to establish our brand and what we stand for. But the way the world, our customers, and our prospects assess our competence is largely determined by our personal identity.
So how do we define personal identity for the service entrepreneur? Your personal identity is NOT what you want it to be. It is NOT how you perceive yourself. It is NOT what you claim and display on your website. Your personal identity in the marketplace is the sum of what people “say” about you. These people are customers, vendors, colleagues, and competitors. Your identity is a mathematical equation. People speaking well of you in the marketplace adds to your positive identity. People trashing you, subtracts.
Back to differentiation. Reflect upon the last three or four new clients you landed. Why did they decide to do business with you? Was it price? Probably not. Was it your flashy brochure and website? Doubt it. Most likely it was your personal identity. Your reputation in the marketplace. Somebody they trust recommended you. Somebody was “speaking well” of you in the marketplace. Perhaps they learned about you from the web. From a blog, from Twitter, from LinkedIn. All of these sources can be the start of the formation of your identity in your customer’s mind. Your identity then becomes solidified by how you perform….your actions.
What are some common components of personal identity that all service entrepreneurs should seek to create?
* Keeping promises
* Listening skills
* Genuine interest in a client’s business
* Expert in your specific domain (ex. graphic design, social media, B2B marketing)
What is your identity? What do you want it to be?
May 12th, 2010
Sell value. Sell scarcity. Sell uniqueness. Selling time is limiting. Finite. Earnings, wealth, and possibilities are capped. Selling time is emotionally draining. How many hours did I bill today? Only four? I need to bill twelve tomorrow to make up for it. Evolve your offer to fixed fee engagements.
May 11th, 2010
Delivering on your promises as a service professional is key to gaining repeat business with clients. Over-delivering on your engagements is the key to growing your business through word of mouth referrals. People rarely tell their friends and colleagues about ordinary or sufficient customer experiences. Whereas, extraordinary experiences are often related to others.
One way to set yourself up to create an extraordinary experience is to begin with the end in mind. Plan on delivering something extra, something that the client was not expecting. Don’t quote it. Don’t talk about it. Just deliver it at the end.