Building Client Trust: Communication is Key

by Donna Toothaker on September 24, 2015

by Donna Toothaker

Effective client communication is a crucial element in running a service-based business, yet it is often overlooked in favor of things we think are more important, like client work. However, it is so important for clients to feel as though they are in good hands, to know that work is getting done and progress is being made, and not to have to worry that things are falling through the cracks. This is achieved through clear, consistent communication. Take some time to review the way you communicate with your clients. Are you proactive or reactive? Are you over- or under-communicating? Have you set expectations about how you will communicate with clients, and how they should communicate with you?

Good client communication begins with setting expectations. From the moment you begin with a client, you need to be clear about how you will communicate back and forth. Set a date for an initial call to clearly outline your strategies and goals for the project, and to solidify the lines of communication between you and the client. Discuss their preferred communication style, and be clear about yours.

Do you prefer e-mail or telephone communication? Are you available after normal working hours? How do you handle last-minute requests? Whatever your communication style is, you should always give your clients more than one way to get in touch with you. So, even if you do most of your work and communicating online, assure your client that they may also call you if that is their preference.

That said, it is also crucial to set boundaries from day one, so that clients know when, where, and how NOT to contact you. Nobody wants a call to their home phone late at night or during family times if it’s not an absolute emergency. Set a reasonable time frame in which you will respond to questions or requests, so that you respond promptly, but your client is not inadvertently trained to expect you to be on call at all times.

Keep clients in the loop. Be proactive. Let your clients know everything, before they have to ask. Don’t let them wake up in the middle of the night to worry whether you are getting their work done. If they don’t like constant emails with status reports, then use a project management tool and put the information there so the clients can check on things on their own time. Simple, free online programs like Dropbox and Google Docs allow you to share and update information easily and instantaneously. Consider setting aside time, once a week, for a short conversation to update your client and answer questions they may have.

Communication is everything. If clients have to ask about how a project is coming along, communication needs improving. If a client has to follow-up with you or your team about something, it needs improving. If a client has to wonder if something got done, it needs improving. If a client is calling you at all hours, it needs improving. Doing great client work is only one way to service your clients. Consistent communication is an invaluable service that will make them feel secure and build their trust.

Donna Toothaker is CEO, founder and coach of Step It Up VA Coaching, and the creator of the 6 Steps to 6-Figure VA Success System. These highly sought-after VA coaching programs have been created for established, successful VAs who wish to create the 6-figure business of their dreams. Visithttp://www.stepitupva.com to receive the free report, Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid in Creating a 6-Figure VA Business.

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Re-inspire Yourself this Fall!

by Donna Toothaker on August 20, 2015

by Donna Toothaker

The fall is nearly upon us, and sure – this is the time of year when the air cools down, the sun sets earlier, and we prepare for the dormant winter season.  But in business, fall is also a time of new beginnings.  The new “school year” cycle signifies a clean slate, a time for learning, and growth – even for those of us who graduated years ago.  Harness the renewing energy of this cycle to reinvigorate yourself and your business, and end the year on a high note.

Give your business a fall cleanup.  Do papers and files cover your desk like autumn leaves on your lawn?  Time to toss and file.  Clean up your computer desktop, too.  Not only will it be easier to find necessary documents, but your computer will run more efficiency.  A crowded computer desktop is often a prime culprit when your computer is running slowly.  Clear out your e-mail inbox (often easier to delete in big chunks if you sort by sender), unsubscribe from unnecessary newsletters (physical and electronic), and turn off social media notifications that tend to pile up.  Dust your office and your computer.  Let no flat surface, physical or virtual, go untouched!

Give yourself a report card. Give yourself and your business an honest month-by-month assessment for the first half of the year.  Have you followed your business and marketing plans?  What goals have you reached or exceeded?  Where are you falling short?  Based on what you have learned from your assessments, what changes can you make right now to end the year on a high note?

Give yourself a boost.  Re-inspire yourself!  Take a class toward a certificate, or attend a seminar or workshop. Buy a frame that will house that certificate you will earn, and motivate yourself as you study by envisioning it on your wall.  Be sure that the class or seminar you attend will take you a step forward in your evolution as a CEO, even if it feels “beyond” you or outside of your comfort zone.  Stretch yourself!  Even better, sign up to give a presentation or teach a class in your area of expertise!

Don’t forget your own self-care. Just as fall is a time for cleaning up your outer environment, in many cultures, fall is a time to cleanse your inner environment as well.  Invigorate and strengthen your body, and immune system, with a wellness makeover, to keep stress, and illness at bay in the coming winter months.  Choose from all the nutritious foods that are plentiful during the harvest season, and drink plenty of water. Get active with healthy activities like yoga or daily walks in the crisp fall air.

Reconnect with friends and family to boost your spirits. Find solo time to reconnect with yourself.  Think about the reasons why you were inspired to start your business in the first place, and envision yourself living your best life, doing work you love, on your terms.

This fall, take time to reclaim your office space, review your year to date, reinvigorate your ‘resume’ and health and wellness routines, and reconnect with what is important.  You will end your year on a high note, excited and ready for the year ahead.

Donna Toothaker is CEO, founder and coach of Step It Up VA Coaching, and the creator of the 6 Steps to 6-Figure VA Success System. These highly sought-after VA coaching programs have been created for established, successful VAs who wish to create the 6-figure business of their dreams. Visit http://www.stepitupva.com to receive the free report, Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid in Creating a 6-Figure VA Business.

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Special pricing for VIP full-day intensives!

by Donna Toothaker on August 3, 2015

Softball is over for the summer. No more practices, games, try-outs, or workouts! I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all this free time, except hopefully spend some of it with YOU!

I would love to work with you for a full day on your business!

Announcing “before summer’s over” dates for VIP In-Person Intensives!

AND through this week (or until they’re gone!), I am extending a special offer to spend the FULL day together, in-person or virtually, for just $497! (This is a  super substantial discount! It might just be the lowest I’ve ever offered these full days!) With just one idea you’ll like get several new clients, but it only takes one to get a return on your investment. And you can even make this payment in installments, as long as you’re paid-in-full before our day together.

Dates available: August 10, 12, 19, 21, 25, 26, 27 

***Interested in a weekend day? Let’s chat and see if we can’t come up with a date that will work for both of us!

***Interested in a September or October date? Get in touch and we’ll figure out what works.

http://www.stepitupva.com/coaching-programs/in-person-intensives/

I’ll show you how to raise your rates and create service packages so you can stop trading hours for dollars. I’ll show you how you can get more clients, and where you’re leaving money on the table. I’ll guide you in building an effective team that joyfully supports you and your clients. I’ll show you how to systemize and streamline your business for more productivity and profitability, and less overwhelm. And we’ll create a full roadmap of a one-year strategy that will include creating an effective marketing plan, determining revenue projections, and mapping out your calendar/schedule for the entire year.

And if the above wasn’t enough, in addition, we would:

**Work on developing your unique message

**Create an effective list-building strategy

**Plan for the implementation of your marketing funnel

**Teach you how to leverage your time and expertise

**Show you why you MUST become the CEO of your business

**Even help you transition from what you’re doing now, into what you REALLY want to be doing

…and more!

All VIP Retreats include one month of email and telephone support for follow-up.

When was the last time you invested in yourself and in your business? I bet I know the answer to that! When we make a commitment to ourselves, that’s when others (prospects/clients!) make a commitment to us. When we VALUE ourselves, that’s when prospects value us. Until that happens, prospects won’t invest in you or commit to you any more than you’ve invested and committed to yourself. It’s true!

Click the link below to find out more about the VIP In-Person Intensive and then get in touch with me quickly to reserve your day! donna@stepitupva.com or 978.855.6330.

Don’t wait – my VIP in-person, full-day openings sell out EVERY time!

http://www.stepitupva.com/coaching-programs/in-person-intensives/

I look forward to working with you one-on-one soon!

 

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Is it Time for a Coach?

by Donna Toothaker on July 30, 2015

by Donna Toothaker

We all arrive at a business crossroads at some point. We need to choose a direction in which to proceed, but right now, we feel stuck somewhere in the middle. Perhaps it’s time to seek outside support to help move you ahead. If any of the following statements sound like you, it is time to hire a coach.

I’m stuck. My business has been moving along for the past few years, but I feel like I’m in a rut, doing the same old things the same old way. Or, I’m new at this business, and can’t figure out my next step, but don’t want to (or can’t) take too much time and energy away from my client work.’

Why reinvent the wheel? Whether you’re a new business owner or a seasoned entrepreneur who just needs a new perspective, you can benefit from a coach who has direct experience in building a business. A good coach can help you choose your direction and give you action steps to reach your goal.

I want more; Clients, income, time. These are three things I never seem to have enough of. It’s time to move to the next level!

Who better to help see you toward your goals than someone who has been successful him/herself? Growing your business involves calculated risks and a leap of faith. A good coach can help you assess your readiness for growth allowing you to carefully look before you leap!

I’m out of ideas. I want to create a new product or program, but I’m not sure where to begin. What are my options?

Not knowing what’s out there, what the market trends are, and what works / doesn’t work is often a hurdle to starting a new product or offering a new service. Why not brainstorm with someone who has their ear to the ground in the online market? A seasoned coach can help you develop your ideas, become more market-savvy and avoid pitfalls.

I know what to do, but I need a push. I have all the tools and knowledge I need to reach my goal/create and roll out my new product or service. The only obstacle in my way is ME.

You need somebody to answer to besides yourself. A reliable coach can help you set goals and will hold you accountable, so you’ll stop procrastinating and start succeeding.

I’m burned out! Truthfully, I’m not enjoying myself, and I’m not sure I want to be in this business anymore.

Before you give up all you have worked for, consult someone who has been there. A coach can help you identify what aspects of your business are causing you distress, and do something about it. Whether you need to let go of a few things, or make a radical shift in your business model, it helps to have someone at your side who can help you sort things out, be your biggest cheerleader, and offer workable solutions so you can do what you love, and love what you do.

Hiring a coach was one of the best things I have done to help me navigate my business through growth, change, and some tough economic times.If you are at a crossroads in your business, it may be time to consider working with a coach. It is an investment that can save you time, money, and sanity as you build your business!

Donna Toothaker is CEO, founder and coach of Step It Up VA Coaching, and the creator of the 6 Steps to 6-Figure VA Success System. These highly sought-after VA coaching programs have been created for established, successful VAs who wish to create the 6-figure business of their dreams. Visithttp://www.stepitupva.com to receive the free report, Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid in Creating a 6-Figure VA Business.

 

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by Donna Toothaker

Have you ever had a really great dream where everything was perfect and things happened just as you wanted them to? And you wake up feeling calm, peaceful and happy? I love dreams like that!

Visions can be a lot like dreams, except that visions are mental images that you actually create yourself of how you imagine something to be. It could be your perfect vacation, your dream home, or your ideal soul mate. In life it can be fun to have visions, but in your business, it’s imperative!

Having a vision for your business will you to make better decisions, know what the right direction is for you, show you what actions need to be taken, and allow you to focus on the big picture.

Here are four critical steps in creating a 1-year vision plan for your business:

Step 1 – Create a vision statement. Think about the vision you have for your business. You know, the one in an ideal world, with no consequences, without having to know how everything would be accomplished, but merely what it would look like in that perfect world.

Now, from that vision, create your vision statement. Your vision statement should include things like (and remember to get really specific);

  • the types of clients you want to have (industries, personality, etc)
  • the type of work you personally want to do
  • how much you want to be earning regularly in one year
  • how much time off you want to have
  • what your team will look like and what kind of work they will do on your behalf
  • new services you will add (or existing ones you will drop)
  • new products you want to create
  • where you will perform your work (new office, redone office, remote office, etc.)
  • etc, etc.

Step 2 – Identify your challenges. Once you have your vision statement completed, you will need to determine what might be preventing you from achieving your vision NOW. What challenges are you facing? Is it a lack of a marketing plan, lack of a good team, not attracting the right clients? Make a list of these challenges, and be as specific as you can.

Step 3 – Create an action list. Now, with your list of challenges in hand, you should create an action list, addressing each one of your challenges and what it will take to overcome it. It might be actions such as hiring support to help with a marketing plan, or finding, interviewing and hiring new/better team members, etc. Again, be very specific with your action list. The clearer your action plan can be from the beginning, the easier it will be to work through each item.

Step 4 – Work the plan. Now you should have a comprehensive list of challenges, along with the action items needed to conquer each challenge. The final step is to work on each of the action items until you have turned every challenge into an accomplishment.

You can go about this last step in any way that works for best for you. You might want to prioritize them from most important to least important; or maybe first tackle the ones that present the greatest obstacles, so you can get them out of the way and move on to the other items that will require less time and attention. Find the way that works best for you and then start working those action items. Set deadlines for each of the action items, and monitor your progress. Quite quickly, if you stay on track, you should have each of the items moved from the “challenge” column to the “accomplished” column, and you should see significant improvement in your business success.

Remember to keep you Vision Statement in front of you at all times. You can even make copies and post them throughout your house, but at the very least keep one by your work area. What you focus on, you attract. So being consistently, consciously aware of what you expect, will help you realize your vision faster. And, whenever you have business decisions to make you can look at your vision and ask yourself, “Will this get me closer to my vision, or take me off-course?” Based on that answer, you’ll be able to make smart decisions that will move your business forward into your ideal vision. Now get to it! And good luck!

 

Donna Toothaker is CEO, founder and coach of Step It Up VA Coaching, and the creator of the 6 Steps to 6-Figure VA Success System. These highly sought-after VA coaching programs have been created for established, successful VAs who wish to create the 6-figure business of their dreams. Visithttp://www.stepitupva.com to receive the free report, Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid in Creating a 6-Figure VA Business.

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by Donna Toothaker

Developing a solid plan for marketing and networking takes work, doesn’t it? And then the commitment it takes to carry out that plan sometimes takes even more effort. Hopefully, you do have a plan and you are making that effort because you know how important it is to your business growth.

So, what are you doing to follow up with the contacts once you’ve had that initial meeting? There are so many ways you can keep your name and face in front of your prospects, and the follow up process should absolutely be part of your overall marketing plan.

Let me give you some great tips that I use myself for following through and staying in touch with prospects. After all, you have to be memorable so that you don’t lose opportunities to gain new clients because they’ve forgotten about you.

Anytime you have a face-to-face meeting, you need to send a personal, handwritten thank you note. That’s a no-brainer. Regardless of whether the meeting results in a new client, that person took time out of their schedule to meet with you, and you need to acknowledge it. Even if you came away from the meeting feeling like it might not be a good fit, you should still show them that courtesy.

If it is a prospect that you want to pursue, then you need to create ways to stay in touch with them. Here are a few ideas to try after you send the thank you note –

Mark your calendar to follow up with a brief email no more than one week following your meeting. Express again your appreciation for his time and your interest in working with him. Include a few points about how you can add value to his business (whatever you discussed in the meeting). Don’t make the email too lengthy or too mushy; make it brief, but make it clear.

Your next follow-up email should be maybe 7-10 days later. It should be very brief, and not really even a pitch— More like a “just checking in” email. After that, if you haven’t heard back from him, then it’s time to move on. But if the prospect still appears to be interested but on the fence, then continue your courtship.

Start following the prospect on Twitter; connect on LinkedIn and like his Facebook page. Once you do that, make yourself visible on those sites by offering tips about your services, how you help your clients, etc.

If the prospect has an e-zine, sign up for it, and then invite him to sign up for yours. That’s a great way to learn about his business, and let him know that you are an expert at yours.

Every once in a while, try emailing the prospect with a great tip, idea or article you think they might be interested in. For example, if time management is an issue for him, send him a few tips for managing his calendar, or recommend an online project management tool that you know about, and let him know that you can set it up for him if he’s interested. These emails should really be about the client, and not be a direct sell, but do let him know that you are there to help.

If you happen to learn about an important milestone in his business or life, acknowledge it with a card or even flowers if it’s appropriate. It could be an anniversary date for his business, a big project he lands or an award he’s given, or even his birthday. Whatever the occasion and however you choose to acknowledge it, you can be sure he will remember your thoughtfulness.

You know they say it’s the little things that count, and a lot of times, it really is. Prospective clients want to know that you are interested in them and their business, and that you want them to succeed whether you are a part of their team or not. Find creative ways to stay in front of them, and chances are when they are ready to move forward with outside services, you will be more likely to be at the top of their list to contact.

Donna Toothaker is CEO, founder and coach of Step It Up VA Coaching, and the creator of the 6 Steps to 6-Figure VA Success System. These highly sought-after VA coaching programs have been created for established, successful VAs who wish to create the 6-figure business of their dreams. Visit http://www.stepitupva.com to receive the free report, Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid in Creating a 6-Figure VA Business.

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Is It The Breakdown Before the Breakthrough?

June 4, 2015

by Donna Toothaker As an entrepreneur, part of the challenge is getting out of your comfort zone-and dealing with the fears that come up. For most of us starting a business is challenging, yet breakthroughs happen when we step out of our own way. Perhaps a new client will come at just the right time, […]

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Passion and Purpose – Keys to Finding (or Not Finding) Your Niche

May 21, 2015

by Donna Toothaker You are a talented individual, and through your past positions you may have acquired a pretty big proverbial hat collection with all of the different ones you’ve had to wear. So when you’re developing your business, don’t be too hasty in picking one and throwing the rest out. It’s important to identify […]

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Systemizing For Team Empowerment

May 14, 2015

by Donna Toothaker For any business, there are oodles of benefits of having effective systems – increased productivity, greater profitability, and ease of growth, to name just a few. Yet sometimes one of the overlooked benefits is to give empowerment to your team, allowing them to find the information needed to be able to make […]

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Testimonials: Your “Selling Super Powers”

April 30, 2015

You have created a fabulous business, doing excellent work for a slew of wonderful entrepreneurs. Your clients love your work… in fact, many, if not all, tell you regularly how pleased they are, and give you great feedback.

You have likely heard over and over that rave reviews from your clients are perhaps your most valuable tool for bringing in new clients. In fact, they are so effective at influencing sales, you can think of these little gems as your instant “selling super powers!”

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