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Top 10 Blog Posts on Life and Entrepreneurship in 2017

2017 blog postsHappy New Year! I hope you woke up today inspired to tackle your goals for 2018. Whether it’s kicking a bad habit, taking better care of yourself or going after a new job, everything starts with that first step. I hope I can offer you some motivation to take your first step toward reaching your New Year’s goals and resolutions with a special blog post. I’ve compiled the top articles from 2017 on life and entrepreneurship that you, the readers, helped to show me were among your favorites.

While today is a day to look toward the future, I want you to join me on one last look back at 2017 and the topics that inspired thousands of you to possibly join me on an entrepreneurial journey!

#10 The Benefit of Business Turnover in the New Year

In the business world, it seems like when it rains it pours. Losing a few clients back-to-back can feel like the walls are caving in around you. Will you survive? The short answer is – yes. In fact, business turnover can be a prime opportunity to restructure and rebuild an even better business model that will service you well into the future.

Read the original blog here.

#9 Five Things You Can Immediately Do To Gain More Business

Speaking of rebuilding your business, did you know there are five things you can implement right now to gain more business? No gimmicks, just honest advice. Don’t overlook the low hanging fruit that could be at your fingertips right now!

Read the original blog here.

#8 How to Plan an Event That Inspires Guests

I’ve planned a lot of events throughout my career and have witnessed the stark contrast between events and events designed to inspire their guests. The difference in outcomes is substantial. Whether you’re a non-profit on mission to raise funds or a for-profit business looking to give back to the community, I share my tips for planning an event that inspires guests to act.

Read the original blog here.

#7 How to Win Over a Client in the First Meeting

In business, your first meeting is like a blind date. You and the client both arrive hoping to hit it off, but that doesn’t always happen. In most instances, you are in control to make a good first impression and win over the client in the first meeting. This blog shares how you can do that!

Read the original blog here.

#6 Five Signs a Client is Not a Good Fit for Your Business

As much as you want to win over a client, you don’t necessarily want to work with every client who comes your way. Why? Well sometimes a client isn’t a good fit for your business. Maybe it’s their budget, their values or their attitude. Here are five signs a client is not a good fit for your business.

Read the original blog here.

#5 The Two Week Evaluation Every Entrepreneur Should Take

Are you a business owner/entrepreneur? Then you most definitely want to start the New Year with this two week evaluation. Find out if what you’re currently doing is aligned with what you hope to achieve. Are you happy? Satisfied? Balanced? I know I’ll be starting 2018 with this two week evaluation!

Read the original blog here.

#4 Low Cost and No Cost Business Tools Every Entrepreneur Should Use

This proved to be a very popular blog post in 2017! It seems that most business owners can relate to the topic of wanting to find low cost and no cost tools to help their business run as efficiently and lean as possible. Check out what I use and recommend!

Read the original blog here.

#3 What No One Tells You About a Career in Public Relations

I’ll be honest. When I chose a career in public relations, I really didn’t know what it was. I knew it required writing and communicating, which I love to do. However, there are some significant details about choosing a career in PR that no one told me. It’s likely they didn’t even know what this wild ride would include! So I’ve shared what I learned to hopefully educate some future passionate PR professionals.

Read the original blog here.

#2 Seven Things I Will Never Have as a Business Owner

While owning your own business will provide you with a lot of advantages, there are a few things I know I’ll never have as a business owner. But it’s not all bad! Take a look at what you can expect to kiss goodbye whenever you take the entrepreneurial leap.

Read the original blog here.

#1 How to Create the Job You Want

And the number one blog post from 2017 on life an entrepreneurship was “How to Create the Job You Want!” I’m not surprised. Who wouldn’t want to learn how to take control of their career by creating their dream job? Yeah that sounds glamorous and easy and I caution you that it’s not. However, I share some useful and practical advice for taking the initial steps toward creating a job that you love to wake up to each day.

Read the original blog here.

Which of these top 10 blog posts on life and entrepreneurship inspired you the most? What topics would you like to see me touch upon in 2018? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

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Posted by on January 1, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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How to Be Your Own News Source (Guest Blog by Beth Ann Matkovich)

The following post comes to us from Beth Ann Matkovich, a marketing communications and writing professional from Camp Hill, PA. Please see her complete byline at the end of the article and learn how to connect with Beth Ann!


How to Be Your Own News Source

Let’s face it, not every business or industry has a compelling story to tell.

When markets started turning south in 2008, the president of our firm called a meeting and asked us to brainstorm ways that we could generate income outside of our typical revenue stream. Social media was just coming into popularity, so I suggested that we monetize our intelligence. As the market was falling and things began to move ever slower, I proposed that we share our intelligence with clients and prospects to establish ourselves as industry leaders during the downtime, so that when the recession passed, we would be top of mind when our clients and prospects needed our services.

The Power of Content Marketing

But with no “news” or stories to share, how can companies become their own news outlet? The answer is easy: content marketing. Simply put, content marketing puts you in front of your current and potential clients.

Whether you offer a product or a service, or are a B2B or B2C organization, your knowledge is your product. According to an oral presentation given by Tyler Bouldin, Senior Web Strategy Manager at WebpageFX, the benefits of sharing your knowledge are many:

  • It establishes you and/or your company as a subject matter expert.
  • It establishes you and/or your company as an industry leader.
  • It engages readers and gains followers.
  • It improves retention.
  • It can turn leads into prospects.
  • It fills potential gaps in the sales process.

Start with These Key Questions

But before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to create your content, Bouldin notes that it’s important to identify who you want to reach. Is it existing clients? New prospects? Others? After you identify your audience, describe who they are by creating a persona. Are members of your audience men, women, or both? How old are they? Where are they located? What is their education and income level? What are the pain points that you can address or resolve for them?

The last point is critical, as it is the foundation of your content. But let’s take a step back for a moment. Yes, content marketing is intended to ultimately bring in sales. But the purpose of developing content is to inform your audience and share valuable information. By educating your readers, you become a trusted source of information. Content marketing is not a one-way pushy sales pitch.

Have a Clear Focus for your Content

So what should you write about? According to Bouldin, that question can be answered with another question: What do you know about that will interest your readers? Back to square one, right? Wrong. Consider what changes are taking place in your industry and how it impacts your audience—and most of all—how you can help. What do you do or offer that no one else does or that differentiates you from others? What are your clients’ most frequently asked questions?

Plan Ahead

After you’ve identified your topics, create a plan for sharing your content. Creating a content calendar is a helpful way to visualize what content is posted where, and to schedule topics accordingly around other or related topics or events. Having a plan also offers a checklist of sorts to ensure that the work gets done.

Success is in Promotion

So you’ve identified your audience and topics, written your content, and created a plan to share it. Now get out there and promote it! Bouldin notes that if your company or organization doesn’t already have a blog, create one. This is an ideal venue for your content.

Be sure to share and promote your blog on social media. It’s important to keep your audience in mind when considering social media platforms. You likely won’t attract many 55+ business professionals on Snapchat, so make sure your message is appropriate for the platform and its audience.

You can also create an e-newsletter to get your content directly to your audience. Online tools such as MailChimp or Constant Contact are popular platforms that can help you track engagement so that you can see who is opening your newsletter and when, and allow you to adjust send times and content as appropriate. For extra mileage, share your expertise with industry trade publications and blogs.

Measure, Adjust and Refine Your Efforts

If incoming calls and foot traffic don’t show the success of your content marketing efforts, get out your measuring tools. Google analytics can give a good overview of your content’s performance and allow you to drill down into pages, users, engagement, and bounce rates.

Just like any other marketing tactic, content marketing is not a once-and-done deal. After creating and sharing your content, measure your message’s effectiveness and start again. Keeping your message in front of your audience will keep you and your organization ahead of your competition and establish you as a valued news source for your readers.

Have you used content marketing to position your business as an industry leader on a particular topic? What strategies did you find to be most successful? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!


P Beth Ann McCoy (2)About the Author: Beth Ann McCoy is a marketing communications and writing professional from Camp Hill, PA. She has broad experience with small, non-profit organizations, large international corporations and everything in between. She has written short and long-form content for local and global publications including Harrisburg Magazine, the Central Pennsylvania Business Journal, World Pipelines, and Water and Wastewater International, among others. Beth Ann welcomes new opportunities and can be reached at bmatkovich@hotmail.com.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2017 in Business & Success, Guest Blogger

 

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An Eye on the Crowd: Using Surveys to Build PR (Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who transitioned from a corporate HR career into freelance writing. This article is based upon her experience using surveys to grow public relations efforts.


An Eye on the Crowd: Using Surveys to Build PR

Survey form

In today’s world, publicity is everything. There is a fierce competition in just about every sector, and consumers are getting more and more skeptical of new brands, businesses, and services. As a PR professional, this means it can be increasingly difficult to break through to the noise and establish yourself as a credible business. So, how do we remedy this dilemma?

Well, whether you focus your PR efforts are on B2B or B2C relations, having reliable data is imperative. One of the most efficient and popular ways to collect data is through surveys. However, while this method can be quite effective, many PR practitioners fail to utilize this tool effectively. To help you in your PR endeavors, below are some ways that surveys can help boost your PR campaigns.

Why You Should Survey Your Customers

First, let’s dive a bit deeper into why you should survey. The data collected from your survey can provide real-time analysis of your specific brand/niche, as well as provide insight into the customer’s thoughts and feelings, which in return allows you to build trust with the public. The data and insight that surveys provide are important because they give you snippets into people’s thought processes which produce mini “stories” to an extent. Stories are the backbone of the consumer-brand relationship.

An Eye on the Competition

While surveys are a great way to gather customer feedback, the strength of their ability to gather information on competitors should not be missed. Create a competitor analysis survey by asking your customers which similar products and services they use. This simple survey will not only help you identify your competitors, but also help you find out why they are getting a customer’s business. Alternatively, you can ask your consumers what they think you need to do to have a competitive edge over your competitors. Don’t forget to ask them about your strengths as well as your weaknesses.

An Eye on the Culture

Social media is one of the most dynamic fields out there. New trends and cultural movements hit social media intensely and often. Spotting latest social media trends is instrumental in getting the most out of your PR campaigns. Whenever you spot a new trend hitting Twitter or Facebook (and you should be watching), use consumer surveys to find out which trends your customers find attractive. This shift may not last too long, but gathering information quickly can give your PR campaign a cutting edge over competition.

How does your business utilize the power of surveys? Or where could you stand to make improvements? Share your thoughts on this topics by leaving a comment below.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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What No One Tells You About a Career in Public Relations

Businesswoman sitting in boardroom with laptop looking frustrate

Beyond earning a degree in Public Relations and pursuing a few internships along the way, the best thing to prepare you for a career in PR is real life experience. Unfortunately, this also means there will be a lot of learning and adjusting as you go. As I approach my seventh year working in the industry, I may still be “green” in many ways, but I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and know-how that simply can’t be gained by sitting in a classroom.

Here’s what I’ve learned about a career in Public Relations that no teacher or text book will tell you. Take a look!

You will have to explain to people, often, what exactly it is you do

The TV show Sex and the City may be to blame for the myths and false assumptions about Public Relations. I promise, we don’t schmooze at publicity events and drink all day. I think everyone would pursue a career in PR if that were the case. Again and again you will find yourself having to define and defend what it is you do and the value it provides. The good news is you’ll establish a solid pitch that will serve to win over your clients.

You will be referred to as “marketing” again and again

I make it very clear that the services I provide are Public Relations, yet I’m often referred to by clients as their “marketing person.” While marketing and PR serve to very different purposes within a business, I can see why they’re often lumped into one broad category. At the end of the day, I really don’t care if someone refers to my role as marketing, publicity or business development. So long as we are on the same page with our strategy and deliverables, we’ll get along just fine!

People will expect guaranteed media placement for everything you pitch

In this industry, you will find that some clients are “press release happy” where they think everything the business does deserves media placement. Even when something newsworthy does come up, issuing a press release is by no means a guarantee that it will be picked up by the media. We know that, but we often need to manage client expectations. At the end of the day, the media will determine the fate of your news. Which brings me to…

The success of your strategy will be at the mercy of a lot of other people

The reality of Public Relations is that there will be many elements of your strategy which simply aren’t in your control. You will need to do everything within your control to set yourself up for the best possible outcomes, but at the end of the day you are at the mercy of the media, the community, your clients timely responses and approval, the weather (I’m not kidding) and a variety of other elements you can’t even predict until they hit you over the head unexpectedly.

You will get to see your work impacting the world

Finally, and most encouraging, is the truth that a career in PR allows you to see your work changing the world. Piece by piece, your PR strategy will cause a ripple effect that will change public perception, grow businesses, help the community and much more. When Public Relations does what it’s intended to do, it’s a powerful and beautiful thing!

Do you work in Public Relations? What “truth” of the industry did you find most surprising? Leave a comment!

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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7 Mistakes that Push Away New Business

7 Mistakes that Push Away New Business

When you’re fortunate to have new business come knocking at your door, it’s still far from a done deal. Winning over a client takes time, patience and strategy. In my industry, things always begin with an initial client phone call or an in-person meeting. This casual, first meeting is the opportunity for both parties to feel each other out. Do our visions and values align? Do we share realistic expectations for what can be accomplished with the given budget and time frame? Most importantly, is there chemistry? No, nothing romantic, just a good synergy that will help create a productive working relationship.

Even if all of these things appear to be on target, there are still quite a few ways in which I can push away this new business, if I’m not careful. While the ability to read a client and build a strong connection from the start isn’t something you can necessarily teach, there are a few obvious mistakes you should avoid when trying to win over a new client. Save yourself some future regret but taking note of the next seven items on this list!

  1. Being unresponsive

The first mistake you can make is to be anything but highly responsive to your prospective client. This is the first impression you make. If they call you to learn more about your services, respond to them same day. Even if you’re not able to connect by phone, the least you can do is email them to set up a time for a future phone call or meeting. Carry this level of responsiveness into every phase of working with this client. Chronically late responses are a red flag to the client that you may not be the easiest person work with.

  1. Acting like you have all the answers

In your first client meeting, don’t come in there like you have all the answers. You don’t. You’re meeting this client for the first time and you likely know little about the industry and nothing about their business (more than a website and social media can tell you). I know in my case, people call me in because there are serious internal problems taking place. This is something you can’t know simply by Googling them. Come ready to listen, take notes and ask questions.

  1. Lacking examples of your insight and experiences

While you don’t want to come in acting like you know everything about the client’s particular business, you do want to walk in ready to prove your knowledge and expertise. Offer plenty of examples of past client success stories that relate to the services you may provide to this new client. Real-world examples are not only powerful, they are memorable. Additionally, be prepared to offer some examples of new ideas you have, tailored to the client’s needs. Make them feel like you’re offering fresh solutions and not something canned that you provide to every client.

  1. Pushing a client toward a final decision in your first meeting

Let the first meeting be a no-pressure zone. If you do a good job selling yourself, there is no need to pressure a new client into making a final decision as to whether they want to work with you right then and there. In fact, it’s likely going to be in your favor to have them sleep on the ideas you presented and to get even more excited about them! Don’t be so desperate to close the deal that you end up closing the door on yourself.

  1. Leaving the first meeting with no action plan

Just because you’re not going to pressure the new client into a final decision doesn’t mean you can’t have a clear path for the next steps you will take toward that final decision. You need to leave the meeting with an action plan in place. If possible, leave with the ball in your court. That means it’s on you to get the client a proposal or follow-up with additional information to help them make a decision. This gives you the power to reach out to them on your terms, rather than waiting to hear back from the client.

  1. Not following-up

This loops back to mistake number one and the need to be responsive. Just as it’s important to be responsive, it’s equally important to initiate a response. Give the client some space after your first meeting and after you’ve provided them with a proposal and an outline of next steps. Then, about one week later (or if they specified how much time they need), follow-up! Keep it short and sincere. Ask them if they have any additional questions you can answer. Or if a new idea has come to you, share that with them – along with your enthusiasm for working with them soon. These techniques enable you to stay in touch without nagging them.

  1. Charging a new client for your business development time

Another mistake that pushes away new business is charging for things like your first consultation meeting, putting together a proposal or any other initial communications. If you’re properly vetting your leads, you should be closing just about every new client meeting you take. Your time spent in business development stands to yield far more profit in the long-run than the couple hundred dollars you may make charging your client for every interaction. Furthermore, the practice of nickel and diming a client is sure to make them question your business practices and possibly scare them off altogether. Do your homework, qualify your leads and then invest that initial time at no cost, knowing you have a great shot at making it back ten-fold!

Have you made any of these same mistakes and found that it pushed away new business? Or can you think of something else that is missing from this list? Share your ideas by leaving a comment below!

 

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Book Smart vs. Street Smart: What I’ve Learned about PR Outside the Classroom

Qualified specialist

While I was earning my degrees in public relations and communication from Penn State University, I was already putting these skills into practice for some of my first clients. It’s amazing to look back and realize that real businesses put their trust in a young student who had really just “book smart” PR skills, and little to no real-life application. What’s even more amazing, is some of these very first clients continue to work with me to this day.

Now, I have matched and well exceed the length of that college education with “street smart” PR experience. Over the last six years, I continue to place a high value on forever educating myself on the latest trends and techniques in the public relations field. This just happens to come in a different form than a brick-and-mortar classroom. From networking groups and industry associations, to simply staying up to date on the news, it takes dedication and a hunger to learn, not just degrees upon degrees, to fine tune your PR skills.

Here are the key public relations skills I’ve gained since leaving the classroom and entering the real world, and I would consider all of these to be critical to the success of my PR consulting business!

Prospecting and Qualifying Clients

Early in my business, I would take on pretty much any client who came my way. I kind of had to. I have no idea how to prospect or qualify these contacts to ensure they would be a good fit for my business. This wasn’t something I was taught in my PR classes. I learned how to develop goals and tactics for clients, once I had them, but I wasn’t taught the important early steps like first matching a client’s needs with my services.

I’ve become very “street smart” with qualifying leads. I don’t immediately commit to a meeting or even a phone call until I’ve done a bit of homework and asked some essential questions. This has saved me a lot of billable work hours, and has afforded me a few more afternoon naps.

Growing Long-Term Relationships

Another valuable skill not found in textbooks is the ability to turn one-time projects into quarterly or annual retainers. This has become my bread and butter. Just about every single client that has started off with a small or finite project (website content, monthly blogs, media training session) has come back to then sign on with an ongoing contract worth sometimes 10x more per month than that first contract. The key to setting yourself up for residual business with a client is handling that initial project, no matter how small, with the same passion and dedication you would handle your biggest annual retainer. Often a client is testing you to see if you’re a good fit for a long-term relationship. Don’t fail this test!

Effectively Managing Payments

In the first half of 2017 alone, I’ve billed 25+ clients, many on a monthly or quarterly basis. That’s a lot of invoices to manage! My (oddly reluctant) switch to using QuickBooks couldn’t have come at a better time. Rather than relying on a spreadsheet, or worse, a post-it note on my computer, I diligently log everything into QuickBooks. Invoicing is still a process I must make time to do, but it’s a much more streamlined one. I can see what clients owe me money at any time and how many days has passed since issuing the invoice. My husband jokes I could be a bounty hunter in my next life. And to my tax attorney, you’re welcome in advance!

Monetizing “Scope Creep”

This skill ties back to “growing long-term relationships.” It’s a good thing my clients often come to me for more work! However, it can go south when these clients don’t realize the additional work requires additional time and needs to be billed as such. Fresh out of college, I lacked the business savvy to monetize the “scope creep” of a project. I would bill it as “good will” and do the work without earning an extra cent. I still believe in some good will favors, but I only have a certain amount of good will to pour into any given client.

Rather, I am quick to show my interest in taking on this additional work for a client and let them know upfront that I would be happy to give them a proposal for that additional work. This softly reminds them that the work they’re asking to have completed is outside their current contact. I can do it, but for a fee. I have not once had a bad reaction. Clients often respond “Oh of course, I want to pay you for your additional work.” I’m so glad I’m not still losing money on all that good will I was throwing around!

Knowing When to Let Go

Knowing when to cut ties with a client that is no longer a good fit for your business was never covered in any of my PR textbooks, that’s for sure! This is a skill I am still learning along that way, and unfortunately it still remains a pretty steep learning curve. Because of my ability to prospect and qualify clients, I have reduced the need to let a client go, but it has and still will happen from time to time.

What I’ve learned is, make it about you, not them. Don’t focus on their shortcomings, as tempting as it may be, but rather focus on why your business isn’t in a position to best serve them. Be upfront, keep it short and do it early! Those are my pearls of wisdom.

Having Confidence in a Unique Vision

Lastly, the ability to believe in yourself and not compare your journey against someone else’s is something I 100% had to learn outside of the classroom. This applies to both business and life. I am passionate about being a PR consultant. I don’t want a big firm with lots of employees and overhead. I want the complete freedom and flexibility to take on all of my own clients, team up with power partners when I need it, or run a completely lean operation when I don’t. I want to take unlimited vacation days and hit the gym at 2 in the afternoon, if I want!

I like that no client or colleague owns my time completely. I have a unique business model to which many cannot relate. It’s taken time for me to confidently say “I’m a professional public relations consultant” without feeling the need to hide behind a fictitious and irrelevant title like “CEO” or “Principal” to make it sound like a run a big firm. After all, I advocate for my clients to be transparent and genuine; it’s important I am too.

In your career, how would you compare your book smarts to your street smarts? Which do you value more? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment!

 
 

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How to Give Customers What They Need, Not What They Want

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


How to Give Customers What They Need, Not What They WantWhether you refer to them as clients, customers or accounts, your experience working with any of these groups has likely presented you with the tough decision to either give a business what they want or to give them what they really need.

If you are lucky, these two areas overlap and you look like a hero as you deliver favorable results to your smiling clients. All is right in the world!

But sooner or later, after enough years in the business and after working with enough people, you will find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place as you deal with clients who bring you ideas that you know are not going to help them achieve their goals.

Henry Ford alludes to this conflict in his quote, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Often, customers are too close to their own business to see the bigger picture of what it really needs to get to the next level. They will ask for a bandage to fix a gaping wound, when really the underlying problem – and its solution – is much deeper.

So how do you gracefully persuade customers to accept your recommendations for what they need when this differs from what they want? Let’s take a look at five steps that will get you headed in the right direction.

Be kind, but honest when sharing your opinion and expertise

There is never a need to be rude or condescending when informing clients that you do not believe their ideas will achieve the results they desire. Remember, they have sought out your expertise because they want your input. Strive to build a relationship based upon kindness and honesty so that you are able to openly share your opinion and they are well received by your clients. The more your clients trust you and the more your track record of advice has panned out in their favor, the more likely they are to listen to your recommendations in the future.

Offer real examples backing up why something may not be in their best interest

Some clients will want to see proof as to why their idea is not good for their business. Do your research and offer real examples or statistics of other businesses that have used a similar idea or strategy only to have it yield less than desirable results. Another method is to back up your own ideas with research and examples. Don’t just tell your clients, show them why you and many others have found your idea to be of greater benefit.

Give them (only good) options from which they may choose

Give your clients a sense of control and involvement by presenting them with options from which they may choose. The key is to give them only options that will help achieve the same overarching goal. By controlling the options presented, you can help steer your clients toward only good decisions, whether they know it or not.

Get them excited about these options!

Your clients may come to you with a “bad” idea because another business did it (likely in a different industry, with different goals and a different budget) and it looked cool so now they want to do it too. They’re excited about it and for that reason alone it’s attractive. Use this “shiny object syndrome” to your benefit by turning your “better” options into other, shinier objects that catch their eye. Your excitement for these options will get them excited as well. Best of all, they should love that these ideas are new and different from what another business has already done. They will get to be among the first!

Offer praise and encouragement (even if it was your idea)

Finally, step off your soapbox, get down from your high horse and take a back seat to receiving the glory when your ideas deliver the results you’ve promised to your clients. All the credit you could want will make its way to you in the form of a nice paycheck. Until then, be a cheerleader for your client and offer praise and encouragement for their smart decisions that have helped them to achieve their goal.

How have you had to delicately steer your customers toward what they need, and not just what they want? Share your personal experience by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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