Every business from solo entrepreneurs to small business owners and people working within larger businesses need systems to create consistency, make the work easier, and achieve better results. Today, I speak with Nancy Gaines the CEO and Founder of Gain Advantages on systems and the process of creating systems to free up time and money and create opportunities for businesses of all sizes to scale.
Nancy Gaines has been advising small businesses and Fortune 100 companies on how to increase revenues through proven systems for almost two decades. She is a best-selling author and international keynote speaker. Nancy has been named in the Top 100 Productivity Experts to follow on Twitter and has a global podcast downloaded in over 70 countries. Her main focus is creating business processes with actionable steps so her clients achieve more consistency, ease, and ultimate success.
- Nancy helps small business owners to scale
- She creates systems and processes to avoid trading hours for dollars
- Models for productivity that help us to scale
- Five systems in every business
- Following up with sales, marketing, operations, your team, and money
- Starting with systemizing your biggest pain point
- The 24 hours, 7 days and 30 day method for following up (24,7,30)
- The cold contact email method using video
- Following up with personalized cards and handwritten notes
- Customizing the cadence of follow up for different customers
- Chunking up tasks and doing similar tasks together
- Having a single focus and single task for phone time
- Working for 50 minutes and then taking a 10 minute break
- Taking time to think and ask questions about your business
- Delegating tasks that are below your pay rate
- 100 Proven Systems You Need to Boost Results
- Nancy Gaines Website
- Ernst & Young
- Nancy Gaines Show
Marylou: Hi everyone, it’s Marylou Tyler. This week’s guest is Nancy Gaines. Nancy is an expert among other things, we’re going to be speaking about productivity today. She is the CEO of Gain Advantages and she primarily works with small business owners. But for those of you who are listening to this podcast who are solo entrepreneurs or you are brokers, I have a lot of real estate people, you’re in that same boat, even UAEs out there who work for larger companies, you’re running your own business within the larger company.
What Nancy knows and what Nancy is going to share with us today really can apply to you in all facets of your business, whether you work for a large company or you are a small business owner. Welcome, Nancy, to the podcast.
Nancy: I’m so excited to be here. Thanks for having me on your show, Marylou.
Marylou: Did I say enough or would you like to elaborate on the type of work you do as far as working with small business owners or solo entrepreneurs?
Nancy: That was an amazing introduction. My background is with IBM and Ernst & Young, I used to put in technology systems to help companies be more productive. Now, I help small business owners really scale, whether they’re starting out, or they’re growing, or they’re looking to actually repeat across multiple offices, or really, really scale. I help them come up with systems and processes to do that effortlessly so they get back their time. You know what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, right?
Nancy: Wearing a lot of hats and let’s try to get people so they’re not trading their hours for dollars so much.
Marylou: It’s funny you say that even though my area of expertise is top of funnel and the folks who listen to this podcast are primarily separating the sales roles out. But what’s happening with account based selling is that we are seeing more of the sales reps doing all roles just like the small business owner would do where they go out and get the business, they close the business, they service the business and then they try to grow the account.
Your work with the small business really does apply to those folks who are tasked from a sales role with all of those different functions. I love the fact that you said Ernst & Young because that means, to me, that you are a process guru, expert, and that you try to get and systematize as much as possible the types of work that you have or your models that you’ve put together for productivity which allows us to then scale. I heard the word scale and I heard the process piece.
Help us understand, from the standpoint of productivity, how do we chunk that down into a type of process?
Nancy: Great question. There’s actually five systems in every business whether you’re an employee or a small business owner. They are the sales, marketing, operations, your team, and your money. You just talked about having sales people that are doing all of it now, they need a system for each one of those functions, a follow up system. How often are they going to follow up with somebody until they get the deal?
They need a system for customer relationship, how often are they going to check in on those people to make sure they’re happy and if they’re ready for some additional services. They need a system for their team. If they do have people helping them out, how are they giving them tasks to do so that everybody is in the loop?
Everything can be systematized in your company. Probably the best advice is start with something that’s giving you the most pain, the most stress, get that systemized, put out that fire and then move on to the next fire. That way, it’s not so overwhelming.
Marylou: Yeah. Some people call it eating the elephant but I call it peeling the onion where you’re just taking little pieces off. I would like to start, because I know this is one of the biggest issues that my folks have, this concept of follow up. They’re great out the gate of getting those initial contacts set but as we know, the science and evidence based research shows that we have to be more diligent in our follow up. Can you talk to us about some of those productivity methods that you’ve come up with for the follow up piece?
Nancy: Sure, let me give you an easy formula. This is what I do whenever I go to a networking event or a conference where I’m meeting a lot of people. It’s called 24/7/30. Within 24 hours of meeting somebody because I’ve got their business card, one, I put them into my phone. I’ve got an app called Full Contact, you just take a picture of their business card and you can tag where you met them. You can put little notes, I met them at some sort of EY conference. Within 24 hours, I make sure I get them into my app and I also connect with them on LinkedIn or social media so that I can stay connected.
Within seven days, I send a personalized email and I’ve got a template because templates are systems, that said, “It was great meeting you at the ABC event. I’m glad we talked about…” This is where I customize it, “I would love to catch up for either in person or virtual coffee. Here’s a link to my scheduler.” A scheduler is also a system. Hopefully, they respond and we connect in person or by phone.
30 days, every 30 days, I reach out and find a reason to connect. It might just be liking their post on LinkedIn, or finding an article that they maybe entrusted and emailing it to them, or even picking up the phone and just saying, “Hey, how are things going since the conference?” I just continually stay up with people every 30 days. 24/7/30 is a great system for follow up.
Marylou: The other thing that I’m starting to learn about this follow up process, I’ve been testing it here locally, my contacts and some of the contacts of people listening are going to be what we call cold contacts. We haven’t had that first conversation or the ability within 24 hours to reach out. We’ve been experimenting with the use of video for that purpose.
I’m speaking at a conference coming up in Nashville, Tennessee. I utilized a list of 300 people who I have never met and then worked that 24 portion of your framework with this cold contact. Because it’s cold, instead of a warm lead, is your 7 days still 7 days or 24/7/30 or does it depend on the source of the lead that you’re getting in the follow up sequence as to when that second touches?
Nancy: I do the second touch after I’ve already met somebody. You probably need a little bit different system since that is a cold system. But I love that, I wonder how I can spin that to fit your system. You’re sending them a video of just, “Hi. I’m Marylou. Looking forward to having seeing you in my session.” What are you doing with the video?
Marylou: That’s exactly it. I’m using a free tool called ScopeBox, it links to my Gmail account. I record myself sitting at my desk and I try to keep it under 20 seconds, if I can get it under 15 seconds that would be great but I’m a little bit wordy. I record the video saying, “Hey, I’m going to be in your area on Thursday blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, speaking on this topic. I would love to meet you. I would love to see you there at this event. If you would like to go or if you’re thinking this is something that sounds great then click on this link.” Within the video is the link to sign up for the event.
Nancy: How cool is that, what a great system.
Marylou: In the subject line, I put the word video because I’m finding that, right now, today, 2017, people are going to open those emails more if they see that there is a video enclosed. My open rates are in the 60% and 70% range on a cold list, people I’ve never talked to because they’re just curious about what is this video about because it says in the subject line their first name, “Will I see you on Thursday?” and then the video.
Nancy: That is amazing, I’m going to try that technique.
Marylou: My curiosity was, since we have these different lead types in our world, we have the warm referral type leads where people we meet at executive briefings or trade shows, conferences, whatever, where we actually grab their business card. But we also have this cold channel of targeted accounts that we’re going after because we know they’re high probability of closing and they are high revenue potential for us but we don’t have that initial contact that we can rely on, that’s why I was curious of this rhythm. We can just test it, that’s the answer. We should test it to see, is it 24/3. 24 would be the first contact, the next one within three business days instead of seven.
Nancy: I would recommend building a system out of that if you haven’t already, where after the first video, you know the 60% that opened it, if you’re able to track that, which you should be able to, send them something even more enticing. I would probably do that so many days before the conference and then even the day before the conference, “Don’t forget tomorrow, I’m in room ABC at 10:00.” That’s the total system.
Marylou: I’ve been using it lately because I think that I come across on video as someone who’s very excited about what I do and most of the sales people are very excited about selling their product otherwise they wouldn’t be doing that. We’ll make the assumption that your enthusiasm and your just demure, just who you are comes across on that video that you’re going to naturally make that virtual connection a little bit easier and faster and with more curiosity for sure because the open rights and even click through rates, because I’ve been tracking the click through rates as well.
We try to get somewhere between 9% and 11% click through and I’m getting 48% click through right now on these videos. It’s amazing to see how that’s actually working out with the use of the video knowing that it’s probably going to be a short term thing but it’s something that everyone can benefit from, I think. There are tools out there, like I said, that free tool called ScopeBox that you can attach to your email engine and just record at your desktop.
Nancy: That is really cool.
Marylou: Let’s get back to the 24/7/30. The other thing that I see a lot that is in my mind, we need to be better at, is the 30. Is the follow up just to add value, we hear that term add value but you mentioned a couple of things that you do to pick out what you want to be saying at that 30-day mark. Tell us again, what is a list of things that are valuable that our listeners can take in and really look? You mentioned something about finding something on LinkedIn where they liked a blog post, what other things do you look for to send to somebody of value in this follow up sequence?
Nancy: I just ordered a bunch of personalized greeting cards and I don’t remember the name of this company. I have a monthly greeting card service that I use but I just ordered a bunch for every client I’ve ever had in my first three years of business with Gain Advantages. I’m going to write a personal note because I consider July customer appreciation month. My 30-day follow up for this particular month is a handwritten note that goes out in real mail, not email, to all of my customers whether they bought a book or my elite coaching program.
Something else I do with my monthly card subscription is I have people’s birthdays. I send them greeting cards and Christmas cards, of course. I’m a big fan of cards because that’s different than email. Calling five customers a day just to say, “How are things going?”
Marylou: I love that.
Nancy: Just pick up the phone. Now, I get voicemail, often. I leave a nice note and some people call back and some don’t but it’s just staying top of mind. It’s a great way to think of the 30, 30, 30 follow up, the 30 part of the follow up.
Marylou: All said and done in aggregate, how many of those do you do that 30-day before you say, okay, I’m going to put these folks to bed, let them rest for a while, incubate and then come back.
Nancy: That is a really good question. As I’ve grown in my business, I’ve niched down my target market. What I’m an expert at is productivity systems and scaling. Now, I know that people that aren’t quite ready for me, they don’t get the 30 after a while, maybe they’re more of quarterly follow up or even every 6 months. You have to know your people and your product and what feels right because otherwise you’ll be doing all these follow ups. If it’s not leading to new business, it may not be a good value add as you mentioned.
Marylou: Typically, again, for those listening, we sometimes change the sequence or the rhythm of the sequence which we call cadence, whether they’re an outreach meaning they’re cold to start with versus someone that we’ve had a warmer connection with. Again, the moral of the story here is to test but we do need to have follow up and a lot of people and the research is still showing that we give up way too soon. It’s 10 to 12 touches, usually, for an outreach cold program.
Inbound, I’m not as familiar with but I’m sure there are some number, maybe it’s 6 to 9, 7 to 10, I’m not sure. There is some number for the inbound side when people are coming into you for an inquiry versus you going out to them cold.
Nancy: Sometimes, I’ve been following up with somebody and you start to think, “Am I bugging them?” But sometimes I need reminders because I get busy and I need to get back to them and then life happens. I like it when people follow up with me because then, I can move forward. Anyway, what was your next question?
Marylou: My next question was, the follow up sequence is one area that I know that people listening to this phone call really need to get with the program and put something in, keep it simple, this whole concept of, “Don’t worry, be crappy.” Just get something in and start following a rhythm for it so that you can track your results. What’s the next area that you see with your folks that you think would be a good topic to discuss for our listeners today?
Nancy: The next topic would be theming or chunking. Basically that means doing similar tasks in one sitting versus jumping from writing an email and then picking up the phone and then going for coffee with somebody and then coming back. I’m not a brain person but what I’ve been reading is that it takes a while for your brain to ramp up when you switch tasks. The more you can do in one sitting of the similar task whether it’s writing or calling or whatever it is, it’s more efficient. That would be the second thing, is find a way to chunk your task.
Let me give you an example. I only meet with people in person here in Denver on Wednesdays. I schedule my networking, my Toastmasters, my coffee meetings on the same day so I can get up, put on nice clothes and drive into the city, I’m about 30 minutes away. I used to drive all over on any day of the week wasting time, wasting gas, changing between tasks. Now, I have days where I do certain things. On Mondays is when I write blogs. On Tuesdays is when I podcast. Put things together that are similar, you’ll get more done.
Marylou: That’s a great, great, great reminder for our folks. In our world we call it Time Blocking or Block Time. It’s not as advanced as what you just said but what we’re looking for is to take the phone time out of your day if you’re prospecting and chunk that into, what we’d like to see is two-hour increments, obviously some people need to work up to that.
But it’s single focus, single task because it is proven, the research shows without a doubt that the longer that you’re on the phone, the better you’re going to be, the more apt you are to handle objections with relative ease. Also, your tonality changes and gets more confident as you go along. I love the idea though of taking those other tasks like if you do write your own emails or you do create templates for your emails to sit down and have a writing session.
Typically, for something like that, do you have a sense of how long we should allow for block times for writing versus phoning versus these other tasks?
Nancy: Here’s another formula that I like, 50-10. I actually set my little timer to go off 50 minutes so at 10 to the hour, the buzzer goes off and I take a mandatory ten-minute break. It might just be walking downstairs to the kitchen and getting some water or walking down to get the mail or something even if you’re in the flow, even if you’re on fire. Take that ten-minute break and come back and you’re just going to be really, really recharged. It may be write for 50 minutes and then switch to something else, that works.
Marylou: It’s funny, there is a very famous copywriter in the 60’s, I believe. He was alive up until, I think, 1992, Eugene Schwartz. He used to put 33.33 on an old kitchen timer and sit down on his desk and write during that time frame. Once the buzzer went off, he will take a 5 to 10 minute break, he would walk around, he would walk his dog, whatever it was and then come back to his writing. He did that five times and that was his work day, that’s all he did as a copywriter.
He said that that allowed him, whether he’s working on multiple projects with multiple clients, that allowed him that freedom of his subconscious to work through things as he was doing these walks and the non-writing activities, he came up with ideas. He says ad nauseum for a lot of his clients because he allowed himself the time to step away and not be focused on the writing at hand.
Nancy: That’s actually another productivity technique, I call it Thinking Time. I have an hour every Friday, usually from 10:00 to 11:00 where I just think about my business. I don’t even have any electronics, just a piece of paper and a pen and I start asking myself questions, how can I grow this business? Who do I need to partner with? What could be even better? You start to get your mind thinking about this.
The other thing about thinking is you need to separate it from doing. Schedule time where you actually think about your business, think about your sales, whatever it is in your business that you need to work on and then do it. Because if you try to think and do, it’s shifting tasks and it’s very distracting.
Marylou: I really like this. So far we’ve learned about the ability to have a follow up sequence that’s rhythmic in nature, that you plan out over a course of time, we’re talking about time blocking and the various different methods of taking your task that you tend to multitask with and break it into single task focused events. What else can we share with our group before I have to let you go?
Nancy: Those are just some quick, low-hanging fruits for people and they’re free, of course. I’ve got a report on my website, the 100 Systems You Need To Boost Results In Your Business. It’s a great checklist, it’s only two pages that people can skim quickly. It’s at nancygaines.com/systems. It’s a great way to see what can you tweak a little bit more in your career or your business, how about that? Give them a list to go forward.
Marylou: I’ll put that actually in the show notes for our folks so that they have the ability to take that. It sounds like almost like a preflight checklist, I love checklists because that gives us the ability to really, like you said, go through one item at a time. If it resonates with you, then put that into effect.
In your experience, we’re starting to put these productivity levers into play, how long will it take for us to actually start seeing some results? What have you seen in the past, just a generic way? I try to get people to do this crawl, walk, run thing. If people are sitting and thinking, “I’m going to try some of Nancy’s things but how long is it going to take me to actually create a system that runs out of habit?”
Nancy: They will gain back at least one hour of their day. Imagine, that’s five hours a week, how nice to leave Friday afternoon at noon and have a two and a half day weekend instead of just two full days. These are things that are so easy to implement immediately that people are going to see the results. Start with chunking your time or theming or time blocking, as you called it. Do more of that and you’ll see the results and then add on then you can crawl and run and walk, like you said. It’s very easy, though.
Marylou: Very good advice. Nancy, how do people get a hold of you, we mentioned the website. What other things do you want out listeners to know about you so that they can follow up with this recording and start researching how you can help them?
Nancy: The website is nancygaines.com. I also have a podcast and I have amazing guests, you were one of them at one time, Marylou, which is awesome. But my podcast come out on Wednesday and it’s Nancy Gaines Show, you can get it at my website or on iTunes. We always have great productivity tips people can implement immediately on that.
Marylou: I think one of the main things that I’m seeing with everyone is time management is something that we’re all struggling with. To be able to have that quadrant of highly likely to get results with least amount of effort, that’s where we want to get, is the high impact, least effort to get there. It sounds like you’ve compiled a wonderful list for the audience to go out and start looking at that and putting more of their work in that quadrant instead of wasting time doing the menial things that really don’t add up to revenue which is what we’re all here for. More revenue and better clients that we love, right Nancy?
Nancy: Absolutely. I’ll leave them with one closing tip, figure out what your hourly rate is, roughly, only work at that rate or higher. Anything that costs less than your hourly rate, give to somebody else to do. This includes cleaning your house, cutting your grass, doing your laundry, shopping for groceries, only focus on those things that are your highest investees, delegate the rest.
Marylou: Sound and great advice. Nancy, thank you so much for joining us today.
Nancy: Thanks for having me on the show. Have a great day.