How to Find the Cracks in Your Client Process

CLIENT (internal dialogue): OMG they think I’m crazy. I just want it how I want it. Aaaaand it WILL most likely happen again! Oooops. 

YOU (internal dialogue): You are insane. I’m going nuts. I might kill you — but I won’t … because I need to pay overhead.

Take a mind reading microscope to the typical scenario of dealing with a tough client, and it looks something like the above exchange. 

If you’ve been in business for quite some time now, chances are you’ve met at least one such wacky client. 

They can be are demanding.

They can be are usually unclear with their requirements.

Or, they can be terrible for no reason.

You know the drill, right?

But when a client gives you a hard time, and there’s no silver lining whatsoever, what can you do to protect your sanity while getting the job done? 

You’ll want to identify the cracks in your client process. 

How? 

By improving your client onboarding process and tightening up the scope of your projects. 

Identify Cracks in the Client Process

Here are five ways you can find the cracks in your client process and improve your client onboarding and scope creation.

1. You’re behind schedule because of the client.

You have a lovely client. It’s a pleasure to deal with them. The only problem is the project delays. In fact, there are a lot of them. Why? Well, because of the client.

Sound unusual?

Trust me, it happens so much we call it “client dragging a$$ syndrome.”

Many of my customers ask, “Juliana, what can I do if I fall behind schedule thanks to client-induced delays?”

I suggest two solutions in this scenario:

  • Add a buffer to each project’s deadline
  • Charge a margin fee for any project extensions past the agreed-upon deadline 

2. Scope of work? What’s that?

You may have mapped out an SOW that’s a thing of beauty. 

But what if your client doesn’t understand it? 

Or, even worse, doesn’t follow it on purpose — thanks to the whole “customer-is-the-king” song playing in their head all the time.

Instead of giving in to their “special” requests as “extras” and working beyond the scope for free, be upfront. Set clear boundaries, and avoid that grumble later on.

3. It’s urgent! It always is!

Well, here comes the most dreaded of them all — the one who is always running on tight timelines and wants quick results. Make sure your onboarding process is competent enough to filter out leads that want you to work on ridiculously short time frames. 

It’s no good. 

Being on a client’s beck and call constantly never is.

4. Hey client, “You’ve got an email!”

There are clients who are too occupied to check their emails and messages. 

And there are clients who just don’t bother to revert. 

Either way, it’s annoying to work with a bad communicator.

Whether you need feedback or sign off, reduce the frequency of contact to weekly check-ins, and use online tools like Slack and Asana, if possible.

 5.  Too many junior cooks in the kitchen.

Too many people working on a project? 

Result? 

Chaos and confusion abound! 

Goalposts change, quality decreases, and more time is spent organizing and sorting things out than on actual work.

While you can’t remove stakeholders from a project, crowdsourcing can allow them to be heard. 

Having a single point of contact for collecting and disseminating information can also prevent your project from becoming a fine kettle of fish.

Also, try automating the process. 

Assigning a single-point-of-contact and setting up automations can help everyone involved in the project. It’s a major step toward better collaboration. You can trust me on this (and on all of the other points too, btw). 

That’s the problem with a client process. 

You commit too much, you look needy. 

Not enough, you seem too laid back.

Clients commit too much, they’re lovely. 

Not enough, they’re busy.

Why, oh why, this discrimination?

Set clear expectations before you sign a contract. 

And create an unbiased onboarding client process that’ll help you identify red-flags while dealing with a potential overly-demanding client.

If, still, you happen to encounter a difficult-to-please customer, try one of the methods listed-above before giving up on them.

🤺Find, Fill and bulletproof the cracks in your process: 

  1. Set clear boundaries upfront about scope, and add buffers to the project deadlines
  2. Include margin fees for Client-Dragging-A$$ syndrome
  3. Filter out leads who want to work on crazy timelines
  4. Assign a single-point-of-contact
  5. Use automations

It may not be easy. But it’s worth it. 

How to make sales hiring less confusing

No one can sell as well as I can,” says just about every badass agency owner that crushes sales

Small business owners spend up to 30% of first year’s salary, on average, and waste up to 4 months searching for the right candidate (Source: ADP)

Sales can get even more confusing: salaries, commission structure etc. and wtf is a draw?

Sound insane?

Think … how much time have you spent trying to hire a “salesperson” that “works”?
An SDR (sales development rep)?
A BDR (business development rep)?
A closer? Screw the acronyms… a list builder?

LEVELING OUT THE PLAYING FIELD


Meet Meg:

Meg has an amazing 7 figure agency
Working 5 days a week, 6 hours a day, big clients
Pretty sweet, right?

Has a great foothold in the SF and NY markets

It gets sweeter…
Most of her sales were from referrals and although her clients were corporate, she was able to bank on an amazing reputation and her 1 call sales cycle was a pretty outlier … pretty indeed

And then…
she decided she wanted to go after
a different market,
a different vertical, and
at a different price point
For funsies 🙈

She decided to hire a salesperson
She never really had to hire one before
And few failed attempts in the past never resulted in any kind of ROI

Hence, she had so many questions:
What type of salesperson do I get?What do I pay these people?How do I train them?

Why did this weigh so much in my (scaling) heart?

Myth:
If you hire an experienced salesperson, they start selling on Day1

Fact:
The best organizations have sales training that lasts between 3-8 weeks

SCALETIME TIP
Set up a training schedule for your sales people, whether they are junior, senior or trainers, so they are entrenched and sold on your product/services everyday – have them drink the literal “Kool-Aid” that they will be selling.

I asked Meg to solidify a few things before she took someone on:

  • How long is it going to take your salesperson to ramp up (learn the products, the sales strategy, tactics, process and competitive landscape)?
  • How long is it going to take your person to start seeing sales (= ramp up + average sales cycle)?
  • Do you have all the sales materials, processes, and resources ready for a salesperson?
  • At what point, do you profit from the salesperson? For instance, they work for you for 6 months and make 20k in revenue and you have paid them 15k base plus a $1,400 commission on a total profit of $3,600 – Is that 18% ROI in half-a-year really worth to you? ehhhh not so much.

I gave an example of a recent client and her sales structure who owns a niche Ad Agency and has a fully functional lead generation system that feeds to her 3 current sales reps:

  • New hires are paid $2500/month for the first three months (what she considers the ramp-up)
  • After the first 3 months, she pays $3500/ month with 10% commission for new customers and 5% on past customers (note – she has an incredibly large portfolio of clients)

CRITICAL DECISIONS


She also had to make decisions on how she was going to pay this new person and I gave her a few rules of thumb:

Compensation:
A good rule of thumb is to compensate depending on how much they are going to do of the user acquisition (basically how much of the funnel are they in charge of).

Just Commission (Not recommended):
If it’s just commission, you can think of it as a referral or marketing fee.

She also had to make decisions on how she was going to pay this new person and I gave her a few rules of thumb:

  • 10% for all leads
  • 15% for qualified leads that you close
  • 20% of all leads that they acquire and close

Now, this is assuming that they hunt, gather and bring the bacon to the company so you are not spending additional resources on marketing.

Most great sales reps will not agree to commission only because

1. They need to ramp up

2. They consider it equity and they are not looking to be a partner in your firm unless they are – then that’s different

Just Salary/ Wage: (if they are closing, no bueno)
This is good for people who are helping you set up sales systems or sales coordinators who are doing all the administrative piece of the sale. This is about average 15 -20/hour, 30-35k a year.

Salary + Commission: the best practice for closers
In this case, you want the base to be a livable wage with a credo of: “May I never go hungry again”

It’s an average salary of 35-45K a year for sales reps in NY (for comparison)

And any commission is the gravy for shiny new toys and fancy foodie dinners

Some companies do a split i.e. if your sales rep wants to be making 150k a year and your formula is 50/50 then you would provide 75k and they would target 75k in commission for sales. Or you can do 40/60 and so on depending on how much hunting they will do.

The actual commission in this piece is on average 5-10%, most businesses consider 7% or above to be generous.

Now you may have heard about commission structures — if you wanna get faaancy. What that looks like is a tiered system that incentivizes the salesperson to sell more. For instance: you get 5% for the first 100k you close and 7% after that for the rest of the year.

Thanks, Juliana! “now I’m officially confused — what did Meg decide?”

She was ramping up marketing and she really needed someone to help her with lead coordination and setting appointments. Last time she tried hiring a closer, it didn’t work out because enough leads were not trickling to feed them and keep them happy.

This time, we made sure she:
1. Gathered all the sales assets she needed
2. Put together a training schedule for her junior sales coordinator
3. Hired them at $12/hour for sales and marketing admin work and $40/booked call
4. Trained them in setting calls and product knowledge
5. Promoted them to a junior closer 5 months later

DOWNLOAD YOUR BRAIN


Don’t you just hate leads and opportunities with all their pesky questions? 
What’s your price?
What are your offers?
Who have you worked with?
Meh meh meh LOL

Instead of being irritated by the range of innocuous to almost offensive questions that the sales cycle consists of, be ready to lay down all the answers like BOOM!

As opposed to blurting out (in your head)
“STFU, pay me and help me help you”
Take a look at this list and make sure you have all your stuff ready to email back within 2.5 seconds flat.
Before the little voice starts chattering and kills your deal
>>> Check out the Sales Process Toolkit

IMPROVE YOUR TECH STACK


Thinking about recording calls…
For sales training?
For marketing content?
For improving conversions?

  • Tape a Call is a little app you can download to make calls from your mobile
  • Uberconference  is a free web-based call recorder that lets you take calls from anywhere in the world
  • Jive is a VOIP that allows people to have a “physical” phone line too
  • Toky is amazing for call recording and message centralization, great integrations with Pipedrive and WhatsApp for business
  • Zoom for when you are ready to level up and do video calls. It might be a little scary, but it’s worth the conversions!

CLIENT WINS: CRUSHING IT & ENJOYING LIFE


>>> Before firing his biggest client which was 65% of his 7 figure agency (ouch), I told Jeff that he needed to fill his sales pipeline. He did. After much resistance to putting in a real sales process, he started crushing his lead gen on LinkedIn and repeatedly got ideal clients that made his team really, really, really happy 😊

With zero additional sales training, and just sales process he and his number 2 increased their sales closing rate up to 85%, consistently … not bad indeedy

Is your CRM System Leaving Money on the table?

I just want to sell, I don’t want to spend time doing admin,” said one of my dear friends and a serial entrepreneur.

According to SalesForce, using a CRM can increase your revenue by 41%!!!

Are they simply using a fuzzy stat to sell more software?

I thought that too.

But think about it … how much money are you leaving on the table by relying on memory and forgetting to follow-up?

I am especially guilty of doing this at conferences… Traffic & Conversions or Inbound, anyone?

LEVELING OUT THE PLAYING FIELD


Meet Nate:

Who decided to upgrade from his spreadsheets (thank the universe) and move his pipeline over to Asana.

He was already using Asana for project management, so naturally, why not?

It was going well until he turned the gas on his marketing. He realized Asana (or spreadsheets for that matter) doesn’t send you reminders or give you sales reporting or sync up to call scheduling.

$hit, he needed help with the massive follow-ups he was faced with now.
And he needed to hire sales peeps.
And he needed a real CRM.

Reluctantly, he looks for a CRM that makes sense for his business and team. He had sales trauma from the agency he used to work at and he didn’t want to get bogged down in sales admin or a clunky system.

Nate starts to wonder…

  • Should I uplevel my CRM?
  • Should I hire a “closer” to just delegate the whole thing?
  • Should I shut off my marketing because I don’t want to hire people?

In defeat, Nate takes out his notebook and pen and writes out which proposals are out with due dates and triumphantly decides:

“If they are not one-call close, they don’t deserve to be followed up with!” he was done with it all!

Why does this kill me a little inside?

Myth:
Sales is about closing. That’s it!

Fact:
80% of sales are won in the followup.

SCALETIME TIP
If you are “the” salesperson, a sales system will make you more money. If you are hiring a jr. salesperson, a sales system will help train them. If you are hiring a sr. salesperson, a sales system is expected. Sales System = More Money

So back to Nate…

We had to break Nate free from his past sales trauma (of red tape and big agency overloards) and show him we could create a simple agile system that would grow with him and his team.

Here are some of the things we did with Nate…

  • We picked a CRM that integrated with his email (he had Gmail, we picked Copper)
  • Created a lead pipeline that was easy for his sales coordinator to prioritize,
  • Set up a visual pipeline so he would know where the bottlenecks are,
  • Developed a dashboard with activity types that made followup EASY
  • Made sure his current opportunities were in the right place and kicked out the tire kickers from his pipeline so he didn’t waste any time.

DOWNLOAD YOUR BRAIN


Reinventing the wheel when it comes to Sales sucks. Being asked a million questions by legit opportunities for case studies, decks, or the random objection handling that needs to be done can be super triggering if you can’t email it back in 2 min.

Check out our checklist to see what info you may need so your future team can followup like champs! Sales Process Checklist  << Check it out!

IMPROVE YOUR TECH STACK


Looking for a CRM or thinking about upleveling current one?

  • Streak – the starter CRM that feels like a spreadsheet layover on your Gmail, great for solo agency owners that are doing their own sales,
  • Copper – great for small sales teams that integrate with gmail and want sexy AF dashboards on data studio
  • Pipedrive – great for small sales teams that integrate with outlook and want super easy integrations with other sales apps
  • Hubspot – great for small to large sales teams that have hubspot marketing suite integrations

CLIENT WINS: CRUSHING IT & ENJOYING LIFE


>>> He booked more sales calls in 1 week than he had all year.

I am so proud of Nic of Vanguard Media who 300Xed his business last year and sent me this wonderful villa property that he is procuring in Thailand to host retreats.

He is onboarding 30 clients this month… not bad

How to protect your agency and manage a volatile crisis 💪

“Any tips for making sure we don’t derail during this time? I already feel like we’re changing strategies by the second (internally and client-facing) and I want to make sure 1) messaging is consistent, 2) the team doesn’t feel overwhelmed with this very quick change and need for action.

Does that make sense??” [sic] ” asks Kate, a project manager of my beloved client.

It does if:

Your Facebook feed is filled with Corona memes to distract you from

Your news feed that is FUD-filled (fear, uncertainty, doubt – so you don’t have to urban dictionary) with echoes of the last recession

Your WhatsApp is blown up by frantic friends and family away

You’re not sure which clients are sticking around, even if you feel like you have them under legal lock and key.

And worse… you are in a confined space with those closest to you while trying not to kill each other. 🤬 You wish you could SOS yourself out of a Vampirina tranz because kids are home all day.

Oh and did I mention it’s happening to your employees and clients, too?

Now that I have made you feel super warm and fuzzy 😉  I promise there is hope!

In times of crisis, people look for leadership.

  • If you are reading this, you are a leader.
  • Step into it.
  • Own it.

Juliana, “What happened to Kate’s answer… I’m dealing with a crisis over here…tik toc “

Here’s my video response to her:



 The best crisis management we can model is the Situation Room of the United States (setting aside your feelings about the current administration)

It’s an effective way of managing crisis because it swiftly and effectively deals with the volatility by managing:

  • Information: parsing and prioritizing data that’s incoming from various sources
  • Dissemination: to whom and how to share relevant and urgent communication
  • Action: deploying and implementing tactics despite a barrage of new information coming at you (i.e revenue and resource changes)
  • Support: making sure the nation (in your case – clients and team) feel supported throughout
  • Action: deploying and implementing tactics despite a barrage of new information coming at you (i.e revenue and resource changes)

Five simple things to implement your own “Situation Room”:

  1. The Situation Room – needs to take place in real life (preferably with social distancing in this case). Whether that is a Slack channel, Zoom huddle or your team sneaks into a football field and then stands 6 feet apart (jk), you need a time and place to gather the info with the Gladiators you appoint.
  2. Opening and closing debriefs – there is a phenomenal amount of info to digest between closing shop and opening … then it cycles throughout the day. This is crucial to pivot and/or course-correct quickly.
  3. Create a change board in your project manager – – this is a project or board where new ideas that flood from you and the team get placed to be approved, denied or delayed based on resources and urgency. This will help keep track of all competing projects and ideas.
  4. Measure the capacity of both hours and emotional stress –  this is a prime time for people to be on edge and overwhelmed. Track hours for the good of everyone’s sanity. Support your people by checking in. Are their families healthy? Will they have wifi outages (SE ASIA)? Do they need to make appointments to go to supermarkets(certain South American countries)? Stay informed… Any new data will: Affect workflow. Affect productivity. Affect your business.
  5. Lastly Lead –
    In your industry.
    In your business.
    In your home.

As a kid, my stepdad would constantly ask me “Are you a leader or a follower?” That is ingrained in my head. Be the reliable, constant, future thinker your team and clients need you to be.

If you need to silently scream into a pillow, reach out and I’ve got your back.

Leadership is the manifestation of Expansion, Empathy, and Empowerment.

Kick some ass and let me know if you have any questions.

Legit, send me an email – I read them all (I’m unfortunately addicted and stuck at home), I promise to respond.

Let’s grow together.

BLM What do systems have to do with race?

Juliana, you do systems – right? explain how racism is the system please.

Remember when your systems were a little screwy (no shame here – it happens to the best of us) and it made you feel suuuuper uncomfortable?

It didn’t let you fall asleep at night.

If you got another client, another request, or another “common sense” interruption, your system might break.
Or, you might kill someone (figuratively).

I often preach, “When you put off working on your systems to the back burner, that’s the stuff that will burn the house down!”

Our system is broken and these streets are on fire, literally

While sipping coffee in NY on a beautiful pandemic morning, I got a DM from a Jamaican friend, with this image, confused AF yet curious to know what systems had to do with race.

I responded:  
Our defaults, our patterns of behavior are systematic.
They are molded by our beliefs. 
The collection of habits and behaviors create our processes.
Those processes build the infrastructures that now become the system. 

beliefs 
➡ automated/systematic actions 
➡ systemic behaviors/processes 
➡ the infrastructure that is the system

Que Que? 
Okay, that was a mouthful. 
Let’s get a little less abstract. 

  • Jada Doe values keeping mother nature happy. (beliefs)
  • She creates personal habits that reflect this and ripples to all parts of her life. (systematic actions)
  • JD has a paperless business with all green practices based on her values and beliefs that hires and produces eco-friendly people and products. (systemic processes)
  • Eco-friendly sustainability becomes the default state of practices and outcomes based on the infrastructure Jada has created. (her system)

Jada has ensured that every input to every process of her operation is sustainable and therefore all outputs are designed to lower the carbon footprint.

This is why when building a system, I tell my clients to ALWAYS cross-reference your values and beliefs with your decisions, because:

Culture is created by design or by default
Either way, it will get created systematically 


Systemic Racism refers to HOW society operates:  the system disproportionately harms people of certain races regardless of whether there are racists in the system or not. 

When the default practices formed by conscious and unconscious racial bias create our social infrastructure, it allows for a system that  leads to: 

  • voter suppression
  • unequal school/ employment housing
  • lack of any true wealth creation practices
  • million-dollar blocks
  • school to prison pipelines that makes me want to cry
  • list goes on…& on…


That is our system 

When something is wrong with the output. 

Then something is wrong with the system. 

Then you know, 

IT’S TIME TO REDESIGN 

How Do I Manage Information Access for My Team?

Has this ever happened to you?

EMPLOYEE: We need a new hire for [sales, marketing, accounts, etc]!

YOU: What?! We don’t have the money for that because we JUST hired in a different role!

It begs the question–do your employees know what’s going on with your business? From hiring to projects to new initiatives, how are you managing information access?

Managing Information Access for Your Company

When you first start your company, information access is usually informal and unilateral. You only have a few people you’re working with, and everyone gets access to the same info.

But as your company grows, these conversations will start to take place in portals like Slack, Facebook groups, or your project management software. When someone goes on vacation, you still have access to all the information you need.

Once you get to a staff size of 5-15 people, this might stop working as well as it used to. The info is good and useful, but you have to train new employees. So you create a knowledge base in a Wiki or something similar to help you disseminate the information better. There’s a central place where people can catch up and get up to speed.

When you break 20 employees, information starts to get siloed. The leadership group is funneling the information down through meetings and memos. This might work for a little while if there’s only a few silos.

But as you get to 100+ employees, you need to start thinking of information as a heat map. Who needs to know what? What pockets of people need access to what kind of info?

You need to think about how information flows from you as the leader to the people doing the work, whether they’re employees, freelancers, or clients.

The Sales/Marketing Feedback Loop

When it comes to information access, the biggest thing to pay attention to is the feedback loop between sales and marketing. When communication and information flows freely between these two departments, it will make things more efficient and help your business development efforts. Sales can let marketing know about pain points or feedback from prospects, and your marketers can adjust in real time.

But here’s the thing–you don’t have to wait to get bigger to tighten up that loop. 

It doesn’t matter how big or small your organization is. 

If you have a gap between sales and marketing, as you scale that gap is going to scale along with you. The earlier you can close it, the better.

The Benefits of Improving Your Information Access Process

Listen, I know you’re busy. Figuring out your information access might seem like a low-priority task. But I promise that once you streamline this process, you’re going to see major benefits. Here are just a few:

Make Your Customers Happier

When your employees are empowered with information, they can actually make your customers happier! The faster you can answer a customer or client’s question or concern, the better. 

If you have informed, engaged employees with immediate access to the answers they need, you can help customers resolve their issues—fast.

Make Your Employees Happier

When you keep your employees in the loop, their energy and commitment to your company goes up. You’re going to see this reflected in the way they turn from employees to brand ambassadors. 

When your employees become privy to important information—whether it’s your company’s mission or a client folder—they feel like part of the team. They go from employees to partners.

Increase Profits!

Here’s an easy equation for you:

Informed employees = better service = happy customers = more profits

If you give your team access to important information in a central spot, customers with a problem won’t have to be passed around like a hot potato until they can find someone in your organization to solve their problem. When everyone is in the loop, you don’t waste time on filling team members in when there’s a service issue.  

And because you’re not wasting time trying to find the right person to solve the problem in the first place, your employees can be more productive.

Happy customers and efficient team members can be the key to higher profits!

Empower Your Leaders

You’re not the only leader on your team. 

You need your other leaders to have easy access to important data about your business so they can do what they do best. 

Whether it’s research and development, marketing strategy, or sales bottlenecks, giving them key info can mean the difference between a well-oiled, innovative company and a disorganized company where processes are too overwhelming to allow for innovation. 

Tell Me!

How do you organize your information access? Is it working for your team? 

If not, no worries. I can help. Let’s chat about it.

How to Delegate Effectively: 3 Way to Delegate More & Worry Less

Most leaders–whether they’re leading a government or leading a company–are delegating on the fly. Things are changing minute by minute, and we all want to be responsive to these changes. But how can you do that without driving your team crazy and getting lost in the chaos?

All you need is a system for delegating that can be established quickly and tightened up later. And I’m going to show you how to do it.

How to Delegate on the Fly

When it comes to delegating tasks on the go, the first thing we need to do is set our employees up for success. Obviously that’s what we all want, but how do we achieve it?

Create a Safe Space

First of all, you need to let them know that it’s ok to fail. Nothing and nobody is perfect, but the fear of failure can still be paralyzing. If you give a team member some quick instructions for a project without any guidelines, they won’t know what to do. Put yourself in their shoes. Tell them–“hey, it’s ok if you make mistakes. That’s ok. Just give it a try.”

Be Transparent

Next, you have to be transparent about where you are with things. Maybe you have a brand new idea that you think is amazing, but you haven’t figured out all the specificites yet. That’s ok! Just be open and honest with your team. A lot of us are flying the plane as we’re building it, so things look really messy. But this is all about partnership. You and your team are in this together. So being transparent with everyone about where a project or idea is, who is supposed to be doing what, and how things have progressed is crucial!

When you’re delegating on the fly, make sure you and your team understand that this does not have to produce a final product right away. You’re giving minimal instructions that are often unclear. That’s ok! If you have them, give your team members some examples or research to get started on. It’s all about lighting the match. You just want to get them started down the right path.

Check-In

Delegating on the fly is all well and good, but these ideas will never come to fruition without a good process in place to check on their status. You can do this with a short check-in. Establish the first milestone–it should be relatively quick and small. Then you can check-in with them early on in the project to make sure they’re on the right path. And if they’re not, you can course-correct quickly. 

Just a quick reminder–when you’re giving out tasks on the fly, either you or your team member has to put it into your project manager. Otherwise it’ll just get lost in the abyss. You have to document them in the right place if you want them to get done.

But you’re busy. So how can you facilitate these check-ins so you actually do them and don’t bottleneck the whole damn project? You set up a review process that is easy and works for you. 

For example, I have my team attach screenshots of deliverables in our project manager. That way, I can review their work and give feedback when I’m in line at the grocery store or have a few minutes between calls. It’s easy and accessible on my phone, so I’m more likely to do it in a timely manner. That keeps everything from getting backed up in the project pipeline.

Initially, this might all be modge-podged together. But this will become part of your feedback loop, and you can adjust the process as you go along. Operations are all about adjusting as you go to make your life simpler and your work better.

Need help navigating operations and workflow with your team? Let’s chat–I bet I can help you delegate projects and boost productivity in no time.

Want to crisis-proof your agency ASAP? Take this 3 minute quiz and get some free resources to keep things on track (even during an international pandemic).

How to Deal with Client Demands that Mess Up Your Workflow

Your clients are the reason that your project management is flowing.

You were doing the happy dance after landing that new client. Wooot woot.

But it’s been a couple of weeks and the emails, the texts, the voicemails, and questions at ungodly hours just keep pouring in. You’re starting to wonder if that additional $$$ is worth all the time they’re sucking out of you.

Juliana “I’m going batshit. How do I deal with all these ridiculous, requests that leave me frustrated and annoyed?”

BUT, have you ever thought your time isn’t being sucked dry by your engagement, but actually by your onboarding?

Onboarding Clients

>>> Click here to download the easy Onboarding Checklist if you know you have issues with crazy client requests.

Breaking out of the “request” trap: a quick story…

Armando is a client of mine who does digital marketing. He came to me because he felt like he was at capacity.

He had no weekends, no time for his partner and started to see the signs of an intsy bit of muffin top because the treadmill was collecting dust.

Every day he crossed his fingers that a client didn’t call him because he just didn’t have the time, energy or even the patience to even deal with them. His saying was, “If they are not calling it means everything is great.” They were constantly asking him to make changes and do reporting he was never getting paid for. (Sound familiar?)

So we took a look at his client engagements to assess what was affecting his ability to produce results.

And the discoveries were surprising … well, for him at least.

We realized that many of his client issues had very little to do with capacity and almost everything to do with onboarding — not setting up boundaries and expectations, or even knowing what the clients’ digital marketing starting point was in the first place.

I told Armando…

Your clients are trying to board a plane to an amazing destination, but if you want to take on a great volume of clients, you are going to have to go TSA on their ass and make sure they know the rules before boarding”.

We all hate the TSA strip search, the 100ml bottle restrictions, no shoes, no sweater, taking out your laptop — we hate it, BUT we comply anyway. There’s a process — if you travel you are made aware and get conditioned to it. There is simply no wiggle room.

The same needs to happen with your service business. Then plenty of people can happily board for your destination.

So we set up his onboarding process, created an actionable workflow in his project manager, saved 20 hours a month, and were then able to increase his revenue by 45% in the next three months.

The best part was that he had now his whole process documented and hired a client success manager to take care of onboarding and client service. Whhhhhaaat!? Yeah, how relieving it is to read as a business owner. 

Love to get the same results?

>>> Click here to download my Client Onboarding Checklist if you want to see what we used for Armando’s onboarding.

Bonus Tip: Establishing ground rules is going to create the biggest 80/20 impact for your onboarding. Think about:

    • When do you want them to reach you?
    • What’s the rule for scheduling — i.e. 48 hours, 24? (And is there a consequence to this?)
    • How many points of contact will there be for you? Which team members are you engaging with?
  • If you have a tangible deliverable: How many edits or iterations are you allowing in the scope of work before there is a change order?

Disclaimer: Don’t tell your bad clients about how they are hijacking your session or project!

Your clients are the bloodline of your business. But, more often than you want to, they get into your nerves. They demand stuff that is out of the contract, unreasonable, or simply out of this world!

Thankfully, you don’t have to lose your sanity to keep your difficult clients. You don’t have to do all of their requests either. In the end, the client will thank you for not giving-in into their crazy requests. Just look at this design disaster that happened to a Japanese noodle company when the designer said yes to all of the client’s demands.

This was the designer’s first draft.
Design example

But apparently, the client pretends to be an expert in design so more demands are made.

Until the demands went out of control…

Presenting, the final product- this is how your project will turn out if you say yes to the client all the time even if they’re completely cracked.

Design meme

You can get through these chaotic client requests and unrealistic expectations with win-win solutions through effective project management. Here are some tips to keep you sane while addressing your beloved but not so likable difficult clients.

1. Technically set yourself up

Make sure your ship is in tip-top shape before the storm hits! Do I hear an aye aye captain? You’re setting yourself up for a disaster if your company is already in chaos before more craziness comes in.

If you have all your systems in place, it’ll be easier to regain composure no matter how crazy the demand of your client will be. You have two things to set up; the system and the person.

Your system is like a conveyor belt, every step ensures that a perfect product will come out. The person you assign will serve as the account manager. Remember, keeping your clients happy is important so choose someone who can be calm (or pretend to be) even during surprise requests from bad clients. She or he has to be credible because every request will be funneled to him or her.

2. Categorize the request

You have to clarify if the request makes sense. Because, sometimes, we don’t know what kind of sorcery comes into clients’ minds that they make insane wishes. Just look at the advertisement for the cup noodle above! Yes it take a bit of extra effort but it’s worth it in the long run

Next, if you have decided that the request makes sense, ensure that it is part of your scope. This is one of the reasons why project managers lose profit. They end up doing stuff that they aren’t supposed to be doing in the first place!

If the request is not in your contract, you have to decide if you want to do it just because you want to impress your client. If not, talk to your client to modify the scope and adjust the budget accordingly.

3. Watch your timeline

Be realistic about your team’s capacity. Don’t forget that you only have twenty-four hours, and those hours are not made for work alone. You, your teammates, and your employees are not superheroes.
Be outright in telling your client if tight deadlines are unrealistic. Most deadlines are flexible, don’t be afraid to negotiate.

You’re not a time wizard, you know. Sure your client might want that rush job or extended labor they don’t even have to pay for but we all get how frustrating it can be when clients expect us to complete an impossible amount of quality work in the space of a day, or even mere hours.

4. Speak straightforwardly

No need for sugar coating here honey. You’ve already gained your client, so stop the sweet talk. What you need is to be able to communicate honestly and effectively so that you can help your client reach their goals.

Some of the client’s request may not be helping them to reach their goals. Whatever their reason is for making outlandish wishes, it is your job to make them see the bigger picture. Insist on what you know. They hired you for your expertise because you know better. So hold your ground, they’ll thank you for it in the end.

Conclusion:

Clients are not always right. If they are, they wouldn’t need your help! Be kind but firm when a bad client tries to mess up with your project management workflow. Your client is not trying to make you crazy. He or she may just be misguided or overwhelmed. You both want the same thing, a successful project, so work together to make it happen. Another reason to not fulfill all client demands that are not in the project scope is that your other prospective clients may expect the similar special treatment you’re giving to the demanding client. 

The next time a client makes an out of this world request, remember the following:

  1. Technically set yourself up
  2. Categorize the request
  3. Watch your timeline
  4. Speak straightforwardly

Now most of you will take action, BUT…

…for those of you who’d love some ideas that are more specific to your business, I’m super happy to hop on a quick call to chat about what you need to have a headache free client relationship. I take the first three inquiries every week, so click here to schedule yours now!

Onboarding hacks

Infographic: The Art & Science of Delegation

Ever feel like you’re spreading yourself too thin as a small-business owner? Our infographic explains how you can grow your company and avoid burnout by learning to delegate.

art and science of delegation infographic

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Simply copy and paste the following into the code of your chosen web page…

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5 Scheduling Tips For Better Calendar Management

My Schedule is Holding Me Hostage

“Juliana, my calendar has made me it’s b*tch – what do I do?”

I get that a lot from clients. Followed by, “I feel like I’m running from meeting to meeting, I’m doing a million things and yet and I’m not making more revenue”

Here are 5 steps to cleansing your calendar:

Identify your time-suckers

  • Interruptions from friends and family who think you all the time in the world because you make your own schedule  (2 hours avg)
  • Client meetings that run over (30 min/ mtg avg)
  • Social Media (1.5 hours avg),  etc

I am not talking about the 10 min you use to rationalize the reward system of getting through that dreadful email backlog, I am talking about the 2 hours you use to procrastinate going through the 150 emails you have when you came back from vacay.

Make the list, set aside time each day for essential, but annoying things. Once people know that they can reach you in a particular window and only that window, the interruptions will drop.

 Make a framework

Write down all your business and personal activities. (Click here to download a checklist to mark off as you add them to your calendar).

Tips to Create blocks in your schedule:

  • Pick the nasty stuff you hate doing and put it first during the day
  • Take a break, have lunch then tackle your next project
  • Streamline your meetings as much as possible to avoid running around and create standing meetings with recurring clients
  • Make sure nothing is missing in your personal and professional life ie. going to the bank, creating content, and buying groceries.
  • And don’t just repress the tasks you don’t want to do in this list. This means if you are in the early stages of your business and are going hard on sales outreach, then you have to take into account quality time with a CRM and email follow-up to move your pipeline along.

 Anticipate curve balls

Sometimes you may feel like you are playing whack-a-mole with unanticipated requests that come up during the day. As soon as I smack one down, two new ones shoot right up!

Most people know what the common curveballs are in their life and business – family members who constantly call to chat, clients that ask for changes at the last minute.

We can make a plan for them BY ADDING some buffer time during the day to handle these spontaneous requests. The great thing is, if there are no curveballs that day, guess what — you have extra time! How cool is that?

Put it in your calendar

If it’s not on your calendar, it doesn’t exist. Trees fall in the woods. If someone doesn’t have it in their calendar to bring a chainsaw to it, it’s just going to lie there, whether or not it’s making a sound.  Take your Outlook calendar or Google calendar (or whatever you use) and section off every activity. If you are hesitating, get honest and ask yourself if you are really going to do it. If not, let it go.

Tweet this: If it’s not on your calendar, it doesn’t exist.

Although it may feel robotic — even write down your personal meetings and outings with friends and family.

 Look for partners

  • Are there team members that would be better suited to doing lower level tasks so you can handle higher priorities?
  • Are there strategic partners that you can team up with to handle some of your projects, i.e. co-branding an event, online workshop, etc.?
  • Is there budget to hire contractors or team members where you see bottlenecks? IF YOU DON’T HAVE THESE FOLKS IN YOUR LIFE, IT’S TIME TO FIND THEM. Ooooh yeah – delegation time.

Bonus Round – THE NEED TO TICK OFF ITEMS ON A TO-DO LIST.

THIS IS in the biggest pitfall. We are so overwhelmed that sometimes we feel like every time we check off something in that to-do list we have a mini-victory (filled with glory as the mental crowd goes wiiiild).

It’s awesome to feel busy, but at the end of the day we are not moving our business forward. Don’t go for lower level tasks to feed the ego, stick to your commitment to your business — even when it feels hard ( and the mental crowd goes – me no likey).

Tweet this: Stick to your commitment to your business — even when it feels hard

ScaleTime’s Tip: Press pause, download the checklist, and be proactive about your calendar. I recommend you do this one with someone who is system’s oriented because brainstorming helps you see things you can’t yourself i.e. how long things actually take.

So if you’re banging your head against a wall because there aren’t enough hours in the day and need some help to get off that insane carousel, then let me know — I’ll throw you a line and pull you out! Just email me.