July 19, 2010
Take Time Off and Maintain Trust
I'm a firm believer in vacations, traveling and taking time away from my business office. Every now and then, I disappear from my business. Now, I know, some of you may think that's scary. It even makes me a bit uncomfortable. Just like so many solopreneurs, I wonder what my team will do if something they've never tackled before comes up. I worry that I forgot to give them something. This is all par for the course before I leave, but I DO leave and I DO forget about what's going on while I'm away. I have to trust that my team can handle whatever comes in while I'm away. Otherwise, I'd never enjoy it!
That doesn't mean I just throw my hands up in the air and say "I'm outta here!".
Not only do I need to trust my team to take care of my current clients, but it's extremely important to make sure my marketing efforts continue while I'm away so I don't lose any trust-building ground with potential clients. When I'm in my business, I keep a marketing schedule and am very consistent with my marketing efforts. If my marketing falls off or goes away completely while I'm out then potential clients forget about me, or wonder where I disappeared to. Wondering chips away a few trust points. So, I efinitely don't want to slack off on the marketing while I'm away.
In order to ease my mind, my clients minds, and my potential clients minds as much as I can, I have a lot to do in preparation for leaving. Last year, I was pretty much out of my office for 3 of the 4 weeks in October. I went on vacation and then attended a conference where I extended my trip for networking and client visits. I spent the majority of September preparing to be out of the office. I know what it takes to get there. I'm hoping it will help you as well. So, I thought I'd share with you my vacation preparation strategies.
1) Do your writing and marketing in advance - When I sat down to do Septembers marketing, I gave myself some extra time to do both months of writing. I always tell my clients that consistency is one of the main keys to successful trust-building. This doesn't stop because I go on vacation. I just pre-write verything and schedule it to go out while I'm gone. Most marketing systems have this option. I suggest you use it…OFTEN!
If you have someone helping you with your marketing. Make sure you give them a heads up that it's coming early and make sure you get it to them early (this builds trust with your team members too, btw). That way they know it's supposed to wait until the time you are away and it's not in addition to your usual marketing.
2) Have a team member in place - My Project Manager, Carrie, works very closely with me on a regular basis. She knows what needs to get done when it comes to helping my clients with their work. My clients are already familiar with her and have had communication with her fairly regularly. This makes Carrie the obvious choice to take over in my absence.
If nothing else, I think it's important to have someone who can handle your administrative duties. Someone who schedules appointments, handles follow-up with potential clients when they need more information and can handle the intake process for you once a client decides to work with you. This team member will have already had a connection with your clients. So when you are away, they can easily answer e-mails or phone calls as they come in for you. This keeps the trust level high with current clients who will, hopefully, rave about you and refer more clients to you.
3) Schedule a meeting with your helper - Whoever you decide to have help you, make sure you speak to them before you leave. Cover all the reasons someone would contact you and give them a process for responding. Give them all the resources they would need to get someone started working with you, in case someone wants to move forward. Give them any numbers for people that help you with your business in case they need it. Give them permission to use their best judgment and allow them to make decisions if necessary. This way you don't come back to a line of people waiting to hear from you. Some of them can be taken care of and on their way. Potential clients who are ready to speak with you can already have an appointment scheduled with you after your return (and recoup time - see number 5, below) and have had someone respond to them
quickly, so they don't wait and wonder…again, wondering takes away trust points.
4) Technology and e-mail - This is a major headache saver for you so you are ready to rock and roll when you return. Give your helper access to the back side of your e-mail. Either through the cpanel or a login to webmail. Allow your helper to delete junk mail in that back end. Give them permission to delete newsletters, advertisements, and announcements from online communities etc…. That way it never touches your inbox. That way you come back ONLY to e-mails that are important. This will keep you from inbox overload. You will quickly be able to jump back in and respond to people in the first day.
5) Plan some time to get back in the groove - When you go away, you need to give yourself some time to catch up once you return. You need to be rested, and focused when you return to your clients and start talking to potential clients. When I went away in October, I took the week after my return to catch up. I had no calls scheduled. I made sure I didn't promise anyone I'd get them something that week. I had absolutely nothing going on that week by design. This not only allowed me to get caught up, but it also gave me time to start implementing all that I learned from the conference I attended. So, think about what you will want and need to do once you return and schedule accordingly. You don't have to close off your schedule for a week, but at least a couple days. Don't get back and jump right in or you'll be in overload so fast your head will spin. This does you, your clients and your potential clients no good.
I do these 5 things every time I step away from my business. I have saved myself a lot of headaches by doing so and I've been able to maintain trust with potential clients, clients, and my team. When I come back, I know that I will be able to handle catching up. While I'm away, I know my business is in good hands and that things are getting done. This helps me get over any doubts I have about whether I can take time away from my business. Does it help you too?
Kristen Beireis is the Trust Marketing Expert for Group Coaching Mastery. She helps coaches and other personal transformation professionals establish trust through marketing. First, she establishes a foundation that's rooted in your authentic differentiation. Then she follows up with solutions that bring consistency to everything that has your name on it — from your newsletter to your business card to your social media pages. And while she's happy to teach you how to do all this yourself, many of her clients love the way her team reduces their workload and overwhelm.
Greater trust means a shorter sales cycle, more of the right clients, and the confidence that comes from knowing your sales and marketing are in integrity with who you are as a person.