Since I launched The Empathy Coach a couple of months back, I can’t tell you how much I have been inundated with people and companies that all claim they can increase my client numbers. At least once a day I am contacted in some way by someone who claims they can revolutionise my business.
They reach out desperate to tell me all about themselves, their ‘system’, their product, their skills. They start their messages with things like “have you got time for me to take you through our award-winning platform?”, or “I’d love to talk to you about how we can help your business”. And they push, push, push, not backing down until you reply, even though you probably haven’t replied because you spend a large portion of your day replying and responding to solicited contacts, clients, suppliers, family and friends – you know, the people you actually invite into your busy life. And here’s why those people will never get a call back from me.
They claim to be able to help me revolutionise my business - but they know nothing about my business.
They claim to be able to get me more clients - but they know nothing about the clients I want.
They endorse me – but they’ve never even met me or even had a conversation with me.
They claim that their platform or system will double, even triple my income - but they don’t know anything about my charges, pricing structure or current financial position.
Here’s the subconscious message that this approach can send to potential clients:
Your business is so generic, so ordinary and un-special that any ‘fool-proof’ method, platform or system could be overlaid.
It’s such a simple, fool-proof method that will make such a massive difference to your business that you must be a simpleton for not figuring it out for yourself.
You have challenges, and if you haven't yet, you will have in the future and this is something that you should be afraid of.
In short, you’re approaching me because my proposition is generic, I’m stupid, I should be afraid and YOU have the answer to all my fears – fears that you’ve actually just instilled in me.
This frustrates me greatly. How can someone who knows nothing real about me as a person, trainer, coach, my skill-set, my approach or my ethos claim that they know how I should be running my business? And why would I be interested in someone who has shown so little interest - other than the obligatory "I really like your profile and your work sounds interesting" - in me?
Also, when I get approached by people that I don’t know asking what my challenges are, this creates two reactions:
You’re assuming I have challenges, or asserting that I should have, which is very fear-based, and either plays on the fears of the business owner, or creates fear.
And if I do have fears or challenges – I'll share them with my trusted network of colleagues and friends as opposed to a complete stranger, thanks!
Here’s my advice to all of those people – and it won’t be dropping into their inboxes or LinkedIn Inmail unsolicited, it’s just here should they choose to look for it or come across it.
Seek first to understand!
If you do ‘cold approach’ people or businesses like me, do it without any other agenda than “I’m interested to know more about you and what you do”. And be GENUINE about this. Trust that, for whatever reason, this person or business has found its way in front of you and you’d like to know more. Let go of the notion that you WILL be able to sell to this person before you go in, and concentrate solely on establishing a relationship with that person. Make the RELATIONSHIP rather than the SALE the goal. Get to know them, find common interests, listen to what is important to them, create a foundation upon which regular catch-ups can be arranged, and establish yourself as someone that is available to help or support if and when THEY need it, and also ask if THEY are willing to support you should you need it as well.
Genuinely put the relationship FIRST and trust that whatever leads it may generate or work that may come from it will come. I get most of my work from people that know me, trust me and enjoy dealing with me, so I prioritise relationship and dialogue. This also means that I only generally tend to work with people that I WANT to work with and that WANT to work with me - hurrah! So become someone that knows them, is trusted and deemed to be a pleasure to work with. Strike up a conversation. Be curious. And be GENUINE. If you really want to support a business, developing a genuine relationship and setting aside any agenda other than establishing that relationship, at least in the early stages, is paramount.
I’ve had a few that start out well – I recently got asked by a company to take part in their research for a book, which I agreed to, but it turned out that this was just a pretext to lure me in, and when I didn’t bite, suddenly the interview for the ‘book’ was cancelled without explanation.
I had another connect with me on LinkedIn asking to know more about what I do as they saw an affinity. I accepted their connection request, but within an hour or so came the Inmail – “have you got 5 minutes (it's NEVER just 5 minutes) for me to talk all about me and what I can do, and what I’m great at, and how I will change your life and blah, blah, blah…”
Slow it down. Create the connection. Build the relationship.
Instead of asking “Have you got 5 minutes for me to tell you about my company”, say “I’d love to know more about what you do if you fancy a virtual cuppa”.
Instead of saying “What are your challenges”, say “I really enjoy collaborating with and learning from new people - can we chat?”.
Instead of asking for time, ask for a conversation.
Instead of asking about my business, ask about ME.
We don’t do business with people we don’t yet trust. And we don’t trust people we don’t know or have a relationship with.
So start with the relationship. Seek to genuinely understand others. And trust that the rest will follow.
Works for me, anyway!