Guest Post: The Resume Is Dead, The Bio Is King

storyThis article was originally published on The99Percent.com and went viral with 6,000+ retweets/shares. It has been republished on LifeHacker and across the web.

Written by: Michael Margolis      Illustration: Oscar Ramos Orozco

If you’re a designer, entrepreneur, or creative — you probably haven’t been asked for your resume in a long time. Instead, people Google you — and quickly assess your talents based on your website, portfolio, and social media profiles.

Do they resonate with what you’re sharing? Do they identify with your story? Are you even giving them a story to wrap their head around?

Gone are the days of “Just the facts, Ma’am.” Instead we’re all trying to suss each other out in the relationship economy. Do I share something in common with you? How do we relate to each other? Are you relevant to my work?

That’s why the resume is on the out, and the bio is on the rise.

People work with people they can relate to and identify with. Trust comes from personal disclosure. And that kind of sharing is hard to convey in a resume. Your bio needs to tell the bigger story. Especially, when you’re in business for yourself, or in the business of relationships. It’s your bio that’s read first.

To help you with this, your bio should address the following five questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. How can I help you?
  3. How did I get here (i.e. know what I know)?
  4. Why can you trust me?
  5. What do we share in common?

Your bio is the linchpin for expanding your thought leadership and recognition, especially online. It frames the conversation and sets the tone. It’s your job to reveal a bit about yourself and how you see the world. Do this well, and people will eagerly want to engage with you further.

Here’s the challenge: who taught you how to write your bio?

Admittedly, most of us never got a lesson in this essential task. You’re not alone. Even the most skilled communicators get tongue-tied and twisted when trying to represent themselves in writing. We fear the two extremes: obnoxious self-importance or boring earnestness.

It gets further complicated when you’re in the midst of a career or business reinvention. You have to reconcile the different twists and turns of your past into a coherent professional storyline.

The personal branding industry has only muddied the waters. It’s easy to feel turned off by the heavy-handed acts of self-promotion that the various gurus out there say you’re supposed to do. We’ve been told to carefully construct a persona that will differentiate and trademark our skills into a unique value proposition.

That’s mostly a bunch of buzzword bingo bullshit.

Instead, share more of what you really care about.

And then write your bio in service to your reader, not just ego validation.

Imagine that: A compelling reason to tell your story beyond bragging to the world that you’re “kind of a big deal.” Embrace the holy-grail of storytelling: tell a story that people can identify with as their own – and the need to persuade, convince, or sell them on anything disappears.

With all this in mind, here’s a few key pointers for reinventing your bio as a story:

1. Share a Point of View.

You’re a creative. Having something to say is the ultimate proof. What’s missing from the larger conversation? Speak to that. Don’t be afraid to tell the bigger story. We want to know how you see the world. Show us that you have a unique perspective or fresh vantage point on the things that matter most.

2. Create a Backstory.

Explain the origin for how you came to see the world in this way. Maybe it was something that happened to you as a kid or early in your career. Consider your superhero origins. How did you come into these powers? What set you off on this quest or journey? What’s the riddle or mystery you are still trying to solve? When you tell the story of who you were meant to be, it becomes an undeniable story. Natural authority is speaking from the place of what you know and have lived.

3. Incorporate External Validators.

Think frugally here. To paraphrase the artist De La Vega, we spend too much time trying to convince others, instead of believing in ourselves. Nonetheless, if you’re doing something new, different, or innovative — you have to anchor it into the familiar. Help people see that your novel ideas are connected to things they recognize and trust. That might be your notable clients, press, publications, or things you’ve created. Just enough to show people your story is for real.

4. Invite people into relationship.

Now that you’ve established you’ve got something to share, remind people you’re not so different from them. Vulnerability is the new black. Share some guilty pleasures. Describe what you like to geek out on. Reveal a couple things you obsess about as hobbies or interests. This will make you more approachable and relatable. You’re human, too. Help people find the invisible lines of connection.

To revamp your bio, start with these simple storytelling principles and questions above.

In the process, you’ll discover a greater potential to shift how you see yourself and how the world sees you. Your story sets the boundaries for everything else that follows.

If you’re having trouble being heard, recognized, or understood, it’s probably an issue related to your story and identity.

SAMPLE COPY ADDED to promote webinar:

The good news? I want to help you tell your story.

Join my friend Michael for his new FREE webinar called, RE-STORY YOURSELF: How to Attract Your Future with a Better Bio.

This webinar will teach you simple storytelling shortcuts to creating a standout yet authentic bio that attracts more of what you want. Discover the right tone, structure, and how to craft an interesting point of view. You’ll learn how to use story to position your work, attract opportunities, and get paid for being the real you.

Click here to sign up for my FREE webinar now!

It’s never too late to reinvent your story.

Story on!

 

Courting vs. Seduction in Marketing

10596261_10154474180875195_1614989293_nYou can try to bully business from people.

But very few people will ever do that.

But many of us, often without knowing we’re doing it, try to manipulate and seduce our clients.

If you’re reading this, then my guess is that you hate that option two. So, if bullying is out and manipulating is out… what’s left?

I want to lift up another option: courting them.

Simon Sinek lays the groundwork for this notion in his brilliant book Start With Why.

Typical manipulations include: dropping the price; running a promotion; using fear, peer pressure or aspirational messages; and promising innovation to influence behaviour – be it a purchase, a vote or support. When companies or organizations do not have a clear sense of why their customers are their customers, they tend to rely on a disproportionate number of manipulations to get what they need. It’s because manipulations work.

If fear motivates us to move away from something horrible, aspirational messages tempt us toward something desirable. Marketers often talk about the importance of being aspirational, offering someone something they desire to achieve and the ability to get their more easily with a particular product or service.

Six steps to a happier life!

Work those abs to your dream dress size!

In six short weeks you can be rich!

All these messages manipulate.

They tempt us with the things we want to have or to be the person we wish we were.

I cannot dispute that manipulations work.

Every one of them can indeed help influence behaviour and every one of them can help a company become quite succesful. But there are trade offs.

Not a single one of them breeds loyalty.

Over the course of time, they cost more and more. The gains are only short term. And they increase the level of stress for both the buyer and the seller. If you have exceptionally deep pockets or are looking to achieve only a short term gain with no consideration for the long term, then these strategies and tactics are perfect.

Beyond the business world, manipulations are the norm in politics today as well. Just as manipulations can drive a sale but not create loyalty, so too can they help a candidate get elected, but they don’t create a foundation for leadership. Leadership requires people to stick with you through thick and thin. Leadership is the ability to rally people not for a single event, but for years. [Manipulative] tactics win elections, but they do not seed loyalties among the voters.

In business, leadership means that customers will continue to support your company even when you slip up. If manipulation is the only strategy, what happens the next time a purchase decision is required. What happens after the election is won?

There is a big difference between repeat business and loyalty. Repeat business is when people do business with you multiple times. Loyalty is when people are willing to turn down a better product or a better price to continue doing business with you. Loyal customers don’t often bother to research to the competition or entertain other options. Loyalty is not easily won. Repeat business, however, is. All it takes is more manipulations.

Manipulations lead to transactions, not loyalty.

So, if manipulations don’t work to create loyalty, what does? If manipulating and seducing people ultimately doesn’t feel good, what does?

*

A True Story About Courting

While at a party to support Reakash Walters, a young and inspiring woman of colour running to be the Federal MP for City Centre in Edmonton, Ron Walker, the program coordinator at the Native Friendship Centre in Edmonton shared a story that speaks so beautifully to this notion of courting.

I won’t attempt to share the story in full but I share this abridged version with his kind permission here:

A long time ago, there was once a young man in love with a woman in his village who did not return his affections. Unable to deal with the pain of this rejection he left the village and went far, far away into the woods, where he was guided to a beautifully carved flute and told to go and listen to the sounds the animals there made there and to learn how to play them on the flute. They were sounds that neither himself nor anyone in his village had heard before. Once he had done this, he was told to take them back. And so he did. And, when he returned to his village, he climbed up a hill, pulled out his flute and began to play. The people of the village sat up in notice of this beautiful and strange music they’d never heard before. And the woman who’d had no interest in him before, found her way up the hill and sat next to him signifying her desire to be with him.

It’s a good and true story.

In the story, he isn’t told that, by learning this music, he’d win her back. It wasn’t a tool of seduction. It was a gift for his community and the learning and sharing of it had, I’m sure, made him more beautiful in the process. When he returned, his own heart had been healed. He wasn’t grasping at the woman anymore and so she felt safe to come towards him.

It’s a strange truth I’ve found in life and marketing: if you try to strong arm a particular person into doing business with you, it rarely works but if you bring something good, unique and beautiful to a community and give it in service to that community, many of the people you would have been chasing actually come towards you of their own accord. I have experienced this so many times.

And, of course, the Western Mind wants to turn that story into a formula: That if I go out into nature, find something beautiful and bring it back to the community, if I go on some walk about or pilgrimage then I’ll be guaranteed some clarity and then, when I come back, I’ll get the girl or the clients or whatever.

But I don’t think that’s what the story is saying.

I don’t think that story is making any promises at all.

*

A Tale of Two Bookstores

Marianne Williamson once spoke about working in a bookstore. She saw it as her job to love the people who came in. And she did. And they loved her for it and came back over and over because it just felt so good to be there. Once in a while people would come in and offer her business advice and the tactics she could be using to get customers to come back. The tactics never made sense to her and then one day she realized, “Oh! They think this is a bookstore!” But for her, it had always been her church and a chance to minister to people. She was courting people, not seducing them.

There’s another new age bookstore I’ve been to where every time I walk in, I feel anything but a sense of serenity. I feel on edge and I am immediately assaulted with offers to join their email list and FB group. I’m being sold from the second I walk in. If I’m going to buy something, the owner is so loving and full of smiles, but the second it becomes clear I’m just browsing? The love shuts off entirely and she goes cold and I feel like my presence there is an imposition on her time and space. I’ve talked with dozens of others who feel the same way about this place. I genuinely have no idea how she’s still in business.

*

Seduction vs. Courtship

Elder Stephen Jenkinson distinguishes between seduction and courting, “Seduction sounds like the quiet padding of the thief’s feet on the path as they run away into the night having stolen from you something very precious you won’t even know is missing until you reach for it next.”

Seduction is polish and charm.

Courting is the deep insistence of being of some use to the thing you love whether or not it benefits you at all.

It is a combination of being observant, deep listening and earnest craftmanship to bring the one you love something that they need without ever once having had to ask.

And maybe this is the heart of courting – generosity. That courting begins and ends with giving whereas seduction begins and ends with taking (and any giving which is done is used itself as misdirection to distract you from the taking).

Seduction is the buying of votes and the false ‘i love you’s’, it’s the playing on people’s hopes… to get something we want from them without them knowing we took it. Seduction is a beautiful, carefully stitched bag emptied of all respect and regard for the other so that it can hold the very thing the one you love might have given you freely, even if in a different form than you had hoped, had you courted them well. The things seduction throws aside are the very things that might have inspired the giving. The cost of walking the path of seduction, which we all, if we are honest, know intimately, is that we are constantly scared of being caught. Seduction requires stealth where stealth shouldn’t be.

The worst of salesmanship is seduction, not courting. It’s ninja tactics, secret linguistic tricks, and ‘closing techniques’. Seduction is about sitting across from someone and trying to get people to see things your way (e.g. see how valuable what’s your offering is, see what a great person you are etc.) but courting begins with sitting down next to them and trying to see what they see.

The worst of dating advice is seduction, pick up tricks and sneaking.

The worst of parenting advice is seduction, bribery and bullying. It’s us standing toe to toe with our child trying to get them to see things our way instead of sitting beside them and trying to see what they see.

Seduction is, in short, trying to get away with something.

Courting is trying to give to something. Trying, often futilely and often failing, to give something worthy and beautiful to that which we love. But even in the most disastrous attempts to give where we fail extravagantly, there’s something in the extravagance itself that feeds something. Courting is about leaving space so that the one you are courting has room to move towards you of their own volition, leaving room for them to come closer to you.

And so if you experience someone seducing you and you let them know that it doesn’t feel good, you are meeting their seduction with courting. You’re giving them your truth and courting better behaviour from them in the future.

If you’re treated poorly in dating, you make someone more human by letting them know your feelings and not letting them behave so poorly in your presence.

And we don’t share our feelings about people’s behaviour in order that they will love us for being so wise and helpful. If we’re doing it to get their approval then we’ve already begun to slide down the hill of seduction without noticing it.

We can share the impact their actions had on us and then a let go gracefully of the need for them to do anything in particular with that information. I think the not being attached to a result from them is central to courtesy.

*

The Soft Handshake

I recall receiving a handshake from a Blackfoot activist in Alberta. It was the limpest handshake I’ve ever received and it felt incredibly gross. Like I was shaking hands with a dead fish. Didn’t he know about the importance of making a good first impression on someone?

And then, many years later, I heard Stephen Jenkinson talking about this. He explained that it was a very old style of handshake that meant to express the utmost consideration and respect. It was saying, “I’m not going to try and make any big impression on you. I’m not going to assume we’re going to get along. Let’s just take out time and get to know each other and see how it goes.” No assumptions. No burdens placed.
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I think it’s a good thing to take into our interactions with clients. Not carrying in this urgent need to impress them right away. Not having the focus be on how they see us and our reputation. That approach is guided by the mirror of narcissism and self concern and it’s hard to move forward skillfully while looking into a mirror. Instead we are guided by our love of and concern for them.

*

Courting is not collapsing.

None of this means you collapse and give away the store.

It doesn’t mean you work for free.

It doesn’t mean that you aren’t strategic and thoughtful in how you plan your marketing.

It doesn’t mean you don’t out a lot of time into thinking out your sales funnels and business model.

It doesn’t mean you don’t track and measure your numbers and results and change your strategy accordingly.

It doesn’t mean that your tone has to be gentle and you can’t be outrageous or have fun. It doesn’t mean you throw out your edginess and sass. None of that.

No no no.

It means you might do all of those things but that you take care of yourself well while you do them.

It means you build a thoughtful and well considered business plan. It means you get really clear on your niche. It means you write the best sales letters anyone had every seen. It means that you get really good at having conversations with interested people that help you both decide if there’s a fit there or not.

It actually means that you need to raise your game as an entrepreneur substantially.

If you want to court your clients graciously, then consider creating free things for them that could be useful to them before they spend money with you to let them know that you have their needs in mind first and foremost.

If you want to court hubs and influencers, consider the same approach. Be useful to them in a way that is meaningful to them before you ask anything of them.

Find a way for them to get to know you from a distance and to approach you as it feels safe so you can both see if you resonate with each other.

*

You business is a house. Your customers can’t relax in a collapsing house. 

It’s like this. You build the house of your business solidly like a house instead of having it always at the point of collapse. If you build it strong, then people walk in and just enjoy the beauty in it. They notice how good it feels to be there. I remember once being in Fairfield, Iowa where I did one of my first workshops ever. I went to house that was build according to vedic design principles even older than feng shui. It was a thing of beauty. Timbre framed. Rammed earth floors. Big windows. It felt so good to just be in the thing. We were just there as a part of a tour but didn’t no one want to leave it when it was time to go.

Here’s what no one felt while in the home – pressure to hold that house up.

Could you imagine the tour in the framing was weak. “So as you can see here in the kitchen… Shit. Sorry. Could you hold this beam? It’s about to collapse. Thanks. So, this kitchen was built with… shit! Could you two hold up that wall? Must not have nailed that in right and FUCK! Everyone else hold up the roof!”

That’s how it feels to be in a poorly constructed business. Like you’ve been giving the job of saving them and holding it all up. So, the first responsibility in courting is to build your business well so it’s not relying on them to hold it up.

And also, how can you ever leave your home to invite anyone to it if it’s going to collapse if you leave it? If you’re always patching it together in a constant crisis, how can you give out invitations to the wonderful parties you want to throw? How can you be present to your guests, have empathy and put yourself in their shoes when you’re in a crisis?

It seems to me  that we move to seduction out of the desperation of a house falling apart with a leaky roof. The key is not to get better at seducing. The key is to find ourselves some simple and stable place to live so we can have the time and space we need to practice our courting of who and what matters to us.

Perhaps, the central and unspoken fear that drives seduction is the belief that the other person has something without which you can’t survive and that you simply couldn’t get on your own. This fear creates desperation – it makes these situations into life or death matters.

We come to believe, in a confused sort of way, that we need to get a sale from this particular person or that we need sex from that person, love and acceptance from this person and attention from that person. If we believe this, then we will seduce at best or simply steal at worst. If we believe this, then we will be unable to let go gracefully.

I think a first step to even being able to consider courting anyone or anything is to see more widely, to see that our needs can be met in many ways rather than making one person responsible for them.

Sometimes what this all means, and no one wants to hear this, is that you need to live somewhere else while you build this dream home. Or that you need to build a tiny home and add extensions as you can. Sometimes you need to have a job to earn your income while you build your dream business. Or that you need to start really small and grow your business as you can.

*

What Are You Feeding? 

Courting acknowledges that there are things that matter beyond us and our businesses bottom line.

It acknowledges that the way we engage with others not only has consequences for us (do we get the sale or not) but also for the other (do they feel honoured or violated).

But there is something else that is profoundly missing in most the marketing material I see. The understanding that our actions impact anything bigger than ourselves.

Certainly, it has consequences for the marketplace at large. If everyone used seduction and manipulation, the marketplace would feel even worse than it does – trust would be at an all time low. But, perhaps there’s something even bigger, something that is fed by the beauty we make and that is starved when we don’t. The way we proceed with each other is not free of consequence.

And, looked at from another angle, I think that courting has big consequences for the kind of person we become. And the kind of person we become has big consequences for the world. When we move through the world trying to seduce people I think we become, increasingly, the embodiment of the absence of the thing we were seducing from the practice of using our hands and words to grasp at and trap what was never ours in the first place. When we move through the world trying to court people, I think we become, increasingly, the embodiment of the presence of the thing we have been courting from the practice of using our hands and words to craft gifts for what we love. Somehow the practice of crafting gifts transforms us into a gift as well.

“…the rental rate for this gift of being allowed to flourish and reside in this continuum with the rest of the world is that we do everything possible to be indigenously beautiful, promising that we make ourselves spiritually full and delicious so as to feed the next ones to appear in the ongoing river on the occasion of our passing.” – Martin Prechtel, The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic

 

Graciousness, Permission and Hijacking in Marketing

Graciousness.jpgGraciousness isn’t always noticed in marketing but its absence is usually keenly felt.

The notion of permission marketing was coined, so far as I know, in Seth Godin’s blog post Permission Marketing. His notion was that we need people’s permission to market to them. Without permission, our marketing is spam.

Susan Hyatt wrote of this dynamic in the coaching world in her piece Unsolicited Coaching. Please. Make it stop and it’s a thread I wove into my extensive blog post on Empathy in Marketing. Unasked for advice is the spam of social relationships.

When it’s missing, it feels like a keen violation.

Years ago I hosted, as I often do, a potluck. A fellow came, I think brought by a friend. He was a fitness trainer keen to build his business. Clearly, somewhere along the way he learned that building your email list is the most important thing you can do these days. And so, he spoke to all twenty five or so people at the potluck and invited them to sign up for his email list and get a free, healthy recipe for a chocolate and peanut butter dessert.

It was so blatant, so hijacking of my party and using the trust in the space for his own purposes. Most people, I am sure, signed up because it felt incredibly awkward to say ‘no’ to his face. I imagine most of them thought, “I’ll just sign up and then unsubscribe or ignore him.”

The approach was forceful. It didn’t authentically grow out of the conversation. It was smuggled into every conversation.

Another example: I was recently in Kelowna where I led a day long workshop. When I got back from lunch I saw that one of the participants, a realtor, had left his business card and a pen (with his contact info on it) on every seat. I went up to him and let him know I felt uncomfortable with it and would appreciate it if he removed them, which he then did. On one hand, there’s something commendable here – hustle. He’s not just sitting back and hoping people call him. He’s being active.

And, the way he’s doing it isn’t, in my mind, gracious.

I am the one who brought everyone together. It was my efforts and the trust I’d built with people that had created that room full of people and by not asking me if it was alright, he was hijacking those efforts and using them for himself. But he certainly doesn’t need my permission to market himself at my event. The real permission he needed was from the people to whom he was marketing. They didn’t ask to find the pen and business card on their chair. What are they going to do with it? He spammed them.

If the realtor had wanted my endorsement, he could have courted it by showing up early and helping to set up and paying attention to how he could be useful to me. He could have bought everyone lunch at the workshop. He could have brought a gift for everyone at the workshop. He could have reached out to me in advance and shared his appreciation of my work and some useful links to things. He could have honoured the incredible time and effort it took me to get the people there and build my business.

The nonchalantness of trying to benefit from other people’s labours without acknowledging those labours is being a parasite, not a guest.

In short, he could have built a relationship with me based on giving and generosity first which would have, almost certainly, been reciprocated.

Antoine Palmer is one of the finest men I know. I met him at a large picnic I was hosting. He helped carry tables into the community centre afterwards. He was just incredibly helpful without being asked. It’s a fine way to introduce yourself to someone, not by trying to impress them but by paying attention to what’s needed and trying to be helpful to them.

I remember meeting Julia Butterfly Hill, who was on her book tour for her book The Legacy of Luna about her two year tree sit, with my friend Michele at Bookshop Santa Cruz and really hoping to impress her because we thought she was kind of the coolest and we were hoping she might come to an event we were organizing.  So we just helped out with her book signing. The next night, she was in Berkeley. I showed up and learned that she was mostly raw vegan and went grocery shopping to salad supplies figuring that she might be hungry after the event. She was and her face lit up with delight in seeing what I’d done. We’ve been friends since. And she came to the event.

While I was staying at my friend Sean’s in Vancouver, I noticed they had an empty, large jar of coconut oil. So I picked up a new one for them. I asked them casually if they’d ever tried Hendrix Gin (the best gin of all times) and when they said ‘no’ I knew to pick up a bottle of it the next day for a dinner we were having.

This can look so many different ways. I’m sure you’ve had your own experiences of both sides of this coin.

The bottom line: When you are gracious in your marketing, then your marketing doesn’t seem like marketing, it occurs to people for what it really is: a generous spirit building relationships – which is what all marketing should be.

 

Further Suggested Reading:

31 Paths of Graciousness – Tad Hargrave

Groundhog Day – Take Two – Vicki Robin

Guest Post: Marketing is Building Trust

bait-and-switchby Tamar Henry

I am in the coaching/personal development industry.

I’m a coach and I’m also a consumer of the industry via other coaches and healers. So are most of my colleagues. While we don’t have to be consumers of this industry, per se, many of us believe that in order to learn the things we want to learn and become the leaders and business owners we want to be, investing in ourselves through other coaches and programs, trainings and certifications is not just preferable, it’s necessary.

We spend thousands of dollars investing in ourselves. A lot of that money is well-spent.

But some of it isn’t.

One of the reasons that trust between practitioners and consumers gets eroded within the personal development industry is that it’s commonplace to market one thing and deliver something else, skimp on value or simply leave out important details. I wonder what the breaking point is. When will coaches, who are here to make a difference, but get burned over and over, exit the industry altogether?

Recently, I signed up for a free session with a representative of a successful coaching business. The session was described to me ahead of time. A coach would help me uncover a subconscious issue that I’m having. Even though I sometimes take issue with the entire idea of “blocks”, I resonated with the owner of the coaching company’s story and what she had to say. I asked the owner if the session would include solutions or ways to address these issues once they had been identified. She assured me that solutions would be provided during the session.

I had the session with a perfectly nice coach who worked for the company. At the top of the call, as is standard procedure, she explained to me how the session would proceed and that she’d invite me to invest in a program – if I was interested – at the end of the call. Later, the block that she identified, and the metaphors she used to illustrate it, did not resonate with me. After that portion of our call, when I asked how I might address the block, she simply invited me to listen to the pitch. In other words, there was no solution to be provided on the call. I’d have to pay for that.

There are a few things that got me quite frustrated as a result of this call:

1) When I signed up for the call, there was no indication that I would only receive a solution in the form of being invited to invest in a program. In fact, an invitation to invest was not even mentioned.

This is what marketing strategist Beth Grant calls failing to set a “covenant.” You set a covenant with someone when you are clear with them that you intend to invite them to invest with you (possibly further if they have already invested) during a portion of a call, talk, webinar, or workshop. I’ve had dozens of free calls with people in this industry and I strongly believe this is a necessary step that establishes trust.

I don’t mind if you invite me to invest with you. In fact, I expect you to invite me to your program (and in many cases I’m excited to hear about it!) but you need to tell me that you are going to invite me.

2) The coach who called me, while personable and sweet, had a method that I ended up being extremely skeptical of. She didn’t really explain whether she was channelling someone or something, using her own intuition or applying a system based on my written answers that I had supplied before the session. The insight and story she came up with just seemed like – I’ll just say it – bullshit.

It didn’t resonate with me.

It didn’t remind me of anything from my life. It just seemed arbitrary and inauthentic. I am not anti-woo, by any means. I believe in past lives. I channel my unborn baby’s spirit frequently. I trust my vedic astrologer 110%. I think the metaphysical world has lots to offer. But there is authenticity and there is fluff. And all I can say is if you subscribe to any of this stuff, you know in your bones which is which. There was a shakiness in this portion of session that I just couldn’t ignore, as much as I wanted to (because any time I am investing my time in something that I think could help me, I want it to work!)

3) Because I only had my “block” diagnosed, but literally no suggestions as to how I might address the block other than pay money to invest in a program (which I was not intending to do as a result of this call), I hung up the phone feeling like crap about myself.

Yes, I didn’t need to believe this was my block (and I don’t), and I didn’t need to subscribe to any of the things this person told me since they didn’t resonate with me. But even though I’m a little embarrassed to admit it – given my experience in this industry – for at least an hour after the call, I felt worse off than before I had the call.

What a waste of an afternoon!

Or maybe not a waste, because I certainly learned something from it and have these insights which I’m writing about right now. That said, how can this be considered responsible or ethical? How, in this industry, can it be considered standard to use a marketing strategy that, in many cases, leaves someone worse off than they were before you talked to them?

I know that many of the leaders in this field think differently or, at least, frame this issue differently. They say that you can’t solve someone’s problem on an introductory/marketing/sales call because then they won’t invest.

I disagree.

While I understand that I want to leave something to be desired so that someone will buy my product or service, I also believe that in every interaction I have with a prospective client (or even current client), it’s my responsibility to leave someone better off than they were before.

Many leaders, I’m happy to say, do subscribe to the idea that it’s not just okay, but necessary to be generous with solutions, to give away your best stuff. And I would say it’s even more necessary today to do just that because the levels of trust in this industry have reached a level akin to California’s water reserve – rapidly diminishing. It’s absolutely possible to provide value in the form of SOLUTIONS to someone, even if they have not yet paid you. You are not reducing your ability to make a sale. You are establishing trust.

Moreover, I would go a bit further: in a field where we are supposed to be helping people help themselves, helping guide people to better lives, highlighting problems to be fixed, without giving at least some airtime (and I would argue more than half the airtime) to solutions is dirty. It feels manipulative and completely out of alignment with the healing work we are trying to illuminate and get out into the world in a way that catches on with multitudes of people.

So, how do you bypass the dirt? First and foremost, I’m going to assume that mostly everyone in this industry means well and they may just not be considering how their marketing is landing with their potential clients.

With that said, if you are a practitioner offering a free session, there are a couple things that build trust and credibility right off the bat:

1) Think about your session as not just marketing, but an offering. You got into this business to help other people solve some sort of a problem, right? You want to offer a solution. So, begin by offering some sort of solution during your free session. It’s okay if your solution includes an invitation where you are able to more fully address the client’s problem, but be upfront about that. When I’m describing my consult to prospective clients, I say something to them like “After I get a sense of your situation, I’ll make some suggestions, one of which may be working with me.” Can I solve their problem in one 45 minute call? Probably not, which is why, if it turns out they are the right match to work with me, one of the most helpful suggestions I can make is the invitation to work with me. Don’t be afraid of offering up some gems during your initial consult that you know would help them immediately. If you give value, even if the person doesn’t buy from you on the spot, you are establishing your expertise and starting off a relationship by creating trust. The more value you can give in a “free call,” the more likely someone is going to buy something from you either right away, or in the future.

2) Creating a form or application for your session gives you a chance to weed out freeloaders who are never going to buy from you or aren’t the right fit AND it allows the people who are genuinely curious about what you offer to get a better sense of who you are and what you’ll cover. You can even use the form to describe the session so that it’s transparently clear how the session will proceed.

Finally, the consumer also has some responsibility in this equation. If you’re looking to take advantage of some free offers, ask yourself if the person is a good fit for you or if you have genuine curiosity about the service they provide. Your time is too precious to be taking advantage of all the free stuff that people offer. Not only is it not a good use of your time, but filling your schedule with free offers could be detrimental to your own productivity and forward movement in your life or business. Tune in to your inner guidance about who really speaks to you and only then, take advantage of a free offer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the sign-up process. If there is something you want to get from the session, ask! Treat these free offers as an investment you’re making, because the truth is, you are investing your time and energy, and maybe even possibly, the belief that there are people who truly can offer you the exact support you desire.

A Bit About the Author:

Tamar-008Tamar Henry, “The Curveball Coach,” supports women to navigate the unexpected curveballs of life in their relationships, health, career and fertility. Through neural-repatterning, somatic methods and more, she guides her clients to find peace, relief and joy. Find out more at www.curveballcoaching.com.

36 Reflections on “Who am I to teach and charge for it?”

 

“Who am I to teach and charge for it?”

 

This is a post that has been on my mind for many years to write.

It comes up in most workshops that I teach, this question of “Who am I to teach this? I’m no master. Besides, everything has already been said. I’ve got nothing new to add to this.” or “Who am I to be a healer? I’m not that good yet. I’m not ready. I need more education.” or “Who am I to hold circles? I don’t want to feign that I know things or that I’m some big deal.”

And it’s a weighty question that deserves more of a response than the pat, “Believe in yourself” answers given out as though the heart of the malady was a lack of self esteem and that the miracle cure could be brought about be popping the pills of “valuing yourself.”

No. This is a bigger and more important question. So, I want to try and write a response that might be worthy of everything that is inside that question.

It’s one I feel a real personal connection to as, when I was 21, I was leading personal growth, weekend long workshops for a leadership development franchises. There were people attending them who had sandals older than I was. I had no legitimate business leading those workshops. I remember one man who, seeing this overexcitable boy was going to be leading the course, politely and graciously asked for a refund. I was offended at the time but I wish I could hug him now. I knew the basics of some fancy NLP and other ‘technologies’ for personal growth and I imagined that this gave me some permission to lead groups of adults through some incredible deep waters. I thought that my having some theory I’d learned by rote (and yet hadn’t sincerely implemented into my life) meant I’d learned something worthy of sharing.

I was so young.

So, when some come to me with these questions of “Who am I to do this work?” I take that question very seriously.

Of course, sometimes they’re often secretly angling for pity or approval. You won’t find that in this blog post. If you’re here for encouragement, that’s not exactly what you’ll find here. And if you’re here for advice or ‘the answer’ you definitely won’t find that here. What you’ll find is the encouragement to keep wrestling with these worthy questions as honestly as possible.

As my colleague Mark Silver put it, “I would say that, deep down, it’s an honest and sincere question when asked as a real question, and not as a statement masquerading as a question, where ‘Who am I?’ stands in for, ‘I can’t/not supposed/not the one to do it. The integrity, the care, the humility is all needed in this inquiry.”

What I want to offer here isn’t a solution but some ideas and reflections that, like seeds, might take root and grow into an apple tree than can at least provide food to you to sustain you while you keep up the wrestling.

One reaction to this question is to collapse, shrink down and back away from opportunities. Another reaction is to posture, puff ourselves up and pretend to be a lot more together than we are. But, if we’re going to explore this meaningfully, it’s got to be a response from a place of composure. I hope that these reflections might help you get a bit closer to that.

 

Reflection #1 – You Deserve To Have Your Needs Met:

This is baseline. At the heart of a lot of these struggles (around being ready) is this deep feeling of discomfort that we have needs at all. There’s this big feeling of shame in a lot of people that they need the level of support they do. They feel like they should be able to help anyone who wants their help for free and be okay with that.

But you’re a human being. You have needs (e.g. food, water, shelter etc.) And, in this culture, without money, those are hard to get. So, unless you’re consciously choosing to opt out of the cash economy (a move I would applaud loudly and celebrate) then it’s something to come to terms with.

Can you be humble enough to admit that you need support to live? Can you be humble enough to receive that support in the form of money from clients who you are helping?

You have needs. You deserve to have them met.

This doesn’t mean you’re entitled to be a billionaire. It doesn’t mean you’re entitled to anyone’s business in particular.

It just means that you deserve these things as much as any other human on earth.

And it means that it’s important to be incredibly real with yourself about what it is that you need and what it will take to make that happen. This shows up particularly clearly around money.

Action: Identify these two numbers – How much money do you need to just scrape by (i.e. food, rent and paying basic bills)? How much money would it take to sustain you in a good way that would allow you to give your gifts to the community? Once you’ve identified the second number, I would suggest adding 50% more to it because you probably aren’t seeing clearly the number of unexpected things life will bring you that will cost money. Then make that number your goal.

 

Reflection #2 – You May Need to Appoint Yourself:

I have written a longer note about this notion here but, here’s the gist of it – most people walk around life feeling needy and unsure this world is asking anything of them. Most people are waiting for proof that the way they live matters to others. The invitation is to stop waiting and to proceed as if you are needed. This might mean you develop a bit of swagger and self appointing yourself. So be it.

“As a rule nobody asks you to do your life’s work. More often, at least in the early going, you have to do your life’s work as a self-appointed task. And in the early going you’re not very good at it. It is a learning thing, expensive, demanding, relentless. That’s how it has gone for me at least, paring down the list of reasons I was born until only a few likely candidates were left standing.” – Stephen Jenkinson

But, of course, if we’re needed, it’s the most natural thing in the world to doubt our capacity to rise to the occasion. That’s not a disempowering belief to get over, it’s a human response to explore. It’s a part of the learning and growing that helps get you ready. If you skip an active engagement with your doubts, you may find that they linger around like ghosts of the departed who, never properly grieved and yet willfully forgotten, stick around to haunt you in a world to which they no longer belong. Your doubts are like seeds and they can only give you the plant inside them if you are willing to plant them in the fertile soil of your curiousity and willingness to admit there’s something you don’t know.

 

Reflection #3 – Your Doubts Are Often Your Integrity In Disguise:

When people say to me, “I don’t know if I’m ready.”, I immediately trust them a bit more.

Because, in they’re asking the question, I hear a deep integrity trying to assert itself amidst a desperate need to pay the rent. I hear a deep concern for the well being of others. I hear a humility of knowing how little they know and how much they still struggle. And I hear the tension between not wanting to be a fraud and yet not wanting to pretend they don’t know anything at all. They are simultaneously lit up by the possibility of stepping into a work that they love and also terrified. They want to help people but are also scared they might hurt them. They want to fly but are terrified that they will fall.

They are aware that the bigger a job they take on, the more potential there is to screw things up and really hurt people. They’re aware the more trust that’s invested in them, the more they have to be faithful to. They know that this trust isn’t a resource we actively try to cultivate, it’s a sort of human-making burden we carry with us because we know the more of it that people pile on our back, the more damage there would be should we ever get lazy and drop it. Trust is a burden. When people court it too fast and too soon, before they’re ready, they are actually courting disaster.

On one side people never starting because they’re not perfect or ready and not wanting to hurt people. Other side people blindly charging ahead and imagining they’re ready and that people are lucky to get what they’ve got to give. Neither of these orientations are particularly helpful or sustainable.

Another possibility is to consider that your teaching what you know and offering it as a service isn’t a sign that you’re ‘done’, or ‘perfect’. It’s you signing up for your next step in your schooling without any illusions that it will be easy. And learning should give you pause. You should have second thoughts about learning. Because learning is expensive and you can only pay with the thing you can least afford to give.

Learning is what helps refine you. Sometimes I think that, when we get started, we should be paying our clients for the chance to learn. It’s a good argument for doing probono work and apprenticing (which we’ll get to soon).

When people express their doubts I want to fall on my knees and thank them for really considering it.

The people who scare me are the ones with very little experience but extreme confidence. Those are the ones most likely to hurt people.

 

Reflection #4 – Your Questions About Money Are Also Often Your Integrity Too:

Intimately tied into the question of “Who am I to teach?” is the often unspoken ending to that sentence, “… and get paid for it?

It can feel very strange to many of us this notion of being paid to do something we love to do that’s bringing healing to the world. There can be a guilt associated with it and this urge to just give it away for free.

And again, when people bring up these issues, I want to worship at their feet for a while because these concerns don’t come from nowhere. They often have roots found it a concern about the direction of the larger economy – both where it came from and where it’s going. As people learn more about what’s happening in the world, it’s the most natural thing in the world to have questions around money start to emerge. What is it? Where did it come from? For what kinds of work should I accept it and for what kinds of work should I refuse it?

And if you work in the healing arts, this becomes an even more pressing question as people will start bringing many things to your door to question your making money. They’ll point out that traditional medicine people almost never take money for their ceremonies or healings so how on Earth can you? Aren’t you just participating in the commodification of something that should never be commodified?

When I see people wrestling with this, I want to hug them and thank them for being willing to engage and grapple with something for which there are no easy answers. I want to praise the deep integrity of their political and spiritual landscape. I want to urge them to keep following those threads. Nowhere in me is there an urge to ‘fix’ anything. I have no desire at all to do anything other than hold those people’s feet even closer to the fire so they can really feel the burn of anywhere they might be out of alignment. Many of my colleagues would see all of this as a set of disempowering beliefs but, frankly, I think a lot of their beliefs about money are deeply toxic – here are twelve of them. And I’m not saying there aren’t beliefs that aren’t serving you if you’re wrestling with this all, I’m just saying the wrestling with it is a noble endeavour that deserves to be applauded. It’s a rare thing in this culture to bring anything to money other than desperation and entitlement.

Those are questions people should be bringing to the topic of money. Thank God they do.

I’ve been broke before (and I didn’t care) because I’d decided to spend my time enjoying my life and doing volunteer work in my community instead. There’s nothing less spiritual about that. But there’s also nothing particularly spiritual about being broke and not being able to take care of yourself and therefore being a burden on others. If you’re tired of being broke, here are fifteen ideas and you might want to check to see if I’m running my 30 day cashflow challenge called The Meantime.

And there’s a big difference between using these questions as a shield to actually not wrestle honestly with these questions and avoid ever dealing with money vs. as a doorway to an even deeper sense of integrity and alignment with your political and spiritual values as you live in the modern world.

Having said all of that, a few thoughts do occur to me that I offer on the off chance they might have some use to someone.

We no longer live in a tribal set up. Were you to be a healer in that set up, your needs would be met. You would be taken care of by the village. That is no longer the case today and so we need to do something different.

To take indigenous rituals and profit from them without the explicit permission and blessing of traditional elders in those communities is the height of disrespect and deeply dangerous to those you ostensibly want to heal.

You do not need to make an income from healing. You could also work a job and do your healing work outside of that. That is an absolutely legitimate and beautiful model. You can be a healer without making a business out of it.

Offering your gifts to the world? Non negotiable. That’s a mandatory part of being a human being. Making it a business and charging for it? Entirely optional.

 

Reflection #5 – Figure Out Your Resonant Price

All praise and credit to my dear, dear friend and colleague Mark Silver for bringing this notion to the world: resonant pricing.

If you struggle in figuring out what to charge, I can’t recommend enough that you check out this simple, human, effective and liberating process.

It will help you find prices for what you charge that feel not too little or too much but ‘just right’.

 

quotes-655Reflection #6 – Doubt is a Part of The Creative Process: 

Doubt is unavoidable.

It’a part of the creative process as KC Baker brilliantly lays out in her blog post What It Takes to Give Birth (To a Baby or a Dream). Although, it’s rarely self doubt anyway. It’s more often other people’s doubts we’re reacting to or imagining. We ask ourselves, ‘What would others say about this?’ But, in a world on fire, obsessing about ourselves is not what’s needed.

Self hatred and self doubt are still a form of self absorption.

 

Reflection #7 – Be Clear About Your Goals:

When people say they don’t feel ready, I want to ask them, “Ready for what?

And most of the time the answers I get are fuzzy. How clear are your business goals? Less clear than you think, I promise you that. Read this to help them get more clear.

 

Reflection #8 – Be Real About Your Timelines:

Let me save you a trip to your therapist in which you fruitlessly explore how your lack of valuing yourself is stopping your business from growing.

It takes time to grow a business to be solid. Eighteen months to three years if you’re really focused on it. If you don’t settle on a solid niche early on? It’ll take you longer. I see so many people fail before they leave their day job too soon. They leap into their business before it has any chance of supporting them and then it collapses and some well meaning new ager tells them it may be a reflection of their lack of self worth.

It takes time to build a business.

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Reflection #9 – You Might Not Be Ready, But…:

“You are currently NOT the person who can deliver the calling that is within you. You will grow INTO that person as you say yes to your calling. God does not call the qualified. God qualifies the called.”  – Rev. Michael Beckwith

This is an important one to wrestle with.

You genuinely might not be ready for the work you’ve imagined for yourself.

Try that on for size.

Hey, we’ve all seen it. Someone is shoes way too big for them. Someone crashing and burning because they weren’t ready.

That could be you.

If you don’t seriously consider your level of readiness, you’re a fool.

You actually might not have the skill, wisdom, internal fortitude or capacity to do the work you’re so drawn to do. History is full of people who thought they were ready, thought they were invincible and then, like Icarus drawn by his desire to get closer to the sun and deaf to his father’s pleas, fell helpless to his death as his wings fell apart as a result of his hubris. There are many examples of those whose arrogance outstripped their ability and whose lack of regard for limits cost others dearly.

So you might not be ready but… it’s important to ask ourselves, “ready for what?”. Ready to be a guru to thousands? Maybe not. Ready to run some free workshops in your living room? Maybe so. Ready to quit your day job? Maybe not (but hey here are 11 celebrated artists who kept their day job so whatever…) Ready to go to part time? Maybe so.

Often what this question of “Am I ready?” boils down to is the belief that “I need to be perfect to be ready.” Ah. No wonder you never feel ready.

Healers often feel like, “I know I still have unhealed issues so who am I to heal anyone else?” and thus set themselves into this impossible to escape place and rob anyone they meet of whatever portion of healing they might have brought. You may not have healed everything in your life, but I bet you’ve healed something. If you stick to helping people with that or issues of a similar intensity and dynamic, you’ll be on solid ground.

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Reflection #10 – You Have Something to Offer:

This is vital.

Can you offer everything you might want to right now? Probably not.

But do you have something to offer that could help people? There is no doubt.

Is what you are able to offer enough to sustain you in a business? How much could you charge for it? Those are very open and worthy questions.

But that you have something to give this world? That is not a question worth any time at all because it will distract you from the needed work of you giving your gift to the world. So many people shut down because they don’t want to be a burden on others, but the real burden we put on the world is one you put there by not giving your gifts and making everyone else carry your load to make up for it. You are needed.

 

Reflection #11 – Don’t Underestimate The Important Gift of Empathy:

You’d be surprised how much of what people are paying for is actually empathy. You’d be amazed at what a significant factor ‘feeling gotten’ is for people when they’re spending their money. Sure, they want the particular result they’re paying you for, but do not discount the impact of them feeling understood by you. Don’t underestimate the real value that has and the gift it is. Sometimes people would rather work with someone who is a little less skilled if their bed side manner if much better.

The life coach and healing arts industry is full of a lack of that. And there’s more new age bullying than you might think.

It can be an immense relief to realize that our presence is a gift to others (and nice to know it is of such help to our marketing).

Who are you to heal people?” Maybe someone who really knows how to listen. Maybe somebody who won’t push or bully people into doing something that’s not right for them.

 

Reflection #12 – There’s a Difference Between Not Being Ready Out of Fear and Out of Intuition:

I’ve met a lot of healers who never feel really ready. They always need one more course or one more certification. And it’s often that they’re scared to really launch.

But not always.

Since I started my business, people have been telling me to write a book.

Practically since day one.

I didn’t feel ready. It wasn’t fear. It was just knowing that I wasn’t ready to do that yet. I knew my point of view and my ideas were still cooking. This year, about 15 years into my career, I finally feel ready. The feeling is clear and uncomplicated.

Don’t let people bully you into doing something you’re not ready to do yet. It’s your life. Do what you want to do.

 

Reflection #13 – You’ll Might Be Great At One Thing And Crap At A Lot Of Other Things:

I recall Stephen Jenkinson talking about a very earnest young man who wanted to learn from him and came to stay on his farm to help out. The trouble was, he wasn’t much help at all. Finally one day the young man said, “I don’t know if I’ve been much help with the farming.” and Stephen said, “Farming? You haven’t even done any! Look you’re not a farmer. You’re an academic. That’s where your gifts and passions lie. Go and pursue that!” And the young man did, was excellent at it and no more farm equipment was broken that year.

Not sure what your natural gifts are? You might check out the good work of Vancouver’s Natural Gift Society or the book Strength’s Finder (order at your local bookstore).

 

Reflection #14 – Almost Everyone is Crap When They Start:

There are a few geniuses who seemed to hit the ground running brilliantly, but, for the most of us, this isn’t the story.

The first marketing workshop I did was terrible.

The second one I did was much better.

The first youth leadership workshop I led was an abysmal and mortifying failure. They got better from there. That’s how it is. It’s not always so bad but I’ve often started things well before I was ready. It’s not a path I recommend. But it’s comforting to know that you’re in good company.

A truism I heard once was that “every master was once a disaster“. Everyone you see who is celebrated now likely struggled in the very areas they are celebrated. The legendary Casanova was terrible with women. He dedicated his life to learning the arts of courting and seduction. He was not born with that. In story after story, we learn about the masters who, in their beginnings struggled too. But they stuck in there. This is known as playing the long game. So, this truism teaches us that no matter how deep a disaster we are now – there is the promise and possibility of greater competence and skill. As we continue to teach what we most need to learn – we in turn learn.

 

 

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Reflection #15 – Beware of Comparing Your Insides to Other People’s Outsides

It’s really easy to look at others doing the kind of work you want to do who are more successful than you and imagine you’re seeing the full picture.

I promise you that you are not.

It’s easy to look at people who are doing the work you want to do and imagine you’ll never be ready to do what they do, that you’ll never reach the level they have.

I’ve been behind the scenes of many organizations that seem phenomenally together and professional from the outside, the very picture of success, and yet, on the inside are an utter shambles.

I’ve been behind the scenes at many holistic expos that might seem like a money grab from the new age scene but the reality is that, despite all of their new age law of attraction philosophies, they are almost all losing money or barely squeeking by.

I’ve hung out with the big names of the personal growth scene and seen the human foibles they have that never seem to make it onto the stage. I’ve seen a new age author famous for his books about his near death experiences be hammered every time we met – a profound (although delightfully charming) alcoholic.

I’ve heard of countless yogic gurus who have taken advantage of their female followers but in a way that never makes the mainstream media.

I’ve come to know that a very prominent figure in the personal growth world cheated constantly on his wife despite speaking of how great his relationship was on stage.

It’s easy to believe the hype and to see those who are actually only a few steps ahead of you (whatever that means) as ‘perfect’. But the truth is that they’re people too.

Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Don’t compare the movie of your life to the highlights reel you get to see. It will leave you feeling inadequate and miserable. Just keep focused on creating something wonderful, beautiful and useful to the community. Create something worthy of the problems you see in the world with the gifts you have. That is more than enough.

 

Reflection #16 – You Know More Than You Think You Do:

It was 2002, and I got a call from the United World College in Las Vegas, New Mexico to lead a facilitation training.

Having just lived through what was an utter disaster of a facilitation training (that I led (we’re talking exorcisms, people running out of the room screaming and some deep racism coming out) I felt zero desire to go there again. I’d spent the past years leading workshops and summer camps but was feeling particularly humbled. My immediate response, upon getting the invitation, was to say to myself, “What do I know about this?

But still, I gave myself permission to do the same thing I hope you might, I sat down and made a list of what I might teach were I to lead such a training. Four densely packed pages later I found myself stunned with how much I had to say and how lucid it felt. Yes, I’d made a lot of mistakes in the past, but, when I gave myself this chance to reflect on them, I found that the seeds of my failures had bloomed into apple trees bursting with fruit that I could offer to others. There was such a wealth of ideas that I felt selfish to keep it to myself. If what I had learned could help stop others from going through the same pain I had, I wanted to share it.

Action – You could do a similar exercise around making a list of all of your current qualifications for the work you are drawn to do. What is the formal education you’ve had? What experiences? What books have you read? Have you had a lot of conversations about this? Have you done much writing about it? etc. Most of us don’t, because we’re stuck in our fear and feelings of inadequacy, give ourselves enough credit for all that we bring to the table.

Also, great news, if you get through this all and realize, “Man, I actually don’t have much to offer.” then that’s great news too. You can let go of the urgent dream of building a business and get a job for a while so the heartache can stop.

 

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Reflection #17 – Under Promise, Over Deliver:

If I had to just pick one of these ideas, it would be this one.

If all you did was this, your fear of not being ready would likely vanish over night.

As you go about offering whatever you have, however humble it might seem, make sure that you under promise and over deliver. Promise less than you think you can truly deliver as a result and then deliver more than that. Of course, this means that you need to get very real with yourself about what it is you are capable of delivering as a result.

Of course, if you claim to be able to heal any condition and then you don’t, people will be upset. But if you say, “I’m just beginning and I’d love to offer you a 60 minute reiki session.” and you do it, that’s wonderful. As long as you’re not promising more than you can deliver there is zero ethical issue at all. People know what they’ve signed up for.

“Gealladh gun a’choimhghealladh, is miosa sin na dhiùltadh (Promising but not fulfilling, is worse than refusing).”

– Scottish Proverb

Again, is the result you’re currently capable of offering enough to sustain a business? That’s a different question.

One of the best pieces of advice on this that I’ve ever read is to offer people the tip of the iceberg you have. They will feel how much in unseen, under the water, and trust you more. And you will feel more solid knowing that what you’ve offered them is really only 10% of your actual capacity.

If you do this consistently, your clients will be thrilled.

This idea is so simple, but its consequences are so profound.

 

1560707_10155030029375195_519340342724674419_nReflection #18 – Apprenticing:

Our culture is not big on humility.

In a day and age where you can become a reiki master in a weekend or a life coach in a year certification, the notion of meaningful, long term apprenticeship is a fugitive idea, hiding out in our better sensibilities until we wake up to the need for it or are brought to our knees by some humbling experience where we realize the impossible price we often need to pay to really learn something and the even more dear price to pay when we don’t learn properly and try to do it anyway.

In traditional highland Scottish culture, to become a story teller meant a seven year apprenticeship. To become a Druid? Twenty one years. You can find these sort of time frames the world over. Sadly, you can also see people going to a weekend workshop and then feeling qualified to lead sweat lodges and ceremonies.

One of my friends in Edmonton, Randall Benson, works in solar power. He only hires journeymen electricians and most of his jobs are based around fixing the screw ups of less qualified people.

If you want to feel totally solid in what you’re offering, find yourself a mentor. Be willing to work for free for a while. Offer free workshops in people’s living rooms for five people. Do it for free until people start to insist on paying you. Make your money in other ways.

There’s a good chance that, if you’re having these fears, you’re in the first of four stages of business. And, at that stage, your business is actually incapable of sustaining you financially. Your business is like a young tree that’s unable to bear the weight of your livelihood. So don’t crush it. Give it time to grow while you grow too.

One approach that can take a lot of the pressure off this is to consider offering a portion of what you do on a pay what you can basis. I’ve done this with most of my daylong and weekend workshops for about 15 years. It let me feel okay about leading weekend workshops even though I was just starting because I knew people wouldn’t pay me more than they wanted to. It felt amazing to never have to worry that I might be over charging or that people weren’t getting the value they paid for.

And, if you’re really apprenticing to someone, there may come a point where they kick you out of the nest because they know that you’re never going to be ‘ready’ enough to do it on your own. And, do you know what? You’ll be okay.

 

 

10885222_10155030030675195_4287047097716463695_nReflection #19 – Honing Your Craft:

When you’ve finished apprenticing to a teacher or school, you’re still learning. But now you’re learning from your craft directly. You’re now learning from experience. This means giving yourself time to reflect on what you’ve gone through, developing better systems and checklists and taking time to improve your skills here and there.

It means taking a deep pride in doing the best job you can do in creating the most beautiful offerings you can. When you do this, questions of self worth fall away and are replaced with an excitement to give what you’ve made to the community.

Most entrepreneurs I see don’t do this.

Instead of creating a few programs and honing them over time, they are constantly creating new programs.

On a marketing level, this is a bit of a disaster because then people never get to know you for anything in particular. On the level of confidence, it’s a disaster. How are you supposed to feel totally confident about something you’ve never done before? Of course you feel nervous and unsettled. And on the level of craft, it’s also a disaster because you can’t do something once and expect it be be of much worth.

If you create a workshop and do that same workshop one hundred times, then you’ll have something of incredible worth. You’ll speak with some swagger and bravado when asked about it. You won’t have doubt. It will be good and you will know it’s good. You will have found all the holes, integrated so many learnings – big at first and subtle towards the end. You’ll know every inch of it and will barely be able to let it go at the high prices you charge.

When you are more in love with your craft and your clients than your business or reputation you’ll see things bloom in ways you couldn’t imagine.

Honing your craft includes seeking out candid feedback from clients and implementing it to make your offerings better.

Honing your craft means making time to reflect on what you thought went well and what didn’t in your last offering and improving it for next time.

Sometimes I’ll do a program and, by the end, I feel awful, because I see everything that I could have done differently. But, once I’ve found some meaningful solution to each of those issues, my feelings shift to excitement to offer it again.

 

Reflection #20 – Focus On Creating An Offer That Feels Wonderful

There are some things that, when you think about offering them, you go into a panic zone and freeze up.

Maybe it’s leading a week long retreat. Maybe it’s healing people around certain issues. You just don’t feel ready to do that at all. It wouldn’t feel right or good to offer it. It’s too scary.

And then there are other things that would feel totally fine. Maybe that’s just going for tea with someone to talk about what might be possible. It’s so important to start with something that feels good, right and comfortable to you and to go from there.

If, instead of obsessing about whether or not you’re ready, you were to pour all of your love and attention into making the best offer you could, you would find your self-concern dropping away and being replaced by a deep, authentic excitement to share.

Action: Take a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the center of it. On the top left hand side right, ‘Feels Good’ and on the top right hand side write, ‘Feels Bad’. Underneath the ‘Feels Good’ side write down all the things you could offer right now that would feel free and easy for you to offer with an uncomplicated heart. Under the ‘Feels Bad’ side, write down the things you might want to offer that feel questionable for you, you’re not sure you’re ready for or could handle. Go back and forth for no more than 20 minutes.

And then get moving on the ‘Feels Good’ side. Hustle that hard. As you do it, your confidence will grow. Or you’ll learn from failing. And then you’ll feel more confident as a result of your learnings.

Action: Ask your friends what they would most trust you to do in terms of your work. What result would they most trust you could help them achieve.

 

success-really-looks-likeReflection #21 – Start Small & Pay Attention

If you’re scared, start with something tiny. Start with leading a small workshop in your living room. Start with writing a simple ebook. Start by making on youtube video. Offer a free hour long coaching session to ten people just so you can try. Offer it to a community that needs it most as a volunteer (e.g. immigrant population or those in prison).

You might take like a duck to water and see how many of the fears you had were just in your head. You might get hooked on it and want to do it more and more and watch as your fears fall away from you like a bird’s shadow as it takes off into the air.

But you might also realize that something didn’t feel right. And you can learn from that too.

This is also how you figure out your niche. You start small. You try things. You experiment. You notice what worked and what you liked. It’s not some linear path with three easy steps. It’s full of loops and round abouts.

Am I ready?” is a terrible question. Ready for the big time? Likely not. Ready to help somebody? You’d better believe it.

 

8983_10155030031520195_1269127059724895516_nReflection #22 – They Don’t Notice What You Notice:

Performers know this one all too well.

I’ve been doing improv comedy with Rapid Fire Theatre since 1992. And there have been many, many shows where I would walk off stage feeling defeated at what a terrible show I’d just done. I would head into the front of the theatre where the audience was leaving carrying the accumulated weight of every choice I wish I could take back and every choice I wish I’d made I’d stage and didn’t, only to be greeted by someone saying, “That was amazing! Thanks man!” and get a high five from a stranger who was leaving with a big smile on his face and joking with his friends about how we’d had an Octopus as a student in our scene only to have him eventually eaten.

I thought the show was sub par at best. He thought it was great.

This happens all the time.

We are often our own worst critic.

 

Reflection #23 – Get Candid Feedback

If you’re not sure you’ve got much to offer, why not find out the truth and put your obsessing to rest?

Why not create a google form or surveymonkey survey and invite your past and current clients to give you candid, honest, forthright and totally anonymous feedback on how you did with them? What worked and what didn’t? What would they give your work with them from a 1-10? If it wasn’t a ten what would it have taken to be a 10? What do they see as your greatest gifts and strengths? What do they see as your weaknesses.

And, if you’re unwilling to do this, I’d like to suggest that you might, indeed, not be ready after all.

 

Reflection #24 – To a Third Grader, a Fourth Grader is God:

You don’t have to be a PhD to help a third grader. You just need to be a fourth grader.

You don’t need to be ten thousand steps ahead of someone to help, just a few.

This is so important to let sink in. And, as long as you’re not over promising, you’ll be fine.

My colleague Jana Beeman put it this way, “I tell my students, ‘Look at your journey, look at what you’ve surpassed in your life. Look at everything you’ve learned and the power of who you are. If you find someone a few steps behind you on your path, how can you NOT be the one to help them? If you don’t, you both lose.'”

 

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 1.45.15 PMReflection #25 – You’ll Improve Faster Than You Think You Will:

Think of the design of the nautilus shell. Imagine that the centre of it represents you as a very skilled and confident practitioner of what you do.

That first ring on the outside is the biggest. But they quickly become smaller and smaller. In this image you will see that, within five loops, you’re at the centre. And improving your craft is a lot like that too.

Let’s take leading a workshop for example:

You learn so much the first time. The lessons are big and glaringly obvious. You can’t imagine you didn’t see them. The second time you lead the same workshop (assuming you took the time to reflect and learn from the first time and implement what you learn, it will be much better. Much. But you’ll still learn things. They just won’t be as big as the first, The third time you do it, the learnings are becoming more subtle still.

The first student leadership workshop I did was in a theatre to 250 students. By the end of the day, which consisted entirely of me talking to them and almost no interactive activities, there were 20 people there. Most of them had left, it was that bad.

But I had already confirmed a second workshop the next day and unable to feign my death as school had already let out, I set to work to change everything I could to make the next day not be something for which the legal changing of my name would, afterwards, be a requirement.

Fortunately, the next day was in a dance studio with chairs that could be moved about. That changed things. And I added in as many interactive activities as I could. And I gave a powerful heart to heart at the end of the day which had students coming up with tears, telling me it had been the most powerful day of their lives. Myself and my friends were stunned at the turn around from one day to the next.

I ended up leading that workshop about 80 times. By the time I’d done my last one, the refinements I was making were so subtle that no one but myself would ever have noticed them but I knew they were making my events better.

 

Reflection #26 – Be Trustworthy:

Do you due diligence. Know the risks. This is why apprenticeship is so important.

If you want to trust yourself, then you need to be worthy of that trust. Don’t focus on courting trust. Focus on being trustworthy.

If you’re doing something that could put people’s lives at risk, you’d better put in the time that’s needed to make sure you’ve done everything you can to make it safe.

If you’re leading an emotional process, don’t go further than you know how to go. People are counting on you. When you act in a way that is worthy of that trust, you’ll feel so much stronger. And it’s important to distinguish between the non-action of obsessing about what might, possibly go wrong and the real world work or preparing for those things.

There is nothing that will make you feel more confident at a baseline level than having all of the bases covered.

Action: Make a list of everything that could possibly go wrong when you offer what you offer and then come up with a plan to either eliminate that risk or to deal with the worst case scenario if it should ever happen.

 

532948_1002840949731014_2320471839994335280_nReflection #27 – You’re Going to Fuck Up:

No matter how much you apprentice, learn and master you’re craft, you will still make mistakes.

The question of, “How can I proceed in such a way that no one ever gets hurt?” is a set up for pain. Someone will get hurt at some point. That’s life. You’re going to disappoint people. Sometimes you’ll disappoint others because you stretched too far. Other times you’ll hurt yourself because you didn’t stretch enough. And vice versa.

If your metric for success is that you never fuck up anything, then give up now because it’s going to happen. But, when it does, you have a job. And the job is to learn, to make amends and then to be faithful to that learning.

Making mistakes doesn’t make you a failure. It gives you the opportunity to be human as you work to make meaningful amends that might even be a greater gift to the other and the community than the original gift you’d intended because not only do they, perhaps, get more value than they’d imagined, but the community gets someone who’s a bit wiser and more humble. And learning from our failures gives us, ironically, an incredible sense of self trust and confidence. Learning to trust ourselves is central to the process of creation.

“Many people misunderstand the concept of safety. They think they can gain it by protecting themselves from other people or choosing safe people. Safety actually occurs when we learn to trust our ability to take care of ourselves.” ~ Mary MacKenzie

And, in fact, the fact that you have failed in the past might be the most trustworthy thing about you.

When you fuck up use it as a chance to learn what you need to learn so you’re less likely to make that mistake again.

Whenever someone asks me for a refund on something, I get excited. I’m excited because I know something. I know that they are asking for a refund because what they got from me wasn’t what they wanted. More accurately, what they got from me didn’t match their expectation of it. They imagined it would be a better fit than it was. And this was created by my marketing. Something in the way I described it gave them a false impression. So, to me, these moments are golden. I always promptly refund the money and then ask them what I could change in my marketing that would have ensured they never would have bought it in the first place. And they always give me gems. That means a higher integrity in my marketing, a clearer understanding of what my product is and isn’t and less wasted time for everyone in the future.

But if you fuck up in a larger way that causes genuine harm, then you’ll need to do more than simply ask a question to learn. If you’re going to really make amends, that might take a lot of effort. But that effort you put into making things right is your education. It’s what ensures that you ‘get it’ at a level you never could have if you’d simply said, “Oops. Sorry.” and walked away. When you genuinely make things right, often at great cost to yourself, you walk away with a deeper inner strength, sense of integrity and feeling of readiness to carry yourself well in the future. If you really handle it, you will learn the true cost of laziness and selfishness. You’ll learn how cutting corners costs you more than you want to pay. It will make you a better craftsman of what you do.

Extra benefit, you get more permission to become cranky and curmudgeonly whenever you want at all the young whippersnappers who think they know it all. Bam!

 

10888363_10155030031730195_6054306267309366097_nReflection #28 – Stepping Up is Vulnerable:

“Give up the notion that you must be sure of what you are doing. Instead, surrender to what is real within you, for that alone is sure.” —Baruch Spinoza

There are no two ways about it.

Stepping up is vulnerable.

When you’re putting yourself into the world you can bet that all of your internal demons of ‘who does she think she is?’ are going to show up. You can bet that that’s going to come from the outside too. Luckily, you don’t need to please everyone.

Have you ever thought about how hard and humbling it is to actually show up like you do have something give (being full aware of your faults, lacks, needs, struggles, etc. and showing up anyways)? When will/would/could you ever be ready (beware those ever-elusive criteria)? To own your value and worth by sharing your creative output, your knowledge, your skills, your passions, your love -yup, that’s the other side of humility. Showing up and sharing yourself fully, to the degree it’s done in loving service, takes courage, humility, VULNERABILITY and love —for others AND for yourself.  You are 10,000 stories of fears overcome, of suffering endured (and not, we need those just as much), of miracles & doubts, of life-lessons; you are full of dreams, solutions & brilliant ideas; you have creative works -poems, songs, dances, art, projects —that would bless many people. If they only got to experience them. “But they’re not ‘ready’? not ‘perfected’? Consider them, as my father-in-law of late would say, as ‘perfect enough’. Sure, don’t be ‘more’ than you are…but also don’t be ‘less’. You’re a hell of a lot ‘more’ than you probably think you are. Consider the ‘more’ side, if you’re open to seeing/feeling/being/knowing that ‘more’ in yourself and others (Namaste), you might discover that it doesn’t even have a limit.” – Leif Hansen

Also, consider this possibility, the bigger the fear is for you, the more likely it is that you are aimed in the right direction.

 

Reflection #29 – When You’re Starting, Give Yourself More Space Than You Think You Need:

This is huge.

I remember a facilitation truism that I learned years ago. If you spend an hour on an experiential exercise, then give yourself an hour to debrief it too because that’s where most of the value will be harvested. If you are taking people on a ropes course and they have a fun time but you never talk about it, much of the benefit is lost. If you simply have a conversation about fear and trust, but don’t pair it with an experience, it will likely stay as theory and simply be an interesting conversation. It’s the combination of experience and reflection that gives these things their full measure of power.

And so it is with this learning you call being in business. When you first begin, consider giving yourself one hour to reflect on every hour you work with someone. If you lead a weekend long workshop, consider that you may need a weekend to reflect on what you learned from leading it.

If you really take this on (meaning if you really take seriously the proposition that your work is actually just the continuing education in which you’re engaged) then you’ll realize that it may ask more of you than you’d initially bargained for. If you plan to really be responsible about your work and to master your craft, you’ll see what the actual demands are. And it might be a price that’s too high to pay. Good to know. Let yourself walk away in good conscience.

It will also lift up that your life may be, currently, too full for you to really learn well.

It may not always be a 1:1 ratio, but when you’re starting off, you could do worse than to take this into consideration and put it into practice.

 

Reflection #30 – Your Failures Are Your Credentials:

It’s easy to get lost in, “But I can’t teach this. My life has been such a wreck. I’ve made so many mistakes.

But those mistakes are actually what make you trustworthy to the people you want to help.

The fact that you’ve overcome some of your own struggles in, perhaps the deepest source of credibility you have.

Our deepest wounds are often not only the doorway to our trust niche but what make us trust worthy.

It’s the genius of Alcoholics Anonymous, partnering those just coming in with those who’ve been there too but are a bit further down the path.

Looked at another way: I’ve often heard it said that “we teach what we most need to learn (and needed) to learn.”. This reminds us that we never stop learning. That because of the wounds we’ve received in our life and because of the nature of who we we are when we’re born – we find ourselves, in this world, curious about certain things. Drawn to things. Needing to know about things.

We try things and they don’t work. And we wonder why. We try to be healthy – but we get sick. We want to be happy but find ourselves depressed. We want to make a good living – but find ourselves broke.

And in our struggle to figure out how it all works, we learn things.

Things we quickly take for granted as if everyone knew them.

That’s the assumption that has us feel as though we’ve got nothing much of value to offer.

We look at what we know and think to ourselves, “Sure, but everyone knows that.” I encourage you to ask yourself if that’s really true.

We all struggle with things (e.g. dating) and so we try to learn about them. And this learning gives us things to share (e.g. becoming a dating coach).

And this truism reminds us that the best way to learn anything is to teach it – to sit back, reflect and ask ourselves, ‘how could i express this so that others would understand it?‘ And in our efforts to articulate and express the thing we know from our own experience – we come to understand our own experiences better. And understanding our experience helps us hone our own particular point of view and map on the best way to make it from point a to point b. The clearer our map is, the more trusted we are. But, if we’d had no first hand experience of struggling on the terrain, we’d never make such a fine and helpful map in the first place.

Your failures aren’t a reason for you to opt out, they’re the prime reason potential clients want to opt in.

To make this one even better, your past failures and current foibles are actually also what make you human and relatable. My colleague Meredith Broome put it brilliantly when she said, “I like to remind people (and myself) that we are humans working with humans, and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way. Nobody actually wants to work with a know-it-all. I know that for me, the second I think I have the answers to someone else’s life is the second I have stopped listening to them. In the coaching profession, I think that’s a kind of violence we risk doing to our clients, to stop listening. The second you have it all figured out is the second you stop learning and growing. And that’s usually when clients stop showing up, or its hard to sustain your practice, right?”

Your failures are your credentials because they were your most important education.

 

Reflection #31 – This is Not About Self Worth: 

At least not entirely. And, again, this idea might just save you years of therapy.

When talking about ‘not feeling ready’, I think it’s useful to remove ‘self worth’ from the conversation because it can be a terribly seductive red herring. It’s something I’ve written about extensively in my post Charging what you’re worth is bullshit.

In fact, the way we make it about ourselves and take it so personally is telling.

There can be a kind of narcissism here where we obsess about how we’ll be seen by others. The story of Narcissus, in brief, is thus: there’s a guy. He has a fling with a goddess. He’s a cad of a man. She’s upset. She curses him to fall asleep and fall impossibly in love with the first thing he sees when he wakes up. When he wakes up he looks into the body of water he’s sleeping by and sees his own reflection. He falls in love with it so much that he falls into the water. Many take the message of this to me, ‘don’t fall too in love with yourself’ but the message is actually, don’t fall in love with your reflection. Don’t fall in love with how others see you and base your self worth on that. If you base your self worth on what others are willing to pay you or whether they think you’re ready or not, you’re in for one hell of a roller coaster ride.

This constant focus on ourselves can be a slippery, spiralling slide into neuroses.

What does a reflection need to survive? Your presence. When you withdraw it, the reflection goes away.

So I commend, withdrawing your attention from yourself and pouring it into creating beautiful things. When you do that you might just find that the self doubt goes away because you’re no longer paying attention to your self. Stop obsessing, start creating. Stop journalling and start making your art.

I’ve seen so many people spend years trying to get their thoughts perfect, their sales letter exactly right, their website perfect before starting when they should have been getting out there and giving talks and learning as they went.

 

10402504_10155030021850195_1946557437040297243_n

 

Reflection #32 – Remember Why You’re Drawn to do it in The First Place:

It can be easy, in the midst of our fears that we’re not enough, to lose track of why we are drawn to do this work in the first place.

My colleague Curt Rosengren shared these words when I asked about this topic, I would be inclined to ask questions that expand the focus beyond their limited-self focus. For example.  1. Why do you feel called to do it? (Put the focus on what inspires them about the idea, rather than their own sense of insufficiency). 2. What difference does this have the potential to make? How could doing this work change the world for the better? 3. If doing this work wasn’t about you (if it was solely about the impact it makes), would you do it?  4. If you have the gift to do this work, and the world needs this work, who are you *not* to do it?

You can read more blog posts on this notion of discovering your why here.

Action: Journal about why you felt drawn to this work in the beginning.

 

Reflection #33 – Make Your Case As To Why You Can’t Do It, And Then Debunk It:

My colleague Curt Rosengren shared these words, “I might also be inclined to have them make a case for why they can’t do it, and then have them refute that case, point by point. Maybe even have them make a counter-case for why they can. The more clarity people have about the stories they’re making up (and it’s all made up – some of the stories are just more productive than others), the more potential they have to shift into a more supportive story.”

Action: Do that thing described above.

 

Reflection #34 – Give Your Clients Some Credit:

This isn’t an excuse to be careless or to feign greater expertise than you have, but give people some credit in making their own choices. If someone gets hoodwinked by a charlatan, yes, there’s a lesson around integrity for the charlatan, but there’s also some lessons there for the one who got conned. If people fall for a fake guru, there are lessons for them in how they fell for it. All you can do is do the best you can. I’ve had people sign up for workshops and, because they hadn’t read the sales letter, demand a refund. Not my fault. Did I learn from that and make systems to make sure it didn’t happen again? Sure. But the people spending money have their responsibility too.

 

Reflection #35 – Your Story and Point of View Has Value: 

It’s easy to feel like ‘it’s all been done’.

It’s easy to look at the market place and think, “Oh man. There’s nothing I could possibly add here.”

And maybe you don’t have anything to add yet.

But it doesn’t mean you never will. And, just because the market seems flooded doesn’t mean that other voices aren’t needed desperately.

Consider this: have you ever gone to a seminar or class on a topic and found yourself totally confused only to have another teacher explain it in such a way that you totally got it? Something about the examples they used or the way they broke it down had it land inside of you with a solid ‘thunk’. Imagine if they’d decided, ‘There are already so many people teaching this. I’m not needed.’

Imagine if a musician listened to Bob Dylan and thought, “I’ll never be better than that” and decided to quit music and thus selfishly robbed the world of what he had to give.

I teach marketing. You might have noticed that there are quite a lot of other people out there doing it. And yet it never occurred to me not to do it because of that. And here I am with over 10,000 people on my email list years (and an appalling lack of effort and strategy) later. There are a lot of people who seem to like what I say and how I say it.

Because of your life story, you bring a unique perspective and point of view to any issue with which you’re grappling. Don’t discount that. That doesn’t honour all of the investment that people and this world have poured into you just to get you here.

And this video by Marie Forleo says it so well…

 

Reflection #36 – You Can’t Charge For Your Gifts

I leave you with this final thought from Mark Silver to meditate on.

Here’s the truth that I’ve seen: we can’t charge for our gifts. The Divine gives always to the human. We can be humble enough to receive from others, and we can be plugged in enough to let the love come through us to others. Like this image below...”

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mariannewilliamsonquote

 

More Resources:

Check out Seth Godin’s new book Your Turn.

My ebook, The 22 Myths of Building Your Practice

To help you uncover your niche (the place you’re most likely to do well in business) go to www.NichingSpiral.com

Guest Post: How to Approach Hubs and Potential Clients Cold

 A few months ago, Tova Payne reached out to me to see if she could write a guest post.

I say ‘no’ to most of these. I get a lot of requests.

But, the way she reached out and the subject piqued my interest. Only today, did I dig into what she sent and I am incredibly impressed. As someone who is a hub in a number of arena’s I can attest strongly to the importance of what Tova is articulating here. It’s very aligned with a post Ari Galper wrote years ago. I wish everyone reached out to me in the way she is suggesting.

I don’t recommend the cold approach as a core tactic in your marketing, but, sometimes, it’s what you have to do. And there are ways to do the cold approach that feel classy and other ways that feel slimy, awkward, confusing and uncomfortable.

If you are thinking of reaching out to potential hubs or clients via email, please read this first.

This approach, tailored for your own voice, is pressure free and will help to build trust and position you as a generosity based business. This is a beautiful slow marketing approach.

This type of approach highlights the importance of creating a ‘free gift’ that you can offer people. Mostly, you’ll use it as thanks for people signing up to your email list but you could also use it as a gift in an approach like this. And, once you’ve made contact in this way, you’re ready to open up a conversation about working together.

And her post inspired me to share a bunch more examples that are aligned with her approach. 

 

Guest Post: Slimy vs. Classy Marketing & Sales

by Tova Payne

Have you ever experienced slimy marketing? 

I have. It makes my stomach churn just thinking about it. Someone I had interacted with in an online networking group took a jab at me with a sleazy sales tactic. I thought: this is pretty lame and showcases a clear example of what NOT to do when it comes to marketing and sales. 

I’m turning my experience into today’s lesson:

We’ll take a look at the difference between slimy vs. classy marketing, and showcase how class and integrity go a long way in building a successful business.

Here’s what happened:

I got an e-mail out of the blue (which is what cold-calling is internet-style), that basically said: “Looks like your programs are fantastic. But until you fix you’re website I can’t refer anybody to you eventhough I want to. Luckily my course will help fix you right up. Join my course, you need it.”

Let’s break down why this kind of marketing is so bad (if you aren’t already laughing in disbelief). 

First of all, she never opened up a dialogue with me. 

Since business is about relationships—you first need to meet the person. 

If you are going to write somebody out of the blue—somebody who has never been a past client, or somebody who has never reached out to you for help, you need to start off saying hi. Introduce yourself first. And then, ask them if they want to hear more about your topic. 

Basically—say hi and find out if they even want to know what you have to offer. Don’t force-feed your opinions on others. 

Don’t be manipulative. Telling someone their work is great, but that you can’t refer people because of image is bullshit (or extremely shallow). When you believe someone’s work is great, and if you really want to refer others—you will. So please—don’t ever buy into this line. It is total B.S

Don’t put someone down just to show off how you can be the saviour. That stinks. Seriously, this is where the negative connotations and images of marketing come from. 

Basically, don’t try to bully someone into thinking they need you. Don’t ever put somebody down to sell your product. That is what Slimy Marketing 101 is about. It doesn’t work. And if you get someone who falls for it, it won’t last for long-term business building (and p.s—please don’t fall for this). 

Look—if you’re in business you need to participate in marketing and sales, especially if you’re a start-up. However there is a classy and kind way to do it.

Here’s the thing: marketing is another way of saying: sharing and sales is another word for saying caring.

Seriously—if you have something you think is fantastic—you will tell everyone about it (marketing) and if you really care about helping someone you will do your best to make sure they recieve what they need (sales).

This is why it’s important to create a positive mindset around marketing and sales. If you see it from the eyes of sharing and caring—of course you’d wake up everyday excited to get your message, product, and service out there.

But it’s important that you market and sell from a place of humanity and kindness. 

Mean marketing stinks of desperation. Don’t do it. You’re better than that. Instead be kind. You can share what you have with the world in a kind and classy way.

So it’s all about how you do it.

Let me spell it out

Marketing + Sales = Sharing + Caring

This means: 

Yes, tell people about what you have to offer. This is what newsletters, blogs, webinars, videos, and sales pages are for.

Yes, contact people who you think may be a good fit for what you have to offer and people who have reached out to you asking for help.

Yes, you can “cold call” or “cold write” someobody. But do it from a place of caring and focus on building a relationship first. Remember, if you met someone in real-life—how would you start the conversation? Treat people like humans. They are real and they have feelings. Be kind.

If you cold-call/cold-write—come from a place of curiosity. Ask the prospect if they are interested in hearing more about your subject matter. This is a good lead into building the relationship and seeing if they are even interested in the product or service you have.

Yes, share some free advice to show people that you know what you’re talking about.

Yes, be kind and loving when you tell people what you have to offer.

Here is what NOT to do:

Do not put someone down to try to make them feel bad and vulnerable so that their confidence takes a hit and they feel they need your product or service to get better.

Do not tell someone that they are doing something wrong if they haven’t asked.

Do not give unsolicited advice in a private e-mail if the prospect never reached out to you.

If you sincerely feel you can help somebody introduce yourself. You can let someone know about what you do and what you’re passionate about. There is no need to put a prospect down in order to share what you have to offer. 

If you truly believe somebody is doing something that can hurt them, share with them some free information that can truly help them.

So let’s put this all into perspective. Had that e-mail I recieved gone something like this, it would have been classy:

E-mail 1:

Hi. I think your work is fantastic. Let me know if you’re interested in some free tips that I think you may find helpful.

Aha! That would have piqued my curiosity and probably would have recieved a reply.

Email 2:(remember this is what relationship building is)

Oh awesome, Im so excited to share this with you. Ok here are 3 things that I think you might find helpful: {list 3 helpful things} … Please let me know what you think. I hope that helps!

That’s what it means to be helpful and show off your expertise. Dont tell someone you’re amazing, SHOW them.

Then, I’d definitely reply to such a helpful e-mail. When somebody is helpful, they are memorable and seen in a positive light. In my mind, I would have seen this person as generous, smart, and may have even gone on to hire them or refer them!

And finally, Email 3:

Oh Great. I’m so happy that helped. If you want more tips or strategies I have a course you may be interested in—here is the link. Let me know if you want to talk about it and we can set up a time to chat. Otherwise, I wish you the best.

Aha. You know what? Whether I purchased or not, in my mind I’d see this person as kind, helpful, be a possible future customer or defintley help support and refer her. 

Do you see the difference now between slimy marketing versus classy marketing?

What I received was a sample of slimy marketing—there’s no need to put someone down in order to go for the sale.

What would have worked? The example I just gave you—build rapport, be helpful, and then move towards discovery: find out if the person is interested in what you have.

Yes, it takes more time. Yes, it takes more effort. Yes, it takes generosity, and seeing the other person as a human and not just a pocket-book.

Remember—slimy marketing oozes of desperation. It may work on some people, but it won’t take you far. And it could earn you a bad reputation.

Be kind first. Open the dialogue. Give first. If you are truly helpful—people will remember you, buy from you or atleast support and tell others about you (which is worth way more than a quick sale).

Now go on—get out there. Market and sell with kindness and class. There are people who need you. 

tovaTova Payne Bio:

Tova’s an Author and Business Coach to Soulful Entrepreneurs. She helps her clients turn business dreams to reality by giving the practical strategies and soulful practices that help you go from idea to finished product. For your free guide on 5 Keys to Starting and Finishing your Dream Project and weekly tips to grow your business sign up with Tova at www.tovapayne.com

Come hang out with Tova on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TovaPayneEmpoweredLiving

And say on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TovaPayne

 

 

Personally, I would reword Email #1 in this way:

Hi. I think you’re work is fantastic. I came across it (tell them how you did and how long ago). I really love (tell them specifically what you love). I was wondering if you were wanting to/struggling with (name the problem you think you might be able to help them solve or the result you think you could help them achieve)? I was looking at your website/ebook etc. and had some thoughts I thought might be useful. Regardless, thank you so much for all of your good work.

The key thing here is that we don’t make the assumption that we can absolutely help them. We don’t assume they are even having the problem we can solve or want the result we offer. We’re genuinely asking just to see if it’s a fit. When we come from this place and, instead of trying to force everything into a single email, it becomes a conversation not a pitch.

This is the identical approach that I have used myself for years and years when approaching hubs. 

Start with a very brief, non-assumptive email to see if there’s a baseline fit and let it flow from there. Hubs are busy. Potential clients (even if not as busy as hubs) have no idea who the hell you are.

Like Tova, I’ve been approached in ways that instantly turned me off. And, I’ve saved a number of them because I knew that, one day, I would write a post like this. I’ve changed or removed the names.

Some people think I email them too many things from colleagues. But they have no idea how much I filter out. 

Let the horrors begin…

 

Eleven Examples of How Not to Approach a Hub:

Example #1: MLM Company

Hi!

Don’t worry this is not a spam message, I am the Webmaster of _________, just inquiring on selected high quality blogs like yours if you are open for guest posting opportunities. I have read your blog and thought that it is related to my site and therefore I am asking if I can share some insights or an article on your blog.

With this venture, we can help you in sharing your blog through our social networks and get some links for your site plus I can also get some exposure for my company.

I’ve actually prepared a proposed topic for your blog:

*Online Marketing: Money in Every Click
*Earn Money the Fast Way with Internet
*Market Online, Earn Big Time
*Building A Career Through Multi-level Networking
*MLM is The Ladder to Success
*MLM: The Secret of Rising Companies

Just choose a topic that you like but if you want me to write a different topic, I will be glad doing that also. For reference of my writing style, kindly visit my personal blog: (http://website.com)

Thank you for your time and consideration. Just e-mail me back for your response.

Sincerely,
__________ Webmaster

My take: This reads like a form email. But only, to be fair, because it is a form email. I’m a selected ‘high quality blog’? How wonderful. I’m so flattered by the generic compliment. So meaningful. He asks if I’m open to guest posting opportunities. He could have just sent that as an email and he would have gotten a response. ‘Hey there, are you open to guest posts?’. Short and sweet. It’s not the best option but it likely would have gotten a reply like, ‘Sometimes. Can you tell me more?’ And then we’re in a conversation.

He tells me he’d share my blog through his social networks but I have no idea if they’re a fit or how large his networks are. And then, he shares to topics. They’re all MLM focused. None of them resonate with me in particular. 

This isn’t the worst email but it would have worked better with a shorter first email.

Example #2: Promote My Book, Please?

Greetings Tad, I am Jane Doe I am a book author and writer aged 20. My Book is called __________. the book is an inspirational book aimed at anyone who has a dream to achieve. The reason I am contacting you is that I need a hand with marketing, can you email your fans and bloggers and inform them about my book?God Bless!

This email is very sweet and sincere. But I’m not going to email my entire list about a book I’ve never read from a stranger. I love that she had the gumption to ask and a slower, relationship building approach might have yielded more fruit. 

Example #3:  Share My Page, Please?

Hey, i’m just getting my page going and was wondering if you could please help me out with a share? Thanks a ton

Is it too much to ask for some foreplay?

I’ve never met this person. I have no idea who they are. Why would I share their page? What’s in it for me? The spirit of this kind of email misses, so deeply, the nature of being a hub. When you’re a hub, you are very careful about what you endorse or send out. 

Example #4: Share My Blog, Please?

Hello,
Would you be interested in networking?
It would be awesome if you could write a blog post about my business www.website.com with a couple anchored keywords.
In exchange I would give your Facebook page a bunch of shares on www.Facebook.com/pagename
or on www.facebook.com/otherpagename
or on www.facebook.com/stillanotherpagename
or a combination of them, whatever helps you the most.
Let me know if you’re interested? Thanks!

“It would be awesome if you could write a blog post about my business”… something about that didn’t feel great. Very assumptive. Like, “You know what would be awesome. You dating me. It would be awesome if you could do that.”

If, instead, they’d said something like the following, they’d have gotten a response.

“Hey there, I am a big fan of your blog and I have a few businesses that I thought might be a fit to be featured on it but I wasn’t sure and wasn’t even sure if you do that sort of thing. So, I thought I’d touch base. Thanks for all that you do.”

Example  #4: Share My Completely Irrelevant Blog, Please?

Hi there,

How are you? This is NAME from USA. I have a keen interest in studying metal treatment and I love to share my knowledge with people. I have my personalized Blog specially dealing with Metal Rust.
Basically, I wanted to touch base with you to check if you accept posts from other writers to publish on your blog? I would too like to contribute my uniquely written creative posts about Metal Treatment on your site. We all know that metals have become a part of our daily life, especially Stainless Steel. I would like to share a few points about how they can be maintained. That will offer a real value to your readers as well.

The following link will lead you to a recent Guest Post that I have written.
http://completelyirrelevantblogpost.com/

Please let me know your thoughts. Looking forward to hear from you soon!

No response was given.

Example #5: Want to Share a Totally Off Topic Blog, Please?

Hi

I have noticed you’ve had a number of guest blogs on http://marketingforhippies.com before, including this post on eco-friendly advertising:

http://marketingforhippies.com/eco-friendly-advertising/

I just wondered if you would be interested in publishing a blog on “Seven appliances you didn’t know were costing you money”?

I’ve attached the blog for your consideration.

If you have any questions or feedback then please get in touch. Alternatively, if you’re interested in any other type of guest blog, please let me know also.

Thanks,

Ahhh! He started so strong! He mentioned my website name! He even named a particular blog he liked! And then …. what? How did he think that topic would fit a blog about marketing. It makes no sense. And why would I contact him for another type of blog post? Who are you appliance man? Who arrrre youuuuu?

Example #6: May I Totally Confuse You, Please?

Hi Tad,

Hope all is well.

I recently attended an event with Kenny and his wife who are wonderful heart-centered people. I made them aware of a Consciousness Party that I Am hosting in Calgary that I would love to drop into a deeper conversation with you around.

If this is something that feels right for you can reach me at  .

Take good care.

in Heartfelt Appreciation,
Name
P.S. You can also text me at __________

What? I have no idea what she’s asked about. At all. What is the Consciousness Party? Why should I care? What kind of conversation does she want to have with me and why? Whaaaa?

So, in confusion, I replied.

hey there,

sorry for the delay. can you give me a nutshell of what it is you’d like to talk with me about around this?

– t

To which she replied.

Hello Tad,

Hope all is well in your world.

I appreciate You taking the time to get back to my request.

I Am at an Amazing part in my life and fully embracing that the challenges I’ve experienced are now my gift. I Am honouring my true authentic power and my desire to align myself with those that embody the same essence.

Kenny had mentioned that You would be a powerful connection for the Consciousness Party that I Am creating in Calgary the evening of DATE. I Am flying up a woman who has been doing training for Google to share some of her expertise with those that attend.

I would love the opportunity to share more about this experience with You and if it feels right intention for You then You may choose to share it with your community.

Take good care.

WHAT IS THIS PARTY?! WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?! WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME?!

Pro Tip: Never ever, ever confuse a hub. They will write you off so fast. For a hub, the most valuable commodity is their time. Do not waste it. 

Her follow up email confused me even more. Why is there a woman doing a training for Google at a party? Why do I care? And what’s up with all of the strange capitalization?

Example #7: Can We Book a Time to Talk, Please?

This one isn’t bad! I’d make it shorter first see if I’m even open to exploring join ventures but this email is okay.

Hello Tad,

My name is ______ and I’m the Joint Venture Manager for _________, founder of Coaching Business Name. We found your website and your work seems to be aligned with us and what we love to promote! I’d like to connect with you to see how we can best support each other in 2013! I’d like to learn what you’re planning for this year and share a few things from our promotional calendar.

To schedule an appointment, could you fill out some brief information by clicking on the link below. This will help us see what may be a best match and how to best serve your organization.

http://websitename.com/jvsurvey

Our goal is to build synergistic relationships that are profitable and fun on all levels using the spiritual principles we teach and practice. We have an experienced JV Team in place capable of handling every aspect of any type of campaign or promotion.

Hope to speak to you or someone in your organization soon!

So, this one isn’t terrible but it’s a bit assumptive. I don’t know why it feels like a fit for them. There’s an assumption in the email that there is a fit here and we just need to figure it out. And, for me, whenever a stranger emails me saying ‘How can I help you?’ I read that as ‘I actually want you to help me but I figure that I’ve got a better chance of getting that if it seems like I want to help you.’ 

Example #8: Can You Promote My Unrelated Program, Please?

Okay. This one is longer so I’ll pull it apart piece by piece.

Aug. 30, 2012

Hello Ted Hargrave,

You misspelled my name. And used my full name (this makes you seem like spam or my angry mother and neither of associations those help you).

My name is ______; I’m a high school principal with an area of expertise that I believe many on your list of contacts would welcome hearing about: Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

What? How do you see the connection between Emotional Intelligence and marketing? I don’t get it. What problem does this solve for my clients?

I’ve created a School for Emotional Intelligence with a 6 week program entitled _____________. It’s a telecourse so people living anywhere can access it. I deliver it live weekly, repeat it regularly, and I provide e-mail support and enrichment after every lesson.

Why do I care about the details when I don’t see the relevance of the offer? I don’t.

My program sells for $197 and the affiliate commission for each referral is $100. Would you like to partner with me as an affiliate in a joint venture by informing your contacts my course exists?

This fellow is making the false assumption that the only reason I would spread the word about something is to make some money. I’m not against making money but, talking commission comes in Email #2 at the earliest. Likely not til Email #3. The most important thing is, ‘Is there even a fit?’. 

If so, I’d be honored to work with you.

Naturally, before you’ll consider promoting my program, you’ll want to know these 3 things:

You’re already telling me what I want? Old Man Ted Hargrave is cranky.

1 – That having high Emotional Intelligence is a great asset which will interest a significant percentage of those whom you contact. (Many people already realize that Emotional Intelligence is strongly correlated with performance and productivity – at work, at home, and at school – so they will understand its value either for themselves, or their children, or both.)

How is this relevant to my people???? I don’t care how abstractly valuable this is. I care if this is useful to my clientele.

2 – That I have the knowledge and skill to teach my program at a high level. (My websites include my qualifications and testimonials.)

I don’t care unless this is relevant. But I’m sure that will be your next point.

3 – That you’ll be assured of receiving your commissions. You can collect the tuitions yourself if you prefer, and send me my share when the course is over. Or I can do that using a company with affiliate tracking software to identify all your referrals and credit them to you (they’d register via your affiliate link).

I don’t care. Strike three.

If you wish, I’d be happy to help you promote my program to your contacts. How?

I’m sure you would. 

1 – I could conduct a free preview teleseminar so they could easily judge for themselves if my program is a good fit for them or their children. If they then want to register for it, they would, of course use your unique affiliate link to ensure you are properly credited.

2 – I can provide a sales e-mail for you to copy, and then forward to your contacts. (Modify it any way you wish.)

I don’t care. 

You can view the details of my program – and its benefits – on either of my websites. One is for adults who desire to enhance their own Emotional Intelligence; the other is for their teenage children.

Ah. I see. To see how this might be relevant I need to go to your website. So, you’re making me work for something in which I currently see no value at all. Right.

www.websitename.com (specifically for youth)

www.websitename2.com (for adults)

Thank you for whatever consideration you grant this proposal. If you are interested, please contact me. And if you have no interest, I’d really appreciate an e-mail just to say, “No thanks,” so I’ll know not to bother you with any follow-up to this.

Say what? You’re now pushing me to respond? You’re putting that subtle obligation on me after totally wasting my time in reading this? No sir.

I can’t offer a cross promotion of what you offer (I’m on your list) since I lack any list of my own. That’s why I’m reaching out to you as a potential affiliate. I believe we can both benefit.

Sincerely,

name

contact info

P.S. If you promote my program, it will prove to be a win-win-win:

1 – Those completing the course – teens or adults – will enhance their EQ (and EQ correlates with happiness more than IQ).
2 – You’ll be providing value to your contacts, and you’ll also receive $100 for all who take the course.
3 – I’ll earn a portion of each tuition, plus the opportunity to share my expertise with a new audience.

You have not shown me how this will be a win to my list. I do not see the fit at all.

Thanks again for considering this. I look forward to your response – either way. And should you choose not to become involved, I wish you every success in what you are already doing.

I like this last line. That’s very kind of him.

I have no doubt he is a very good man who is offering something very good to the world. But, the email he sent is a pitch, not an opening of a conversation. It’s so long. And he doesn’t clarify why he thinks it’s relevant to my people. When a hub gets the feeling that, ‘this email could be going to anyone… this is a template…’ the chances are extremely high that you will lose their attention.

Example #9: Can You Promote My TeleSummit, Please?

Hi Tad,

I hope you are doing well. I would like to invite you to collaborate with us at “WebsiteName.com” and speak in one of our upcoming virtual events, possibly in January.

My name is John Doe, I have developed BusinessName to provide valuable and relevant marketing and personal development information and resources to coaches, consultants, and other service professionals and connect them with the best experts in the industry.

I was on one of your calls and would love to collaborate and share your thoughts with others. Also, I would like to invite you to our January Virtual Event that is about developing a 6 figure business.

http://www.websitename.com/jan-2013-6-figure-marketing-mindset-strategies

I would like to discuss these opportunities with you as soon as possible, when would be a good time to connect with you?

Mike

This one isn’t too bad. But, when someone says, ‘We’d like to invite you to speak at an event’ how I hear that (as someone who is approached all the time) is ‘We’d like you to promote our event with at least one solo email to your list and we figure getting you, who has a sizable following, to do that is to have you as a guest speaker.’  This actually seems like it could be relevant to my people. But, again, if it had started with some brief and specific appreciation and an opening question like, ‘Do you speak in telesummits these days?’ or ‘I’ve been working on something that I think could be of some use to the life coach and service provider types on your list in helping them with _______ problem’ or something, it might have grabbed me more. This seems relevant but generic. And, the whole six figure thing feels a bit burned out these days for me.

Example #10: I’m Famous So Promote Me, Please?

Again, I’m going to insert comments throughout this one because it’s a bit longer.

Hi Tad:

You spelled my name right! You’re doing much better than that last fellow…

You were recommended! Some points:

Wait… recommended by whom? For what?

¨ We live in Brentwood Bay, BC – just a few seconds away from Butchart Gardens

Nice.

¨ We have run an international company for 20 years

Okay…

¨ We are known for our Life and Business Coach Training

Are you?…

¨ I am famous in India as NAME but not well known outside of India

Okay… That sounds feasible but also kind of bragging. And… I think India is full of a lot of famous people.

¨ I am a Canadian best-selling author of many books including my latest release Book Name

Hrmm. It’s not hard to become a best seller by getting #1 on Amazon for two minutes. But that’s different than being a best seller for a few weeks. 

¨ I am the developer of multi-award winning coaching and leadership methodologies

You seem to be working very hard to impress me and I still have no idea why you’re writing me. 

¨ I am the developer of human potential products that would blow your mind. They are very powerful. For example, Product Name.

Aaaand you’re really starting to lose me. Arrogance is incredibly unattractive.

¨ We would like to work with an ethical company who is willing to make several million dollars from our human potential products.

This sounds like someone on the edge of delusion and who takes themselves very seriously. Danger Will Robinson. Danger.

¨ I have many of these human potential products wishing to come out of my head as soon as we launch the current ones! (My husband and Co-President John tells me to stop creating and start marketing!)

Your husband is a wise man. And I know the feeling about having so many products in your head. Totally. I’m feeling connected to you here.

¨ We would like this ethical marketing company to work on the basis of “you develop the strategies and implement them to make the millions and you then share in the financial glory”.

Ahhh. Translation, ‘You work for free for a long time and maybe make some money. If it fails it will be 100% because of your terrible marketing. Definitely not because of us. Because we’re amazing. As I think we might have mentioned (amazing!)’

¨ Please don’t look at our main website and think “Oh my God, these people need work.” We know we need work and are working on it.

Thank you for being human! I feel connected to you again.

¨ Your job would not be to help us fix our main website which is mainly about our services. Your job is to help us market our incredible products – not our services.

Ah! I am finally getting clear about what you want! And I totally don’t offer that service. If she had just emailed me saying, “I was wondering if you help other people market their products for them. Is that something you do?” she would have gotten her answer so much faster.  

If you are interested in this fab opportunity to work with some very cool, spiritual and values-based folks, let’s set up an interview .

I think I’d think you were cooler and more spiritual if you didn’t keep telling me you were. 

We require that you be honest, loving and compassionate. Only marketing tactics with integrity are tolerated.

Oh! Requirements on me already? I’m already being asked to jump through hoops to prove myself so you can bring me on to work for free?

PS Are you raw vegan? Just noticed a mention on your site. I have been vegan for years and love the raw vegan movement. Very cool.

Not anymore. 

With God’s Love from another Hippie!

I like that ending.

So I replied to make sure I was clear.

hey there,

thanks for reaching out. just home from a big trip to the uk. just to clarify, you’re wanting to get some marketing support and guidance and are considering me and your thought is for the payment to be in commissions in some way?

– t

She wrote back…

Hi Tad: 

Happy Friday to you!

When we work with apps builders, we give them 50% of the revenue because of the enormous amount of work they put into the creation of the end product.

It’s a sound partnership because everyone has the same amount of influence in the success of the product.

For the rest of our products, where possible, we see a similar relationship. It’s a partnership. We have developed these extraordinary products. You, if the shoe fits, would develop the strategy to take them to the world in multiple languages and implement the strategy.

For the shoe to fit, you must be honest, ethical, passionate about our products and be noble in your marketing efforts. Nothing less would be accepted.

The company who wears the shoe would have the opportunity to put these products into the hands of all ages, in every country. From that opportunity they would see huge transformation happening in hearts and minds of corporate and government folks as well as Moms, Dads and children.

This, more than the revenue which would be substantial, is the real reason for joining hands with us. J

Blessings,

Again. The demands on me don’t feel great. I feel like I’m already being scolded. And her level of belief in the power of her products to change the world… is a bit disconcerting. I don’t feel a lot of humility and humanity here. I didn’t pursue this further.

Example #11: Promote My Women’s Group, Please?

The following email came from a woman who I didn’t know very well. Just out of the blue.

 

“Namaste Tad, I’m starting a free women’s group in CityName, including one hour meditation, sharing info, workshop, and just listening and receiving, we would love it if you could send me the first five female leaders that come to your mind, via Facebook, thanks, have a super fabulous day in the sunshine.”

What this has going for it is that it’s short and to the point. I’m very clear what she’s doing and what she’s asking of me. But this felt a little bit too assumptive and she posted it on my new profile picture rather than in a message. That felt strange. If you want to ask a favour, ask me personally and in private Why would I connect her with my key women’s leaders in her city (and I know many) if I don’t know her? This is an example of asking for too much too soon.

 

Four Examples of How to Reach Out To Hubs Well

Example #1: Can I Speak at Your Venue?

My dear colleague and client Russell Scott of www.truesourceseminars.com is looking to book a lot of talks for his wonderful work. Below are the emails we came up with together that he would use when reaching out to new age bookstores, yoga studios etc. This approach is deeply inspired by the work of Ari Galper on Cold Calling which you can learn more about at www.unlockthegame.com. His end of the whole conversation is basically mapped out. He can tweak these to suit their response, but their responses are going to be fairly predictable. 

Having this all mapped out makes the process of reaching out to hubs better for them and so much easier for you. We do a similar things when reaching out to guest experts for www.GreenDrinksYeg.com 

E-mail 1

I was wondering if you can help me out?

I was wondering if you ever bring in guest speakers or facilitators to present talks or workshops and who would I ask about this? (I am an author and an international seminar/retreat leader.)

I wasn’t sure if you book speakers or who to talk about this?

E-mail 1 (a) if they don’t get back 

I was just following up on my e-mail a few days ago.

No pressure but I was wondering if you ever bring in guest speakers or facilitators to present talks or workshops and who would I ask about this? (I am an author and an international seminar/retreat leader.)

I wasn’t sure if you book speakers or who to talk about this?

E-mail 2

Thanks so much for taking the time to get back to me.  I am sure you are very busy.

Here’s the nutshell: I am the author of the book “Awakening the Guru in You” and I have a new talk (related to my book) that is getting a great response and that I thought might be of interest to your community. There’s more info at this link: http://www.truesourceseminars.com/articles/from-confusion-to-clarity-an-experiential-workshop.html

I am not sure if it is a fit for your community but I’m happy to answer any questions you have.

I also give talks on other topics:

The Fulfillment Factor – the one thing that affects everything else in life

Beyond Belief – how to get unstuck and get moving in your life

Deep Calling – finding meaning and purpose in life

And, if these aren’t a fit, I’d be grateful for your guidance on good places to explore. Any support is warmly appreciated. 

Email 3

Here’s what has worked in the past for people like yourself in a similar business:

Let me know how long you want the talk. I can craft the talk to fit an hour or 2 hour time slot.

We set a date and time for the workshop preferably 6 to 8 weeks from now. 

You charge what you want for the talk and keep the proceeds or give a percentage to me according to what you usually do.  It would be good to have a discount for people that sign-up before the event. I can set-up a notice on Eventbrite for you if you like.

I’ll promote the talk to my network and provide you with a link to my website and promotional material: a poster, timed e-mails you can send to your list, pre-written facebook and twitter notices and even a blog-post if you want.

You promote the talk to your network of contacts and any other way you choose to let your community of people know about the event. This way the more people you get, the better it is for you.

At the beginning of the talk you can take a few minutes to tell the attendees about your business and then introduce me. I’ll provide you with a short bio.

At the end of the talk I’ll pass out a feedback form and let people know that they can sign-up for a complimentary mentorship session with me or request more information about what I do. I will not be doing any enrolling of people into any of my offerings at the workshop.

I’ll make my book available for purchase at the end of the talk.

How does this all sound to you? Do you have any questions?

 

Example #2: Can You Help Promote My Workshop Tour, Please?

When I was doing a tour of the Kootenays with my workshops I was faced with the reality that I knew almost no one. So, one thing I did was find a local New Age Magazine and start emailing people who had ads in it. A 100% cold approach. I normally wouldn’t recommend this but my options were slim.

hey jennifer,

i was wondering if you could help me.

i saw your profile in the holistic section of In The Koots and i thought you might have some ideas.

there’s a day long, pay what you can, marketing workshop i’m leading for holistic practitioners in Nelson this Friday (last minute – tied into a roadtrip and thought ‘why not?’) and it’s my first time doing anything in nelson. and i thought you might have some ideas on good places to spread the word about it. any guidance is so warmly appreciated. and nooo pressure. im sure you’re busy.

i hope your summer is going well :-)

Notice the lack of assumption in that email. And notice that I’m not even asking her for her help directly. I’m just asking for advice. My friend Julian Faid once shared some advice his father had given him, ‘If you want advice, ask for money. If you want money, ask for advice.’ This is so true. If you ask someone for money, they’ll often say, “You know how you get money…” and give you ideas. If you ask for their advice on how to get it, it takes all the pressure off and, if they see that it’s a fit for the kind of thing they might want to fund, they’ll say, “I could fund this…”.

I’ve found that starting with asking humbly for advice opens up conversations in a much warmer way (and results in you getting some amazing leads and ideas you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise). 

When someone gave me a name of someone to reach out to for the tour, I’d send some version of the following:

hey there ali,

aga suggested i drop you a line.

there’s a day long, pay what you can, marketing workshop i’m leading for holistic practitioners in Nelson this Friday (last minute – tied into a roadtrip and thought ‘why not?’) and it’s my first time doing anything in nelson. and aga thought you might have some ideas on good places to spread the word about it. any guidance is so warmly appreciated. and nooo pressure. im sure you’re busy.

i hope your summer is going well :-)

– tad

And, of course, The Kootenays are full of holistic healing schools which are a huge hub for me. So I’d send them some version of this email.

hey there,

i was wondering if you could help me.

there’s a workshop in Nelson this Friday that i thought might be of interest to some of your students and alumni – but i wasn’t sure who to talk to at your academy.

i hope your summer is going well.

warmest,
– tad

And then there were the holistic centers, spas and massage studios. They got this kind of email:

hey there,

i was wondering if you could help me.

there’s a workshop in Nelson this Friday that i thought might be of interest to some of your staff and associates – but i wasn’t sure who to talk to at your center about it all.

i hope your summer is going well.

warmest,
– tad

I got a very positive and helpful response to all of these emails and responses from most of the people. 

 

Example #3: Would You Help Me Promote My Workshop, Please?

When I was leading a workshop in Toronto that wasn’t filling as fast as I would have liked, I sent out some emails like this to local hubs. Please note: these are all friends and colleagues with whom there’s already some existing trust. And these were sent as individual emails, not a big group email. Though, in a pinch, you can get away with a group email to hubs who know and love you. 

hey there,

I’m going to be running another weekend workshop for holistic practitioners (and also invited eco-permaculture practitioner types too). It’s happening Nov 25-27th.

I think it’s going to be swell.

I could totally use a hand spreading the word about it. I was wondering if you would have five minutes to help? I’ve got something prewritten you can send out. I find it works best when people just email like 3-5 folks personally who they think might benefit and enjoy. and i figured you might know some folks in the scene.

Would you be down?

Warmest,
Tad

The typical response?

Dear Tad:
Of course. Just send it on!
Hope you’re doing well.

My response to that (already pre-written) was…

thank you!

so, this is the generic thing – feel free to tweak it as needed. putting it on facebook helps but i still find that the very most useful thing is when people take a minute or two to really consider particular folks who might be a fit for this and then send a personal email (edited template) to them telling them about it. it only takes five minutes but seems to have so much more impact. i’m super grateful.

‘Hey there,

A colleague of mine, Tad Hargrave, is holding a marketing workshop designed just for holistic practitioners and permaculture practitioner types and I thought you might be interested in attending yourself. It’s happening next weekend.

for more info or to register you can go to: http://www.marketing101forholisticpractitioners.com/weekend.php

let me know if you decide to go?

Again, instead of putting it all into one big pitch-based email, break it up into a few emails. Let is breathe a bit. 

 

Example #4: How Tova Approached Me to Write this Guest Blog Post

This blog post would certainly not be complete without showing how gracefully and graciously Tova landed this guest blog post (which I have, appallingly, hijacked).

Here was the first email she sent me on April 20th.

Hi Tad
My name is Tova, a fellow-Canadian out here in Vancouver :)
I love what you’re about, and especially love that you focus on marketing without sacrificing our integrity.
I wrote a post about this, which has not yet been published anywhere. I thought of you & your audience first, and wanted to see if you were interested in giving it a view. 
The subject is: Slimy VS Classy Marketing & Sales.
Please let me know if you would like me to send it over for your review.
And I wish you a wonderful weekend. Thanks for your consideration!
 
This whole email is perfect. She introduces herself warmly and makes the fellow Canadian connection. She moves to a specific appreciation that lets me know this is not a form email. And then she tells me about a post she’s already written. Honestly, when I saw that this was about a guest post, my heart sank a bit. I get so many of these requests. But then I saw the title. ‘That’s perfect for my audience!’ I thought. She then asked if I’d like to see it and ended with warm wishes and a humbled ‘thanks for your consideration!’. What’s not to love?
 
I replied.
 

tova,i’d love to explore that. can you send it to me in early june? i’m about to go into a busy season and don’t want to lose it.- t

 
She agreed and on June 3rd sent me the blog post. Which it then took me two weeks to read. And was brilliant. I’m so glad she didn’t offer it to anyone else and that I get to share it with you here.

 

Eight Key Points to Take from All of This:

  • A Short First Email: Make the goal of the first email to cut straight to the chase to see if there’s any possibility of a fit. If they’re even open to what you’re offering at all.
  • A Non Assumptive Approach: Don’t assume it’s a fit. Don’t assume they want what you’re offering.
  • Make it a Conversation: Instead of sending them a pitch, send them an invitation to open a conversation. And then let the conversation flow naturally. Take your time with hubs. They may need to get to know you first. It’s worth the investment. Take your time. Don’t propose marriage in the first email.
  • Be Okay With No: I might not want to say yes to this but there might be something i could say yes to down the road. If you’re gracious about my refusal, I am way more likely to be open to you in the future.  
  • Be Humble: Do not position it as an honour to work with you. That makes you seem arrogant. What impresses people isn’t over-confidence, it’s meeting someone who is composed and comfortable in their own skin.
  • Be Clear: Don’t confuse your hubs. 
  • Be Patient: Hubs are busy. It will take a long time to get a reply. Let it wait. Don’t push it. It’s okay to check in but don’t guilt trip them.
  • Ask for Advice: Consider asking for advice before asking for support from them. It gives them time to get to know you. If you ask for my advice and show me how well you used it, this will win me over big time. 

 

The Three Roles of Marketing

three-fingersThis is one of those things that is actually very important to get about marketing that I talk about really seldomly but should probably talk about more. 

When people are working on their marketing, I think that, often, they don’t really understand the role that their marketing needs to play. Or I should say ‘roles’ because there’s more than one. 

To give credit where it’s due, I learned this first from the incredibly useful marketing book Monopolize Your Marketplace by Richard Harshaw.

Most ads fail to meet these criteria. They talk all about the business. Which no one cares about. People care about their problems and the results they want. That’s it. 

 

The Three Roles of Marketing

 

The First Role of Marketing: Get their attention.

This one is, of course, primary. If we don’t have people’s attention, there’s no conversation to be had. Marketing must, first and foremost, get their attention. 

This is much harder than it looks because of the sheer number of marketing messages people get every day. And the number of stimuli people receive even outside of that (e.g. social media, texts, friends, emails etc.). People are already overwhelmed and in a bit of a haze. To break through that haze is difficult. Certainly you can use the shock factor to do it. But that doesn’t last. You can use pictures of naked people. You can use expletives. But those lose their effect over time. You can write a shocking (but ultimately misleading) headline, but it will result in people feeling tricked and then you become the little boy who cried wolf. You say in your email subject line, “A vulnerable secret I’ve never shared with anyone before . . .” and then the secret you share is clearly not that. People feel duped. It’s why we hate and distrust marketing so much. We are feeling constantly lied to and played with.

But here are some thoughts that are vital.

  • do a good job and get word of mouth: this is the bottom line. If you help a lot of people solve a problem they have or get a result they’re craving, they will tell everyone they know about you. That’s how word of mouth works and, ultimately, how the most sustainable businesses grow. 
  • have a niche: nothing gets attention better than good old fashioned relevance. If your headline speaks directly to their life, they will want to read the rest. If they can see, right away (from your business name, the headline of your ads or the images you use) that you specialize in people just like them . . . you will have their attention. 
  • figure out where their attention is already going: the core of everything I know about marketing is all about identifying and working with hubs effectively. Meaning . . . getting attention is hard when you take the cold approach of cold calling, direct mail etc. They already see you as marketing. But, if you can figure out where their attention is already going, you’ve got a much better chance. If you can figure out where they’re already looking for solutions to the problems you solves, they’re more likely to notice you. If, instead of sending a direct mail piece out to a list you bought, you got someone who your ideal clients deeply respected to send out a letter endorsing you . . . You’ll likely be flooded with business. There are seven general types of hubs. 

 

The Second Role of Marketing: Help them figure out if it’s a fit. 

Once you have their attention, you don’t have it for long. Now they’re noticing you but . . . are you actually relevant to them?

In direct response marketing they talk about the AIDA formula. Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. Once you’ve got their attention you need to move on to interest. 

But, here’s where I disagree with many of my colleagues. I don’t think that the role of marketing is to get them interested. After all, who is ‘them’? Them could be anyone. Them is everyone. And you don’t want everyone as a client (you really, really don’t). 

Why not?

Not everyone is going to be a fit for you. And, if they’re not a fit, they will be clients from hell. They’ll have bad experiences and tell their friends about it. Too many clients who aren’t a bad fit will kill your business.

You want clients who are a perfect fit for your business.

So, the purpose of marketing should not be about convincing everyone to buy from you. It should be about helping everyone decide if you’re a good fit for them or not. In the book Monopolize Your Marketplace, they word it as ‘facilitating the decision making process’ meaning that your marketing should help make it easier for potential customers to decide whether hiring your is the right thing or not. 

But to do that, we need to understand who would be a perfect fit for us. And to do that we need to really understand what it is we are offering and how we want to offer it because, ultimately, your ideal client (and this is so incredibly obvious that we often miss it) will have to be (absolutely, truly has so to be) someone who needs what you’re offering and loves how you offer it. 

And that level of clarity can take time to come to. 

But, once that clarity is there, then marketing becomes less about seducing and more about filtering. 

I wrote an epic blog post you can use to ask yourself some key questions about who your ideal client might be here

 

The Third Role of Marketing: Lower the risk of taking the next step. 

This is something that used to be the core of what I teach and that I haven’t written about much but intend to in the coming year. 

It’s vital.

I first came across this concept from Jay Abraham. But it shows up everywhere in marketing.

Here’s why this role matters. 

Someone could come across what you offer (you have their attention) and totally fall in love with it (it’s a fit) and still not buy.

Sometimes that has to do with timing. Sometimes it just takes awhile for it to be the right time. I imagine there’s a workshop or two you’d love to attend but the timing hasn’t worked out yet. Normal.

But very often it’s a matter of risk. Meaning: they’re scared that if they buy from you they’re going to either lose out on something they have or they won’t get something they want.

Those risks can be everything from: the fear of looking stupid, having to explain such a big purchase to a spouse, losing money on it, it not working and being a huge waste of time, the fear of getting ones hopes up only to be disappointed (again). So many risks. 

And most entrepreneurs are totally blind to this. They’re never put themselves in the shoes of their clients and asked themselves, ‘what might be scary about making this purchase?’.

It’s why bakeries, grocery stores and perfume shops give out free samples. It’s why you see so many ‘enter your email to get this ebook/video/free gift’ on people’s websites (I wrote a guide on how to build your email list by doing this for your website here). It’s why ice cream shops let you try a pink spoon of ice cream before you buy. ‘Try before you buy’ is not a new idea. It helps people move beyond just an intellectual relevance into action. It’s why you see so many websites with lots of videos. It’s why blogs work. They build the know like and trust factor. It’s why it’s important to not only offer big expensive things, but to also offer less expensive ones – so people can get to know you and take a step towards working with you. 

So, that’s it. Those are the three steps.

Look at every piece of marketing you ever do through the lense of these three roles.

Look at every part of your marketing strategy through the lense of these three roles. Every tactic.

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Principles & Seven Practices on Empathy in Marketing

1488065_10153719189940195_1474907090_nI want to make the business case that empathy, in a bottom line way, matters to your business.

That your business will grow faster and that you will get more of the kinds of clients you want with it. 

I want to make the case that really listening to people until they feel ‘gotten’  is a skill worth learning (and that it’s not what we often think it is).

I submit that your capacity to genuinely put yourself in the shoes of your existing and potential customers will make your business grow more than just about anything else.

Most of us think we’re very empathetic people – but I want to suggest that we often aren’t as much as we think we are. I think for most of us, myself included, there is a lot of room for growth here. 

I’ve written a lot of posts that weave around the theme of empathy. But I’ve never really written one that addresses it head on.

So, here it is. At size 12, Georgia font, it’s 33 pages long. It’s the result of my lifetime of understanding on this topic. It contains dozens of examples and stories. If you open up each link, you will have 29 new tabs opened up with dozens of pages of additional insights on this topic.

Once you’re done, it would mean the world to me if you shared your own stories and strategies in the comments below.

Let me get straight to the point of what’s in it for you to really get to grips with this empathy business.

 

How can developing your skills around empathy grow your business?

  • when people know that you really ‘get’ them they will relax and feel safe around you. Until people feel safe with you they won’t hire you.
  • when people feel safe around and understood by you they will tell you the truth about what’s ailing them which will allow you to make a better diagnosis which will mean you produce better results for them which will leave them more happy and telling more people about how great you are
  • empathy allows you to write the most compelling marketing materials possible. I would argue that, until you can put yourself in the shoes of your potential clients, your marketing materials will be lacklustre.
  • empathy, really knowing what it’s like for your potential client, allows you to design products and services they would love because you know what you would want in their shoes
  • you’ll get more honest feedback that will help you improve your business rapidly
  • potential clients who end up not working with you will still refer you because they felt so respected and understood by you

 

Let me start with a story . . .

A few weeks ago, I was looking for someone to help me through some recent trauma I’d gone through. I’ve been reading the fantastic book, ‘Waking the Tiger’ by Peter Levine about healing trauma and went online to see if there was anyone locally who was practicing his technique. There was and I sent her an email. She replied back and, in doing so, received my typical email autoresponder (context: sometimes my email inbox has 250 messages in it. Messages that I want to respond to personally rather than leave it to an assistant. I have no hope of getting back to all of them right away. Sometimes it takes weeks for me to. I could do it faster but I wouldn’t have a life. So, it’s important for me to let people know there may be a delay in me getting back to them and I try to sweeten that with some nice music and images). 

hello there,

a friendly automated response to you. 

thanks for emailing. i’m often a bit behind on my emails. 

I hope to be able to get back to you very soon. but, until I do, here’s some of my favourite music i’ve discovered for you: http://8tracks.com/tadlington/and also some inspiring and evocative images I’ve collected: http://on.fb.me/KMprgM

warmest,

tad

 
To which she replied, “I do not and will not open links from people I do not know!!!!”

I was genuinely shocked when I read those words. It felt like I was being yelled at and scolded for something that was clearly, clearly not warranting it. 

I replied, “This was an auto response email. i’m not sure the offer of good things offered with good intentions warranted this four exclamation marks response. especially to someone who just reached out to you for support for their trauma. I will likely be seeking counselling and support elsewhere now.”

She replied, “yes…great idea! and good luck!!!!”

Is there any doubt in your mind that she lost my business because of the way she interacted with me?

This leads to . . .

 

Principle #1: How you are with people before they hire you is how they assume you will be once they hire you.

Simply put, if you meet someone at a party and they are an arrogant asshole there you would, quite rightly, assume that they will be an arrogant asshole to work with.

If they really listen to you, ask good questions and you leave the experience feeling totally heard, ‘gotten’, loved and appreciated – you’ll assume they’ll be like this in a working relationship too.

Innately, we all understand the truism that ‘how we do anything is how we do everything.’

This is critical to understand. 

It’s easy to think that the only reason people would hire us is because we solve their problem. But, remember this, there are a lot of people who can solve their problem. You being able to solve their problem brilliantly is critical to establishing relevance and credibility. But it’s not the only thing.

Ask yourself this: have you ever gone to a store, or wanted to hire someone, but they were so salesy, pushy or otherwise unpleasant that you actually walked away? Even though you really, really needed what they were selling?

I know I have. Buying a car. Buying a computer. 

It stuns me how often this gets missed and how much business it costs people. 

There’s a ‘new age book and crystal shop I know of that, everyone who goes into feels more stressed when they leave. There is a constant vibe of panic there. The last time I was there, I was asked three times, by three different people if they could help me find something. I was asked twice if I wanted to sign up for their email list and reminded about their facebook page. On one hand, brilliant! They’re marketing. But . . . the way it was done felt very much like they were asking because they wanted me to buy something. Like they’d come over to ask because their boss sent them. If you buy something, the owner is delightful. If you don’t, she’s snippy. You can tell her business is struggling and she resents people who come in and don’t buy. And so she’s decided to focus on her sales and marketing but she’s doing it in a way that leaves people who go in there with an icky feeling. They want to get out as soon as possible. 

It should be obvious why this isn’t good for business.

Marianne Williamson wrote about her experience of running a bookshop. Her boss told her to focus on selling books. But, she chose to see the bookshop as the Church of her spiritual ministry and just focused on loving people. It created such an incredible vibe that people would come back again and again. She was able to put herself in the shoes of their clients and ask herself what kind of environment she’d want. And then she created it. 

Which leads us to . . .

 

Principle #2: Experience matters as much as results. 

I could talk about this for ages. 

Yes, it matters critically that you actually solve a problem and help them get a result they’re craving. 

But what matters equally as much is that they feel good in the process. 

Do you think they’ll come back to your business if they don’t feel good about it?

Do you think they’ll tell their friends and people they meet to hire if you if they didn’t feel good about the process?

The process matters. How they feel matters. 

That’s obvious. What’s not so obvious is what it takes for people to feel good.

On a surface level, we want to look at appealing to all five senses. If your shop or office looks beautiful, smells wonderful, has beautiful (or no) music playing etc. they’re going to feel better in it. We’ve all been to restaurants where the bathroom was so scuzzy that we never came back.

But, beyond the sensory level, we need to look at people’s emotional needs. You can think of Maslow’s Hierarchy or the list of needs in the Non Violent Communication work, Anthony Robbins’ six human needs . . . which model works for you. The more needs your business meets, the better it will feel for people.

If you help people feel safe, comfortable, help them have fun, feel important and connected and like they’re growing and contributing . . . people will love you. People love people who make them feel good.

But, in a business context, there’s a syntax to what is going to make people feel good. There are four things people need and the order we address them in matters. I’ve written more about it in my post The Four Things People Need Most When They’re Lost. But the very first thing that people need when they are in pain is empathy. They need to know that you ‘get them’ at an emotional level.

Maybe you’re a contractor and someone is exploring working with you on renovations for their home. It could be tempting to want to push and ‘sell them’. Instead, I’d suggest slowing down and empathizing with them. “Wow. It sounds like you’re feeling really overwhelmed and concerned that you’re going to be able to get your renos done on time.” They will melt. 

All of the time, I hear people say, “I totally understand them.” but your belief that you understand them is not the point. The real issue is this: do they feel understood? Do they really know that you ‘get them’. It’s incredibly easy to be deluded by this. How many divorces, fights and conflicts end with one of the parties, dazed and confused, saying, “But everything seemed fine . . .”

 

Principle #3: Empathy before education.

There’s the old saying, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

But all too often, people fall in love with their business, their modality, their newfound ideology or cosmology, their skillsets and technologies more than they fall in love with their clients. And that’s the beginning of all the troubles. 

It’s early 2000’s and I’m in a car driving from Santa Cruz to Santa Rosa to the Harmony music festival. I’m being driven by the child care worker of my dear friends. Let’s call her Rose. 

As we drive up, she begins to vent. Relationship stuff. She’s angry at men but mostly angry at herself. 

Within a few minutes, I feel like I have the perfect spiritual insight for her. Which, for someone reason, I don’t share. My instincts tell me to zip it and just listen (even though I really, really want to share). I start making a mental list of all the quotes from books I want to share and ways she should really look at what she’s going through. 

My list is growing. Man. She is going to be so empowered by everything I have to share when the time is right.

But something in me is sending me the very clearly message to stay quiet. So, for the two hour drive, all that comes out of my mouth is, “Mhhmm.” or “Yeah.” Mostly nods and just listening. 

At one point, she stopped talking. She didn’t seem to have anything else to say. Which would seem to have been my cue. But I stayed quiet. 

After five minutes of driving, her eyes open wide and she says, “And another thing!” and shares a whole other level of what was going on for her. She keeps venting. Why does she always end up sleeping with men when she told herself she didn’t want to go there again? 

And, hearing this, everything I’d been saving up to share felt so useless and irrelevant. 

This happened again and again through our drive. I’d have a brilliant insight and then she’d say something that made it clear that wasn’t what she needed to hear right now.

As we were pulling into Santa Rosa, I finally felt ready to speak, “It sounds like,” I ventured. “That you’re really struggling with how do you meet your needs for sexual expression with your needs for self respect.”

Her fingers tightened around the steering wheel, her eyes widen, she takes a deep breath and she turns to me and says, “YES!” A huge release.

She didn’t even need advice. She didn’t need education. She just needed help clarifying what the hell was going on inside of her. 

Another example: Here’s an actual conversation I had with a recent friend over facebook which left me feeling awful. It began innocently enough with her asking what had happened to me that left me so traumatized. I told her the situation. 

Me: genuinely thought i would die most days

Her: Wow. What a timeless hell. It was teaching you.

Me: i’m going to ask you pause right there.

Her: in order to grow larger and better than ever you must be in alignment with your message

Me: it really doesn’t feel great to have you tell me what the truth is of my experience or why it happened.

Her: darling its none of my business. I just speak from my heart. reciprocating what is told to me. I am just curious if this is what you have learned from the experience as well?

Me: it still feels like early days to say what’s coming out of it

Her: This is how you truly heal from trauma

Me: i do appreciate your care and i notice that when people, and this happens in the new age scene so often, when i share a pain and am immediately told that it happened for my highest good and asked what i learned from it. it’s hard. i notice that when i’m in the midst of it, that approach has me feel defensive

Her: I know it does. You have to be complete with the message, and as you do you will feel peace with it. 

Me: again. you telling me what i have to do doesn’t feel great. i’m not disagreeing

Her: Darling trust me. This is how you heal. I am a safe space. I do not come at you with any guns or bombs. I understand suffering, I have entered timeless hells before.I see the bigger picture that to have one man down is harmful to the whole. What you need more than anything is to face the situation and thank it and tell universe that you understand it

Me: can i lift up how you are immediately educating me when i didn’t ask to be educated by you? to have you present your perspective as the gospel truth really doesn’t feel safe or inviting to me. i have been reflecting on this a lot. so much. i’ve been pulling so much wisdom from it. and i’ve been through a lot and . . . i’m hearing you say that you understand suffering but i’m not feeling understood. i’m hearing you say you’re a safe space but i’m noticing i don’t feel safe in this moment. i’m hearing you say you know how healing happens and yet this space isn’t feeling healing. i really want you to stop telling me what I need to do. i don’t want your advice right now. i just need some love. that’s all. some understanding that it was hard and trust i’m working it out

Her: You need to acknowledge that love is in everything. Even in the words that I am saying.

Me: i feel sensitive around this because i encounter it so much in the new age scene. and it doesn’t feel great. and i’ve got just zero emotional buffer space right now. i think you’re remarkable and this convo isn’t feeling good. this article speaks to the dynamic i feel is happening here. http://juliaingram.com/nab. i didn’t ask to be coached by you. i was sharing what came up as a friend.

Her: yes these people do exist, but I am not one of them. I am holding space and that is all. I will say no more, because I wasn’t trying to coach, I was being a friend. But if it’s registered that way. then we are lost in translation, and I respect that.

Me: ok. i need to go for now. blessings.

She is  a remarkable woman, who practices incredible self care and is deeply committed to her spiritual path and who I think is destined for big things. This is one interaction and isn’t a complete picture of her at all. She wasn’t trying to get me to hire her. And I know she loves me. 

And that conversation felt awful. Susan Hyatt writes about this dynamic brilliantly in her blog post Unsolicited Coaching. Please. Make it stop.

I imagine if I was meeting her for the first time at a party and she was a healer and we’d had the above conversation. I would never, ever, based on this conversation, hire her. 

The only moment I felt really understood was when she said, “Wow! What a timeless hell.” After that, despite being asked to stop, she went right into education and coaching. When I felt upset, it was my fault for not seeing the love in her words. She has the truth and I don’t. She is seeing clearly and I’m not. This is, unintentionally, the message that I got. 

The message I get from her words is, “It’s so easy! You just know that it’s all love.” which feels immensely dismissive of my struggles. The question is not, “is she right?”. Maybe she is. The question is, “Do I feel understood?”

This dynamic happens all the time. Someone shares a problem and we want to jump on it and solve it. 

But sometimes it’s okay to just let people feel like victims instead of shaming them into working with us, to let them have their experience and not need to change it. Our need to change other people and fix them might be the real problem rather than what we see as their problem.

Yes, people need context as to why they are where they are. And they crave it. And yes, people want guidance and options. But, before they will truly be open to getting any of that from you, they need empathy. 

In the absence of empathy first, we often jump straight to education. And, in the absence of empathy, we often, completely unintentionally, come across as bullies. Julia Ingram wrote a brilliant blog post called New Age Bullies about this dynamic. But, it’s not solely the province of the new age or holistic scene. Vegans do this. Activists do this. Capitalists do this. Everyone does this. I have done this so many times in my life and, sadly, I’m sure I will again. I know that, when I was vegan, I was so arrogant and pushy in the beginning that I turned my brother into a carnivore. I think he ate meat just to spite me. And I don’t blame him. If you push people, they will push back to preserve their own autonomy – even if it means doing something that might hurt them. 

I’m going to say that again: If you push people, they will push back to preserve their own autonomy – even if it means doing something that might hurt them

Years ago, I was in Calgary and ended up meeting a life coach. I mentioned that I’d known Thomas Leonard (one of the grandfathers of the modern life coaching scene). He looked me dead in the eye and said, “I’m the closest thing to Thomas Leonard there is in Canada these days.” And then he proceeded to ‘coach me’. It was a series of rapid fire questions that left me in a daze. Before he left he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I just wanted to show you the power of what I do.” As I drove back to my friends house, my head was still swimming. Then I realized what had happened. He’d put me in a trance and worked me. And it left me feeling emotionally violated. He’d ‘educated’ me. But there was no empathy present. I’ve since learned, no surprisingly, that I am far from the only person who has had this experience with him.

And imagine the cost to his coaching business. I would not only never work with him or never refer him, I would, and do, warn people against working with him.

He skipped a step. He went straight to giving me education and coaching. He completely missed the importance of empathy and connection.

Robert Middleton once made the analogy that marketing was like baseball. Homebase is you being a stranger and a homerun is them buying from you. But, in between those is 1) clarity 2) trust  and 3) excitement. And you can’t skip any of those steps. 

Much of my understanding of formal understanding of empathy came from the seminal book NonViolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg (while my informal understanding came from being really listened to by a lot of people). In his book (which I commend to you highly) he shares a story.

“Believing we have to “fix” situations and make others feel better prevents us from being present . . . Once, when I was working with 23 mental health professionals, I asked them to write, word for word, how they would respond to a client who says, “I’m feeling very depressed. I just don’t see any reason to go on.” I collected the answers they had written down and announced, “I am now going to read out loud what each of you wrote. Imagine yourself in the roles f the person who express the feeling of depression, and raise your hand after each statement you hear that gives you a sense that you’ve been understood.” Hands were raise to only three of the twenty three responses.”

For the most part, people have no idea where to start with empathy. 

I think it’s vital that we respect people’s pain and suffering. That we respect their experiences. If they say they’re in a living hell – they really mean it. It’s vital we don’t discount or minimize their fears. I wrote a whole piece about how to relate to people’s fear in a blog post called Island Z.

But, if the words you hear from them all the time is that going through their divorce feels like a living hell and your marketing materials have headlines like, “Is your divorce feeling a bit uneasy?” you will absolutely lose them. From the headline alone they’ll know you don’t ‘get it’. “A bit uneasy??!” they’ll scoff as they delete the email or throw your brochure into the trash. Empathy means meeting people where they are, not where we think the should be out of a misguided desire to keep vibrations positive.

This isn’t to say you need to use negative headlines.

But it is to say that you’ve got to use plain talk and speak to them like a human being and acknowledge where they’re at whether it’s the pain they’re in, the pain they’re fearing or the future they’re craving. If you do, they’ll feel safe and open up. If you don’t, they won’t. Simple. 

And even when we know empathy is vital, we often aren’t clear on how to do it. We aren’t very skilled at it. 

We think we need to give people some big, TED Talkesque, life-changing message or insight. But usually the messages that mean the most to people, in the beginning, are so much simpler. You can read some of them that I’ve identified in my blog post Five Simple Messages That Can Have Potential Clients Melt and Fall In Love With You. That blog post will also give you a list of twenty common responses to people’s pain that are expressed with good intentions but often feel terrible to receive. 

And, in the end, the most important messages they can get is that you really care and you ‘get it’. And you don’t need any words for that, just some real listening. 

How does this relate to marketing? 

You might find the case study of a communications specialist who wanted to work with teachers in a Muslim school instructive. Instead of focusing on what he thought they ‘needed to hear’ he looked for where they were struggling that he could genuinely help.

Often in sales and marketing, we’re not really listening at all. We’re trying to convince people to ‘say yes’ and work with us. My colleague Howie Jacobson lays out a whole other kind of listening in his guest post Just Listening.

And then there’s this: when we don’t really put ourselves in the shoes of a potential client we are likely to give very bad advice. When your diagnosis is inadequate so will your prescription be. In the holistic world this happens all the time. People become so enamoured with their chosen modality and become so convinced that it can help anyone with anything that they don’t even listen to people anymore. Someone shares the very surface of their problem and they say, “Oh! Craniosacral is amazing for that!” Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

But consider, again, the marketing implications of giving bad advice to people. They have a problem. You give bad advice based on very little information. They use your advice. It doesn’t work. They are disappointed and their trust in you diminishes or vanishes. They tell others this. Your reputation goes downhill. 

That’s how it works. 

To look at it another way: if you trust their diagnosis, you will be more likely to trust their prescription. 

If you’ve ever been lost and asked for directions you’ve experienced how incredibly frustrating it can be. People have lived there so long, they’ve forgotten what it was like to be new to the area. So you ask for directions and they give you something like, “Oh! It’s easy. You go down to Old Man Salter’s barn, turn right, over two hills, turn left at the big iron gate, go two miles and turn left after Humming Bridge.” And you’re left feeling completely overwhelmed. Even when they draw a map, it’s drawn for someone who already knows the area. I know a number of times, I’ve expressed my concern and said, “Look, I know that these seems simple to you, but I’m concerned I’m still going to get lost.”, only to have them reply, “No no! Trust me! It’s easy.” And then I get lost and I’m upset with them. They didn’t take my concerns seriously. They didn’t really listen. How few people ever really, really listen. 

And the lack of listening kills so many businesses.

One of my mentors was jogging years ago and blew out his knee. He dragged himself home along one mile of hill in agonizing pain. He went to an osteopath who gave him a basic evaluation and diagnosis that he was okay with and suggested that surgery might be needed. The second place he went to, where NBA teams send their players, was very different. The physio therapist walked in with an MRI of his knee and said, without knowing any of the backstory, “I’m going to guess from looking at this that you were running and hyper extended your knee. Maybe got your foot caught in a hole?” My friend’s jaw dropped. It had been a gopher hole. The diagnosis was so bang on that he knew he was in good hands.

If potential clients feel that you really understand their problem, they will be far more likely to trust in your solutions. 

Years ago, I sent an email to my list with a link to a survey. I was asking people to submit their ‘holistic practitioner horror stories and success stories.’ – the best and worst experiences they had had. I got just over thirty responses. And what struck me was that they all said basically the same thing. The horror stories never seemed to have to do with a lack of skill or bad technique. There four client repelling traits that came up again and again. I could sum them all up in three words: lack of empathy.

Remember, if you want them to hire you and pay you money, they need to trust you and your proposed solutions. They need to trust their point of view. They will be far more open to hearing your point of view (in fact, hungry to hear it) once they know you really understand their situation. 

In Steven Covey’s words: “seek first to understand, and then to be understood.”

My colleagues at Authentic World in Boulder base all of their personal transformation work on a model called Circling.Basically, the model is you sit in a circle (though it could be done one on one) and the whole group focuses on really ‘getting’ what it’s like to be the person struggling with something. They reflect their experience of being in the person’s presence, ask insightful questions, reflect what they’re hearing and ‘getting’ from them. It’s a profound experience to be on the receiving end of. Because, the process isn’t there to ‘change’ you (but it does). It’s not there to sell you on a particular new way of being – but people often leave it with a new way of being. Perhaps the most transformative thing we can encounter is the unconditional love and uncompromising truth of being met where we are. 

I recall leading a Circling process at a co-op in Edmonton, The Golden Lentils, where I lived for a summer. I invited everyone to get into a circle and for someone to share something they were struggling that wasn’t traumatic and that had nothing to do with the co-op. There was a bit of silence and then one fellow spoke up and shared, “I’m going home to see my family soon and . . . we always get into fights about politics and I’d like to know how to deal with that.”

I could feel myself, and everyone else in the circle, lean in a bit ready to throw down advice. I could feel some people wanting to say, “Fuck your parents!” and others wanting to commiserate and share their own stories (thus taking the attention off of the person sharing and taking it onto themselves). So, I invited everyone to pause and just breath a bit. Then we went around the circle. I asked the person next to him to reflect what it was that they had heard him say, but in his own words. The first person did alright. I turned back to the original personal sharing, let’s call him Simon. He nodded that it was a good reflection but then added more context. So, we went onto the second person. And the third. Each time, people’s reflections seemed to either catch a detail that prompted elucidation or missed something important he felt the need to restate. And, often, it was hard for people. Often people slipped right into giving advice – which I would immediately stop. Or they’d want to share their own story – which I would stop. Or they’d want to tell him how he needed to look at his experience – which I would stop. And then I’d ask them to simply restate what they heard. And, it turns out, this is hard. It’s a skill. It takes a lot of practice and the experience of being really heard yourself to be able to do this consistently. 

We finally got all the way around the circle. And then I had us go around again, but, this time, all they could do was ask questions. And they had to be questions coming from genuine curiousity, not sneaky advice questions like, “Don’t you think you should . . .” Again, people struggled. But the focus wasn’t on trying to change Simon – it was on helping ourselves understand him and helping him understand himself. 

As an elder, wise woman Whapio often says, “Clarity before resolution.”

An hour later, when we’d gone around the circle twice, Simon found himself saying, ” . . . and you know . . . I’m not even that political anymore so I don’t think it will be an issue.”

Get that. “I don’t think it will be an issue.”

Get how useless all of our commiseration and advice would have been for him. He didn’t need it. 

When we get really good at listening and empathizing and creating a safe space for people, we get to the truth faster. People do not tell us the truth when they feel us pushing them towards an agenda. If they think you are selling them, they will lie to you to get out of that uncomfortable situation. It is social acceptable to lie to sales people. 

It’s our inability to let go of our agenda to get people to buy that turns people off and has marketing and sales feel gross. Sales pressure is predominantly created by us. When we realize that the real goal in marketing and sales shouldn’t be about ‘getting the sale’ but about focusing on the truth of whether or not it’s a fit . . . everything changes. We can finally bring the central quality needed to getting empathy to the table – presence. What kills our ability to be present is our conviction that what we have can absolutely help them (and anyone else). Letting go of that is hard, but it’s central to really being present. Dogma kills connection every single time. 

One client wrote me this about what they loved most in a holistic practitioner they’d seen recently: 

“I felt listened to. They took the time to get to know my problem and try to figure it out. I didn’t feel rushed. I was treated as an individual rather than just another client. Practitioners with one size fits all approaches turn me off. They were open about their experiences treating problems like mine both good and bad. They were honest about their abilities to help me – didn’t say this works for all as i know that is not possible and different things work for different people.” 

Because, if we let go of it and really listen with our focus on really, really understanding them, we’ll find out the truth of if it’s a fit or not. If it’s a fit, then working together is likely to be a joy that produces wonderful results for them and has them a raving fan – getting us lots of word of mouth. 

But, if we just focus on blindly selling everyone we might, out of the misguided assumption that we can help everyone, we will end up with a lot of clients who aren’t a good fit. And working together will be a living hell producing mediocre to poor results and have them warning people against hiring us. 

It’s so simple. 

Marketing guru Jay Abraham explored this in a different way years ago when he was focusing on “strategy” in marketing. In his experience, most marketers were very tactically oriented. They never stopped and looked at the big picture of their situation. And I recall him talking about how, at one event, he and his colleague Mac Ross were leading hot seats. They’d bring very successful entrepreneurs onstage and coach them. But, they had to keep catching each other and stop them from giving each other advice too soon. One of them would start getting on a roll about how they could grow their business internationally and the other would pause and ask the person on the hotseat, “Uhhh . . . do you want to grow internationally?” to which the person would emphatically shake their head ‘no’.

If we want to see if our tactics are a fit for a potential client, we need to ask them. But, more than that, we need to know they’re going to tell us the truth in response and they will only do that if they trust that we want to hear the truth – whether it’s a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. 

 

Principle #4:  People don’t give honest feedback unless they feel safe. 

This one seems painfully obvious.

You can’t just tell someone that you ‘get it’. Especially when they tell you that they aren’t feeling gotten. It’s a remarkably ineffective approach to say, “Oh, but I do.”

Parents do this all the time and it results in their kids feeling totally disconnected and alienated. It’s not just a matter of you getting it. It’s a matter of them feeling gotten.

I went to a raw food restaurant once and the owner, who I’d met the night before, came up to the table. 

“How’s the food here Peter?” I asked him.

“It’s amazing!” he said nodding. But with a bit too much conviction. With a bit too much certainty. Sort of a glazed look over his eyes.

We ordered and ate three dishes. One, a raw burrito thing, was quite good. Another, I have forgotten what it was, was mediocre and forgettable. The third, an avocado based soup, was truly awful.

Peter came back to the table, smiling and nodding and asked, “How was the food?”

Except, if you read his body language, he wasn’t really asking how it was. His body language was saying, “The food. So amazing! Amiright?”

I told him how much I’d loved the burritos. He agreed and left without asking about the other two dishes because, in his mind, I don’t think he could conceive of them not being amazing.

And so he never got some vital feedback. I’m sure this isn’t the only time this happened. 

One client of mine shared something they’d experienced with holistic practitioners that they hated, “When they ask me in follow up visits if anything got better and I feel as though I have to say something positive or I have somehow failed. When they act as though I have done something wrong if their approach is not working for me. 

Contrast that with Noorish (an amazing  superfood elixir bar in Edmonton). They always ask me for my feedback. “How was the chai?” they’ll ask but sort of shaking their hand as if to say, “Good? Not good?” They really want to know. And so I tell them. I like being asked but I love my experience being taken seriously. If something is ‘off’ they’ll say, “Wow. Sorry to hear that. What was wrong with it?” and then they really listen. 

You can tell they want to know from their actions, not just their words. It comes across in subtle non-verbal ways.

Most businesses, and this happens a lot with holistic practitioners, have a lot of clients who come once and then vanish. And they almost never, ever get any feedback as to why. My take on this is that there’s often a lack of safety. The clients know, intuitively, that the practitioner has an answer they want to hear and if it’s not what they want to say, it’s easier to just leave. 

 

Principle #5: People know you get it from you actions not your words.  

But it’s not just our desire to understand that’s picked up. It’s whether or not we do understand.

I remember when my brother had gone through a major, major heartbreak. I was in my late teens and enamoured with all things Tony Robbins and NLP and I told him how easy it was to get over this kind of thing with a few NLP techniques. “You just need to change the submodalities of it and collapse some anchors.” As I began to lay out, in great detail, some of these techniques and how amazing they were . . . I’ll never forget the look he gave me. A look that fundamentally said, “Wow. You just don’t get it.” And I didn’t. It would be another five years before I went through my first real, romantic heartbreak and had that completely level me for another five years after that. In my telling him how easy it was to heal it with these simple techniques, what was not happening was an honouring of how significant the relationship was for him in his life. What didn’t happen was an honouring of how much he loved her and how deep the pain was for him. If I could do it over again, I would have just put my hand on his shoulder and said, “I’m so sorry.” and sat in silence.

A client shared this about how holistic health practitioners let them know they valued and ‘got’ them: “My best experience of seeing a practitioner (sorry I don’t have a specific example) is leaving the session and feeling they have acknowledged my part in the healing journey. That I am an active part of my healing and I am seeing them for support. They are not the experts ‘doing onto me’.” 

People know that you ‘get it’ based on what you do, not what you say.

One of my friends Amber, an amazing advocate for the Gaelic language in Nova Scotia, was at the Bioneers event as my guest. She ended up being a helper for one of the thirteen indigenous grandmothers. Her only job? To get her grandmother to the sessions on time. Which is hard. Grandmothers can be wily. One night, Amber was sitting next to the grandmother who was laying in bed. Amber was sharing about some big moments in her past few months and spontaneously burst into tears and started sobbing. The grandmother didn’t say anything. She certainly didn’t preach. She didn’t tell her how to relate to what was going on. She just lifted up her blanket and patted the bed, inviting Amber to lie down next to her and be held while she cried. 

People know that you ‘get it’ based on what you do, not what you say.

When my friend responded to me the way she did on facebook I absolutely did not feel ‘gotten’. Is that possibly because I am defensive, petty and easily triggered? Sure. But that’s the point. Everyone is. Especially people who are in the midst of their struggles and traumatized. And I think it’s the job of the healer to ‘get that’. Someone who’s doing a big landscaping project is likely to feel overwhelmed. It’s the job of the contractor to ‘get that’ and design their process to make sure it addresses that. Assuming that others should all be enlightened, untriggerable and totally sanguine no matter what matter of judgment you throw at them . . . is likely to not work out to well for you. Should I have been able to see that her words were really all about love? Maybe. Did I? Nope. 

This happens in the holistic scene all the time. Someone shares a hardship. They’re met with new age bullying and advice. They get defensive and express that they’re angry about the comment. This is swiftly turned into, “Where are you angry at yourself?” and, quickly, the other person leaves and the practitioner says, “I guess they just weren’t ready.” when another truth (perhaps even truer) was that the practitioner wasn’t ready to really meet that person where they were. Below are a number of examples clients have shared with me about their experiences with holistic health practitioners where empathy was present and where it wasn’t . . .

 

“I went to see an herbalist/iridologist who wasn’t warm or friendly but had a lot of knowledge and was known to be very good at her work. She gave me some very strict dietary guidelines to follow – basically changed my whole life while taking care of a newborn baby. So when I went back for follow-up I was quite proud of myself for doing so well – not perfect but I made some good steps toward a healthier diet. She looked into my eyes (iridology) and asked me what my compliance to her diet was. I said, ‘about 85%.’ She said in a harsh, judgmental tone, with pursed lips, ‘How about 50!’ I felt tiny and like a really ‘bad’ client. Totally deflated. I don’t care what her reputation and credentials were – I never went back there. (Nor did I tell her or the store who hosted her why.) Aside from this she gave me long lists of supplements that cost a small fortune.

“I once received an amazing craniosacral treatment. This healer’s touch was firm yet compassionate. When working with my head, I experienced a release. At the time it felt like a jolt, like when I’m falling asleep and my nerves start twitching so I wake-up suddenly. I hadn’t experience anything like this before in a massage so asked ‘what just happened?’ Her response was brief. She suggested I take some time for myself after the treatment and relax in the park across the street. I didn’t understand what had just happened to me and felt open, confused and vulnerable. I lay in that park for a long while. The rest of my day…I felt spaced out. I needed more dialogue from her. I’m a psycho-physical being. If I have a physical release, my emotions and psyche are connected to that transformation. I needed an enlightened witness, someone observing me, to guide me when in the dark.” 

I went to a holistic clinic to get a live blood analysis done. At first I thought the lady was very nice and she explained a lot of things to me about my health. She also told me some very disturbing things as though they weren’t a big deal. Then she said she was going to give me a treatment that I had never heard of before. Before I knew it I was lying on a table being hooked up to a machine that I had no idea what it was. At first, it was ok. Not ok as in pleasurable, but ok as in bearable. Within a few minutes this machine was giving me severe shocks to the point where my muscles would spaz out and I couldn’t speak. I called for the practitioner but she didn’t come for a few minutes. Then when she finally came it was again, no big deal! She said she would turn down the machine and again she left me alone to be shocked. I still have no idea what the hell that machine was for! She came in and treated me as though I was so lucky to have received this unknown shock therapy, then sent me on my way. I went out to the lobby to pay and get the herbal treatment that she prescribed. When I got up to the till my total was $589.00. My jaw dropped and I started to cry. 

My partner and I got a free sample session that this one practitioner was offering as a way to gain some new clients. The session itself was awesome and a lot of work was done. At the end of the session, she asked us when we would like to book another session, which in and of itself, was okay. But she started to pressure us into booking something else. We just couldn’t afford it. Also, I was into doing another session with my partner, but he wasn’t. She reacted in a way where it felt like she was taking it personally. It wasn’t really obvious that she was doing this, but I could feel this tension in the air that smelled kind of like she was hurt and slightly angry that she had given her session away for free (which was the offer she was giving everyone) and she didn’t get a booking out of it. She called a while later (maybe a few weeks) and asked me again if we would like to continue with more sessions. Again, this I can understand, but the answer was still the same from my partner – he wouldn’t go for it. And again, it was the same reaction from her. I just felt really uncomfortable about the whole situation. So much so, that even if I had the extra money to get a session with her – I wouldn’t. I’d go somewhere else.” 

“I had a reading with a lady at a trade show in Calgary that left me feeling like I had wasted my money. I decided to get a reading from her because I had attended a lecture by her that had lead me to believe that she was really good at what she did. When I spoke to her at her booth, she seemed to come across as a bit desperate for clients, but I chose to ignore that gut feeling. (Lesson – always go with your first gut feeling). I sat down to get my reading for $20. She seemed to be in a rush to get through my reading, so much so that I couldn’t even remember what she told me by the end. And all I got for my $20 was a 5 minute reading. Not to mention that what she told me wasn’t anything I couldn’t have figured out on my own. At the end of the reading, she was very abrupt and without actually saying the words, it felt energetically like she was almost shoving me out of the booth so she could get more clients. I will never go back to her again.” 

“I left the care of an Osteopath because she was abrupt and confrontational with me. She wanted to be the authority and have me accept her as such. This was not the emotionally safe and sensitive treatment that I expected. The fees were high and the results did not justify continuing. Someone less trained has become my trusted practitioner-better emotional safety and better physical results.” 

 “The best practitioners I’ve been to don’t try to sell me on their techniques. They listen to my concerns, my priorities and they offer what they can to help. They do not: 1) Try to scare me into using their services. 2) Tell me that whatever I’ve been doing so far has not helped and/or made things worse. 3) Tell me that their modality is the ONE and ONLY of any value.” 

“I had a session with a Shamanic practitioner at the Body, Soul and Spirit Expo who was amazing in so many ways. I was having a really hard time financially at the time, and couldn’t afford to pay what he was charging for a session. I knew intuitively that he would be worth the money, I just didn’t have it. I spoke with a lady who was working at his booth booking his sessions, and she said she would speak to him for me to see if he would be willing to help out in some way. He offered to give me a session in the traditional native way where you give an offering of tobacco. I gratefully accepted! Fortunately there was a booth where I could get some. I did the session with him, and even though it was only a half an hour and my payment was in tobacco, he gave me his all. I had the best session I think I’ve ever had with any practitioner. I healed what felt like lifetimes of “stuff” in only a half hour session. Tremendous kindness, compassion and wisdom. He was great! I knew that his only motivation was to serve and to help heal others. I spent the rest of the weekend telling everyone they had to get a session with him and would recommend him to anyone and everyone. I will also go back to him anytime! He was amazing.” 

“The practitioner was traditional healer, in other words a herbalist, shaman, therapist. We were doing something akin to counseling. It is hard for me put my finger on what exactly she did that made me feel so great. I just had the genuine feeling that she was there to help me without trying too hard. You know there are people that don’t seem to give a shit about you, and then those that are burning to “help” you, which feels more like them forcing their opinions and philosophies on you. You get the feeling in both situations that this person is too wrapped up in themselves to genuinely be able to help you. And let me tell you, this practitioner wasn’t just telling me things I wanted to hear. I was literally having my mind blown, and it wasn’t always pleasant. My whole way of thinking was being challenged. My subconscious fears were being brought to the surface. I was extremely vulnerable. Sometimes, I would get angry. However, the whole way through I felt like I was being supported. Even when we disagreed, I could FEEL her integrity. She didn’t put on airs or use too much spiritual mumbo jumbo, even though the experience was very spiritual. She spoke to me like one human being to another. You could sense the authority of her experience and wisdom, but she was not arrogant or pushy. I really, really felt listened to. I’d like to add that people don’t always want to know what it will take to heal, so practitioners always run the risk of alienating their patients when they give it to them straight. However, a really good practitioner, like in the one in the above experience, is able to gauge what their patient/client is ready to hear and nudge them along while supporting them. PS. I feel like this would be a hard thing for a practitioner to learn in a marketing type seminar. I feel like it’s the result of years of inner work and genuinely being comfortable in their own skin. However, if you can do it, you are a genius.”

“I was taking an introduction to yoga class with an instructor I didn’t know. At the very first class she was bound and determined to have us all try standing on our heads (well, being inverted anyways) using chairs under each shoulder to support us. I was an overweight and 45 year old at the time. I repeatedly said I did not want to do that and she was very insistent on having me try. I felt totally unimportant to this woman. She was not there to respect my needs/comfort level/etc. She had found “the answer to all things” in inverted postures and she was going to ram it down our throats for our own good. I did not go back to that class. Even now, several years later, my cheeks get hot just thinking about it! After that last class, I have never tried another yoga class with any instructor at any facility. I could use the exercise, but I choose not to put myself in a position of being injured or humiliated to serve someone else’s needs.” 

 

Principle #6: Seek permission before giving advice. 

In the mid-nineties, I worked for a franchise of personal development guru Tony Robbins.

And one day, my colleague Kevin and I were talking about how some of the graduates of the programs were getting under our skin by constantly going into coaching mode whenever we’d see them. “What’s been the BEST part of your day?” or “What did you learn from that?” when we were just not in the mood. Finally something clicked for Kevin, “Are you talking about George?” “Yes!” I said with a huge sigh of relief. It turned out that ‘some graduates’ was really, for both of us, one person. We looked at why it bothered us so much and we realized that it came down to a lack of permission. We had never asked for his coaching but he kept on giving it. In his mind, I am sure, he imagined he was having a beautiful impact on people by asking them such empowering and uplifting questions. But, in reality, people were feeling annoyed with him.

So, we came up with something we called the ‘G Rule’. If either of us felt like the other was getting into the other’s business, all they had to do was say the words “G Rule” and the other person had to completely drop it. Occasion only ever came for it to be used a few times each but it was the best feeling on both sides when it got used.

Kevin would be sharing something he was struggling with and I’d start giving advice or trying to coach with, “Well, I think the way you need to look at this is . . .” and he’d say, “G Rule” and I’d shut my mouth and lift up my hands. 

Seth Godin popularized the notion of ‘permission marketing’ in his book of the same title. He noticed that, with so much marketing noise out there, that people only paid attention to the people they’d given permission to be marketed to from. He pointed out that the day of just adding people to your email list without getting their permission first, were over. The idea of ‘enter your name and email for a draw’ as a ploy to get your email were becoming less and less tolerated.

No one liked getting junk mail. No one likes getting SPAM. But what is it that defines one kind of marketing as junk mail and while another is welcomed? Permission. 

Unasked for advice is the SPAM of personal relationships and it’s not just your email inbox that has filters for it.

The art of building trust and getting people to give you permission to be added to your list is one of the most important ones you can develop. You can learn some of my thoughts on that here.

Years ago, while living in Scotland and attending the Gaelic College there, I met a woman we’ll call Rita. I’ve never met anyone who was in other people’s business more than her. Or who shared her advice so incredibly freely. Over the course of knowing her, I heard her tell a 75 year old traditional story teller that he should have married a different woman because she was vegan, that I needed to spend time with her hogs because they were grounding and I needed grounding energy, that I should ask for a job from a local banker and that I should swim naked in the waters of Skye because my aura needed freshening. And that’s off the top of my head. I have truly never come to hate someone so much. She never asked for permission because, in her mind, she didn’t need it. She was sharing the truth that I needed to hear. Shortly after I left her presence, it occurred to me that she may have needed me to do those things but she didn’t. 

But here’s the terrible part. I actually wanted to go swimming in the waters on Skye but when I went with the old story teller and her, I couldn’t do it because it felt like I would be letting her win. I would have been cow-towing to her. And I couldn’t let her have that satisfaction. Even though I really wanted to. If I could do it over again, I would have just gone swimming.

One more time: If you push people, they will push back to preserve their own autonomy – even if it means doing something that might hurt them. 

Here’s a flip side of that though. In my experience, if you are really present for someone and they get that you ‘get it’ and aren’t trying to change them or get them to do anything . . . they will often ask you for advice. They’ll seek out your guidance. “What do you think I should do?” they’ll ask. 

Imagine the above facebook conversation with my friend done again, but this time with a focus on her empathizing with me and trying to ‘get’ my experience instead of just giving me advice. And again, imagine you were me, meeting her at a party and consider how incredibly different this would feel to receive.

Me: genuinely thought i would die most days

Her: Wow. What a timeless hell. 

Me: It really was. 

Her: You must have felt so scared. And you were alone in a foreign country. How was that for you?

Me: I felt so lonely and scared. It really brought up all of my fears about death. Maybe I just vanish. And that’s it. That was so terrifying to me. You hear about people dying peacefully but there was no peace in me at all, just pure terror. I kept clutching my friend’s hand saying, “I don’t want to die.” I recorded messages to people on my iPhone. I wrote farewell notes to people in a notebook my friend had bought me.

Her: Wow. You really weren’t sure you were going to make it home. 

Me: Not at all. I was so scared I wouldn’t. 

Her: Where has it left you? Where are you now with it all now that you’re home? I could imagine it’s left you really shaken up. 

Me: So shaken up. Traumatized. I never really got how brutal trauma could be. I’ve got a lot of anxiety and the occasional, full blown anxiety attack – though not as often. I can’t deal with big crowds of people for long anymore. Can’t imagine going to a big bar with loud noises – would feel so overwhelming. I’m so emotionally raw. I’ve got so little emotional buffer. 

Her: It must be scary to feel so scared all the time and . . . I’m guessing it’s taking a lot of adjusting to and I could imagine myself just wanting it to go away so I could have some more ease in my life. 

Me: Totally. And . . . it also feels like a really important moment in my life. Like an initiation of some kind. Like it was meant to happen. Like it’s shifted me out of one phases of my life and into another. At one level it’s so brutal and terrible. On another level, it feels like a doorway opening to some profound growth in my life. So . . . in some ways I’m so grateful for the whole thing. I know it will be rough and it’s shaken me up but . . . the shaking up isn’t totally a bad thing – even though it’s so uncomfortable. 

Her: Hmm. I really get that. So it’s like you know it was one of those ‘big moments’ in your life and it really hurt and scared you but you also know that it’s got a lot of gifts for you too.

Me: Yeah. I’m sure of it. So many gifts. It feels a bit disorienting. I really don’t totally know who this ‘new me’ is. It’s like on Doctor Who when the Doctor regenerates and is played by a different actor and he needs to get to know who he is in his new body. It’s a bit like that. 

Her: I imagine that could feel a bit overwhelming and confusing. I know how it was for me when I went through some near death moments in my life. So disorienting and unsettling.

Me: I’d love to hear about your experiences and any wisdom you’ve got on going through something like this. I never have before. 

If the conversation had gone something like that, I would have likely asked her for her thoughts. She wouldn’t have even needed to ask for permission. If I hadn’t and she felt really called to share something, she could say. “You know, something is coming up for me to share really strongly around your healing process. Is this a good time to share it? No pressure at all. I know sometimes I’ve got enough going on inside that I don’t need anymore information.” Asking permission is a deep sign of respect and affirmation of the other person’s sovereignty and ability to choose what’s best for them. In the original conversation, what was missing for me, was any trust in me and my ability to navigate the process on my own. 

 

 

Some more real world examples of this from my clients:

“1. My worst experience with an energy practitioner. Prior to starting the she session scanned my body with her hand and proceeded to tell me everything that was going on…this is going on here, you’re…here, and oh there’s your grief etc. etc. It felt disrespectful. The energy behind it was as if she was ‘showing me’ how skilled she was with her intuition. Which was more about her than myself, the client. I have experienced practitioners who are not sensitive in how they share information and I don’t recall being asked if I wanted to hear their perceptions. I often do want to hear but I can think of practitioners I have been to where that was not what I was going to them for but the information was offered anyways. 

“I went to see an SI practitioner and it was wonderful how he told me when he noticed things free up as he worked. In fact, before he began, he had asked me if I wanted him to describe what he was doing as he worked or if I just wanted him to work in silence. He made sure I was warm and comfortable, and he was very gentle and confident in how he worked with touch.” 

“I have been to several practitioners who have helped me change my life. The characteristics they have in common are: 1. They are heart open people who share rather than shove what they have to say. 2. If they have any questions about me being blind, they’ve just come out and asked them instead of trying to pretend they know everything. 3. They have accepted my feedback, particularly regarding my pain level. Rather than telling me: “no pain, no gain baby” they have been responsive, backed off the intensity, and let me relax into a deeper space and then maybe I could accept more intense work.” 

 

Principle #7: Empathy is a Skill To Develop. 

But where do you start?

In addition to the thoughts and examples above, here are some practical practices and ideas of how you can weave more empathy into your business interactions.

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #1: Study empathy.

Buy and read Non Violent Communication and any of the subsequent books in the same genre. You can find a lot here

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #2: Make your business more welcoming. 

Remember what it was like when you were in there shoes. Remember how scary it felt. Maybe you felt ashamed of the problem. If you have never been in the situation your clients are facing, see if you can find something similar in your life. Ask your clients what it’s like for them and really listen. And then ask yourself how everything in your business could meet them better in that place. What would you want if you were them. I’m talking from your website, to how you begin your workshops, to your office space, to how you run your first meetings. There’s no cookie cutter approach that will work but, once you really connect with what it’s like to be them, you’ll know. I wrote about this in my blog post called The Three Foundations of a Thriving Business – the part to read is part two about what I call The Container. The Container are all of the elements of your business that show up when they show up. The container are all the things that allow them to check you out at a distance before they commit to buying anything. The safer they feel in approaching and exploring you, the more business you will do.

I once ran a business called The School Revolution that did workshops with high schools around school spirit. And, by the time I was leading the workshops, I’d lost touch with what it was like to be in high school. It took me reading the feedback forms and really paying attention to get it that, when they showed up for the workshop, they were scared. That had never occurred to me. Why were they scared? Because they’re teenagers in a new experience, surrounded by new people and scared they were being judged and having no idea what was coming. But a consistent piece of feedback we got was that, when a staff member would give them a big smile first thing in the morning as they arrived, they would relax and know they were in good hands. So, when we had our early morning meetings before the events, I’d remind the staff of the importance of smiling and greeting people warmly. It seems so obvious. But, until it was lifted up, it was being done consistently. The difference it made in the workshop was noticeable. Students began the day way more relaxed and open than they had been. 

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #3: Acknowledge them.

Acknowledge them not for getting things right or being perfect. Acknowledge them for how hard and painful it feels for them to be going through their situation. Honour that. Respect that. Acknowledge them for the effort they’ve put into solving the issue already (it’s probably more than you think). Acknowledge them for what they’ve already learned, without your help, along the way. It’s likely vast and impressive. Of course, to acknowledge these things, you may need to dig a bit to discover them. If you do, they will feel so seen and gotten.

Meet people where they are vs. immediately pushing your point of view and telling them where they need to be. Affirm that who they are and what they have right now is enough. You can read this blog post about that.

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #4: Slow down on giving advice.

When people are desperate and in pain they might ask you for advice and ‘what to do’ and want answers fast. Resist the urge to do that. You likely only have a very surface level understanding of their issues. Slow down. Slow them down. Invite a pause. I’ll often say, “I have some thoughts, but, before we go there, I want to make sure I’m really understanding what you’re saying and where you’re at . . .” It’s hard to do overkill on this. Most of us want to rush ahead into solving their problem so that we can relieve ourselves from the anxiety of seeing them suffer, feel important, feel useful . . . but that’s all about us. Much more useful to them is to feel empathized with and for you to know you’ve got a really accurate diagnosis of what is actually happening with them. I’m not saying don’t give advice. I’m saying that what you think is really, really stretching out the diagnosis period into a painfully protracted process is likely still faster than it could be.

In 2012, I wrote a post called Slow Marketing where I lifted up the possibility that marketing might actually work better and move faster if we slowed it down. 

A simple question you can ask whenever you meet someone in pain that can stop you from leaping into saving them: “How is that for you?” Ask and mean it. Ask and be quiet. Let them talk. 

My dear friend and colleague Jennifer Summerfeldt said it so beautifully, “slowing down the conversation, one slows down the need for anything to change or be resolved. In healing work this is critical. Too often we rush to reduce the pain, suffering, or wound. We rush with our words and our advice. Unless the person is in danger of being harmed further or is in need of medical attention ASAP we have TIME! So much time actually. these quick remarks many of us are guilty of saying, or have been on the receiving end, come from a place of fear and impatience. Many of us are terrified to sit in the discomfort. we are programmed to ‘take away the pain as fast as we can so we can resume to happy land’. We are not taught to accept and have space for ‘real land’. We don’t want to sit in our own discomforts. nor the discomforts of the other. nor the discomforts of life. we want band-aids, and someone to kiss our wound and send us off feeling better. Maybe just maybe, the mere act of allowing space and time for the experience to sink in, for the tears to fall, and for there to be no need to lessen the discomfort  will in fact be all that is needed for healing to take place.”

Clarity before resolution. Empathy before education. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood. These all require us to slow everything down.

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #5: Practice restating what you hear them say.

This is Active Listening 101. It would seem so easy, but, in my experience, this is actually incredibly hard for most people to do well.

Restate what you heard them say in your own words and ask them if you ‘got it’.  Don’t assume you get it. Don’t assume. In fact, assume that you do not get it. Coming in from a place of humility is much more attractive than a place of the arrogance of interrupting them part way through explaining their situation with a dismissive wave so you can begin your brilliant treatment. This build on the idea of slowing it down. Don’t move forward until you can restate their position better than they can themselves – until you can see them relax in knowing you get it. Question everything you’re assuming about their situation. Really make sure you get it. You will be shocked with how often you’re wrong. 

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #6: Write out the typical story of an ideal client. 

This exercise is incredibly useful. Try to write out the generic story of your potential clients so that, when they read it they say, “Wow. That is so my story. Were you spying on me?” I did this for holistic practitioners in a blog post called “The Story of Jane the Holistic Practitioner in Seven Chapters” and, whenever holistic practitioners read it, they say it is is eerie how accurate it is. But again, don’t assume you’ve got it. Run it by people. See what’s missing. Get them to help you understand what it’s been like to be them before they came to see you. 

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #7: Get empathy.

This might be the most important idea.

Giving empathy is impossible until you’ve received it yourself. If there’s an area of your life where you feel no one understands you, find someone or a group that will. Maybe it’s a close friend you know who will just listen and care. Maybe it’s a colleague, a therapist, a men’s group. Maybe it comes in reading poetry or literature that affirms your feelings and needs. But get it. The more you receive it, the more effortless it is to give. I’ve had such incredible support and examples of empathy in my life. 

As Gabor Mate points out so lucidly and beautifully in his TED talk in Rio, most of us didn’t receive the kind of empathy we needed as a child. And so we need to get it as adults. And, often in the process of healing, we become the adults whose support we were needing when we were younger. Until we do we will often vacillate between self pity (collapsing) and self important (posturing) and never really feel comfortable in our own skin (composure).

It is both the thing that opens the door to healing and the healing itself. Most of us have spent a lifetime having others try to change us into something that is more pleasing to them (or being rejected because we didn’t fit the mould). Parents, siblings, teachers, classmates, friends, bosses, co-workers, romantic partners . . . And is there any bigger gift we can give someone than to say, “I get it. And you’re fine just the way you are.”? As Ani Difranco said, “More joy, less shame.” The gift of empathy not only makes us better people, it helps people know that they aren’t crazy and that they aren’t alone. Empathy transforms people. Try to change people and they will resist and try to hold onto who they are (even if it hurts them).

In the end, we can never really know what goes on in the hearts of others. Not really. So, at some level, empathy is just us trying to imagine the unimaginable. But, one of the sweetest mysteries of life seems to be that, even though I can never know your experience, I can know my own. And, the more intimate I become with myself, the more intimate I become with everyone. Because we’re all the same deep down. We all have the same feelings and needs. The more I come to understand and love myself, the more I can love others. The more I pursue a path of wholeness (including all  the parts of me) vs. purity (cutting out anything that doesn’t belong) the more I can intuitively understand others. 

This piece hammers on marketing and its importance from a marketing perspective. And it’s true. It’s vital. From a potential or active customer’s stand point – they care about what’s in it for them and their experience. That’s hard medicine.

But . . . I sometimes find it so hard to empathize with others. I have uneasy moments with clients. I judge people. I get triggered a lot. I get tired and don’t show up as my best. I snap. And I regret those moments. Sometimes the one who needs the most empathy is us. 

Maybe this should have been the first practice because life is really hard some days. Some days I can barely take care of myself, let alone holding space for anyone else. 

I think that the most healing thing we can offer others is to meet them and love them where they are.

Meet people where they are and they become who they should be. 

In the end, on every side of the master, Alistair MacLeod said it best in his book No Great Mischief, “We’re all better when we’re loved.”

And the content of this post has been turned into a sweet info-graphic sketch by http://sketchingmaniacs.com/

 

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I would love to hear your thoughts, reflection and examples from your own life around this whole notion of empathy in marketing. You can leave them in the comments below. 

 

  

40 minute video interview on authentic marketing with nash ryker

The other day I did a forty minute video interview with Nash Ryker of http://yourepicdestinytv.com/.

We got to talk about some new ideas I have been having around authentic marketing, especially:

You can watch it here

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polarize

magnetI want to share something that might forever change the way you relate to marketing.

It’s a notion I got from Mark Manson in the context of dating but I think it maps over perfectly into marketing.

There are only three types of potential clients you will ever experience: responsive, neutral and unresponsive.

  • Responsive people will come across your work and light up. They’ll get excited and want to sign up and hire you after learning a little bit about you. They’ll be curious, want to know more and ask you a lot of questions. These people are a ‘yes’ to what you’re up to in your business.
  • Neutral people will listen to what you have to say but they won’t react much. They’ll sit there in your workshop politely and take it in. But they won’t sign up for much. They may be cordial and listen respectfully but they for sure won’t seem ‘into it’ like the responsive people do. These people are a ‘maybe’ to what you’re up to in your business.
  • Unresponsive people will actively pull away, show disinterest, might even be rude. These people are a ‘no’ to what you’re up to in your business.

And how you deal with each of these three people is different.

With responsive people, you just need to enjoy them and make it really safe and easy for them to buy from you. You want to have your sales funnel worked out so they can engage at the level that feels best for them. If you try and push or ‘sell’ to these people, things get weird. They’re already sold on you. Just relax, enjoy them, engage them and look for what is the best fit.

With unresponsive people, just bless and release them. Really. Just let them go. It’s not a fit (at least not in that moment). Trying to convince these people to hire you or buy from you is the road to burn out.

With neutral people it’s a different story. The neutral people aren’t sure. They’re on the fence. And your job is to get them off the fence (with no bias towards which direction they fall – towards you or away from you).

To be clear, I’m not talking about pushing them or making them do anything. I’m talking about revealing yourself and being vulnerable enough.

Let’s back this up a bit.

If they’re on the fence, why are they on the fence?

They’re up there because they’re not sure enough about who you are, your point of view, your overall purpose of your business, the results you offer or problems you solve etc. There’s something about your platform that is fuzzy and that results in them not knowing if it’s a fit. There’s likely something they see that they like (which is why they haven’t left your presence) but also somethings they see that they don’t quite get (which is why they haven’t bought).

But why is there fuzziness in the first place? Often because we’re scared to share the full truth of how we see things.

A typical approach with neutral people is to try to keep them around by being really ‘nice’ and not offending them in any way. People will build their email list by sharing useful but not that exciting or honest content. It’s kind of ‘meh’. It’s nice. It’s fine.

But, if you do this, they will consistently fall off of the fence away from you.

It’s like the dreaded ‘friend zone’ in dating.

They’ll tell you how great they think your business is but they won’t ever hire you.

But there’s another approach. And that approach is to be really honest about your platform and your intentions so that they are able to make up their mind and you can either go deeper with them or, quite frankly, stop wasting your time in ‘building a relationship’ with them that was never going to go anywhere anyways.

But, this requires us to let go of our people pleasing behaviours and to start being really honest about who we are and what we think. It might also mean directly asking someone if they’d like to be a client or be open to a conversation about working together. You might find that people who were dancing around with a ‘maybe’ they’d like to work with you suddenly become a ‘no’ when you directly ask them. Which is wonderful to know. Your asking them (depending on how you did it) didn’t cause them to not want to work with you, it created the space to reveal what they may have already been feeling for a while but were too nervous to tell you.

And here’s the challenge with those things: they all make you vulnerable. You are putting yourself out there and risking rejection.

If you’re honest about your quirks, people might not like them.

If you’re honest about your point of view, people might strongly disagree and attack or belittle you for it.

If you’re really real about the specific kinds of people you’re best at helping, you might lose folks who aren’t that.

If you’re honest about the larger cause you’re most passionate about that drives your business, you might lose people who are more passionate about other causes.

But on the flip side, if you’re honest about these things: some people will love them.

I think that our fear of being vulnerable is what keeps others from knowing us and therefore being able to decide if we’re a fit. We often feel shame about really revealing ourselves and yet it’s the very thing that will inspire others to get off the fence. Will you repel some folks? Sure. But you will also far more strongly attract others.

I can tell you that the blog posts I’ve written that have gotten the most positive reactions and cemented people as fans also got some of the most negative ones and the most comments overall – were the ones where I was most vulnerable and honest.

Just the other day I wrote a post called, ‘I’m Broke (And I Don’t Care)‘ and was flooded with over 100 comments. Or the post, ‘Why Charging What You’re Worth Is Bullshit.’ Or the post ‘Slow Marketing‘. Or the time I encouraged people to do what they could to get the Conservatives out of office in Canada and wrote about it in my post Elections, Polarizing & Having an Opinion.

If they are neutral towards you, the answer isn’t to be neutral back. If you find you’re attracting a lot of neutral clients and you want to change that, they answer is this: be even more vulnerable and honest.

The goal of marketing isn’t to convince everyone to work with you.

To state that even more strongly: the goal of marketing isn’t to convince anyone to work with you.

The goal of marketing is to attract the people who would be a perfect fit for you and to actively disuade people who are not a good fit for you (with a bit of wiggle room there). Marketing is more a filtering process than anything.

Consider this logic: If you attract someone who is not a fit for what you offer, they will have a bad experience. They will then tell their friends about their bad experience and now you’ve got bad word of mouth. It’s not actually that what you were offering was bad – it just wasn’t a fit for them. But I promise you the rest of the world will not make that distinction.

On the other hand, if you attract the perfect kind of client who’s in exactly the right moment in their life to work with you they will almost certainly have a good experience. And they will tell everyone they know about that. And now you have good word of mouth.

It’s simple.

But it’s so easy to waste your time on trying to keep the neutral people around. Or to attract them.

But in the end it doesn’t work. Here’s the common dynamic. You get a speaking gig for thousands of people. Amazing. What an opportunity. Then you get a chance to write an article on a well known blog. So you do those things and, cleverly, offer them a free gift to sign up for your email newsletter. And, to get the free gift, a number of them do. Your pipeline of new clients is now so full, you tell yourself. Any day now you’re about to break through. Fast forward three months and nothing has changed.

Here’s what was really happening, people saw you. Thought you were interesting. Were intrigued to know a bit more but were mostly neutral. They saw a ‘free’ offer, got excited and signed up for your email newsletter which is also very neutral and not opinionated at all and they got bored, stopped reading it and really never intended to buy in the first place. You were hooked on hopium that your pipeline was full. But it never really was. So, we keep trying to get in front of more and more people, hoping that might change it.

But here’s what will really change it: being willing to be a lot more vulnerable with those crowds.

I don’t mean standing up there and weeping about your childhood and asking them to hold you.

I don’t mean standing up there and telling them how nervous you are to be there (though that can be endearing).

I mean being willing to be very honest about whatever parts of your journey you’ve gone through that make you qualified that you care to share. I mean being willing to share where you’re not perfect, your quirks and kinks. Being willing to let them know who you are and how you see the world and the nature of their issue.  Being honest vulnerable will polarize your audience. The more vulnerable you are, the more polarizing you will be.

Your ability to attract perfect clients is in direct proportion to your willingness to be vulnerable and deal with the reality that most people are simply not a fit. Luckily, you don’t need most people as clients to have a thriving business. You only need some.

Here’s another way to look at it: I’d look at your neutral clients as the white blood cells of your business. If you have a lot it’s indicating that you are sick. And the disease may be from your own lack of honesty and vulnerability because of your fears. But most businesses see the white blood cells as a sign of health and seem to want more of them. You want less neutral people and more highly responsive people. You want less maybe’s and more yes’ or no’s right off the bat.

When you really start stepping out with your full truth, you will repel so many more people (who were not a fit) and you will attract raving fans who love what you are about (who are a fit). Withholding the truth in the beginning doesn’t really help. Sure you might get more clients to begin with, but eventually the truth will come out and those people will leave.

The only question is, how vulnerable are you willing to be?

Here are some ways you can explore being vulnerable. I’d love to hear what additional ideas you might have:

  • Ask Their Intentions: If you’ve got someone who’s been hovering around, neutral, asking for free advice for a while, consider just asking them directly, ‘Hey, I notice you’ve been around and come to a number of the free things I’ve been offering and I was just wondering if you were thinking of coming to the the upcoming full weekend. I’d love to have you there.’ Either way, now you know the truth and energy gets released which is a relief. It doesn’t have to be heavy, but if you’re wondering, you can always ask. They might just say ‘yes’. I was hosting a party in London, England and I got three people to come to my weekend workshop by simply saying, ‘Are you coming to my weekend? You should come! I’d love to have you there!’ Simple. Asking is vulnerable but powerful.
  • Go on a Rant: This is one of my favourites. Look at your industry and ask yourself honestly what you see is missing. And then let yourself rant about that. Sleep on it and if it still feels true, even if it feels edgy, put it up and share it with the world in a video or your blog.
  • Set Boundaries: Are clients always asking you for ‘just a quick opinion’ or a ‘five minute favour’? Tell them the truth (which is that you’d like to be paid for your time). I usually say something like, ‘Thanks so much for writing. That’s a great question and I totally get how frustrating that can be. My rates and such are here. Let me know if you’d like to book some time. I hope you’re well otherwise :-).’ And tell your clients what you expect from them before they hire you. Be real with people about your needs.
  • Lay Out Your Map: You likely have a very strong opinion about the best way to help people on their Journey from their problem to the solution. Consider being even more explicit and honest about it. Lay the philosophy and steps out as clearly as you possibly can. Let them take a look at it for themselves and see if they like it or not. It can be tempting to be vague and try and trick people into signing up for a program based on vague promises. It’s not worth it.  Laying out your map is more effective anyway.
  • Share Your Story: Did you go through the same struggle as your ideal clients? Do you still struggle with the same issue in ways (but have learned more mature ways to deal with it when it comes up)? Consider sharing that.
  • Fire Clients: Do you have clients that are a constant drain on your time and energy? Fire them. For real. Let them go. If you’re not, why not? Because you need the money? Because you’re scared they’ll be upset, hate you and tell the world what a fraud you are? Letting go of bad clients frees up so much energy for a good client to show up and for you to be strong and attractive when they do.
  • What Else? Any other ideas or examples you can think of?