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A Way With Words

Are you a people pleaser?  Do you go out of your way to be nice to everybody in the hope that they will like you?  Does it work for you?  Or are you so busy pleasing everybody that you’ve no time to notice whether they do or not?  Do you run your business the same way?  Are you always doing your utmost to please your customers, all  the time, regardless of the cost to you?  Have you weighed that up in your balance sheet?

I ask because sometimes it’s better to not please a client.  To be bluntly honest in their best interest, even at the cost of upsetting them.  A perfect example of this was a hair-dresser I used to go to.  I wanted a particular style and she point blank refused to do it saying: “That style won’t suit your face, your hair is too fine to support it and I’m not putting my professional reputation on the line over it.” When I asked to sign a disclamer she refused saying “I don’t offer disclaimers, trust me on this, I do know better on this issue.” Thankfully I did trust her.  I continued to use her services until I moved away.  Why? Because I valued her honest opinion instead of simply agreeing with me.  She was prepared to lose me as a customer rather than compromise her professional standards.

There are times in our professional lives where we are called to on to be brutally honest which can leave us feeling less than nice, even vulnerable to losing a client.  How we do it can make all the difference between keeping them or not.

When I get a new enquiry from a client I have a short conversation with them over the phone.  There are various reasons for doing it,

1) To find out what their issue isA way with words

2) To find out their expectations

3) To find out if they are suitable as a client

Yes, I screen my clients before agreeing to take them on board.  I’ve stated before I’m not for everybody, because quite frankly, I’m not!  I’m forthright, honest, niggly and often in-your-face-blunt.  A client coming to see me, expecting results is in no doubt that there is nowhere to hide.  Despite that I am kind, considerate, compassionate and extremely effective!  I help them get their results and I do it with honesty, sometimes they don’t like to hear it at first, however, as they start to make the changes they were looking for, they realise they needed that honesty to help them move on their issues.

If I have an enquiry from a prospective client and I honestly don’t think I am what they need I refer them on to someone else, and I’ll tell them why I’m doing it too.  I have a way with words and can use them effectively, both in and out of business.  Does your way with words work for your business?

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Mairéad Kelly developed the Cute Honey System - Business training, coaching & mentoring for Mumpreneurs & Mum Biz Owners who want to buzz their business into a hive of productivity while raising young children & often can’t get out to training events, morning or evening network events due to family commitments and/or a lack of finances.

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  • Mairead, another brave post, I’m starting to really like your style. As I get older (& hopefully more mature) I am starting to realise that there are people I want to work & people I don’t. The ability to have an open & honest discussion with clients & for them to be able to return the favour without insecurity & the usual BS is something I now cherish in people. Great great post.

  • Mairead,
    I agree with Nialls comments below – there is nothing like being able to be yourself when pitching to a client, or simply having a mutual discussion. Like yourself, my style of coaching does not suit everyone either, but if it did I would not have the success I do with clients that I attract.

    My only regret is, that sometimes, a client that decides not to take that initial phonecall further, will not make another phonecall to another coach. I realise it is not the right time for them, but often find myself wishing them the best, as they deserve to work on their personal development, even if they don’t feel so.

    Thanks for an honest and forthright post – we need more of these. Good stuff!

  • Thanks Elaine, I often find myself nodding in complete agreement with your words. I too some ponder whether a potential client who didn’t go futher than the initial call actually found the right coach for them and sincerely hope that they did.

    Honesty has got to start with self first and then it has no option but to shine outwards to those you connect with. Overall I get less and less negative comments for my forthright honesty and more appreciation (once the surprise/shock has worn off, lol) for it. Too many people live in unnecessary fear – of consequences, of not being liked, of losing a sale and hide behind the lies.

    @Niall – Thanks, I don’t see it as brave, lol, just me being me. I too find as I get older (mature?) that I tolerate less of the B.S. that is spun to cover so many bad practices and don’t bother interacting with the people spinning it. I also notice the people who give me a wide berth and those that don’t – very telling!!

  • Anonymous

    Nice article Mairead.

    Agree with the key points …. Be honest / Be yourself, We are not the best solution for every client, Stick to your knitting, All business is not good

    Thanks Paul

  • Lorna Sixsmith

    Wow. Great post Mairead. I have to admit that I really like working with people who ‘call a spade a spade’ and indeed I have been accused of calling it a shovel! However, with clients I find I have to be a bit more diplomatic especially if they have spent thousands on something which really is hideous!

  • Facundo

    Good summary Jennie and some interesting facts there. I was completely unaware that the .ly came from Libya.

  • Hi Jennie, Nice to see you back blogging on here! I’m afraid I’ve learnt the hard way with respect selecting to domain names. I choose, which in hindsight was a mistake I’m now going to have rectify particularly as my personal brand i.e. Niall Devitt is now much better known. Together with this post let it be a warning to others 🙂

  • Hi Jennie,nGreat post. When going for a keyword based domain, what do you think of using the Google Keyword tool to get ideas of what keyword domain to register? I’m sure you know but just for others, the tool is available at nYou can use the tool to find out what keywords are search for most in your own country and globally. It may help you decide what domain name is best to use for SEO purposes, no point in targetting a keyword that no one is searching for.nnI registered a personal domain name and use that for my business but some people have said that I should really register a company name and a domain name to go with it.

  • Whoa, this is some pretty cool info on domain names! I love the fun ones, like… I totally want to make one of those!!!nnI usually always try to stick to .com names no matter what because “dot com” has just been seared into our brains and it’s easy to remember. I’m seeing a lot more of this “no need for .www” advice too, so I’m going to keep this in mind for future reference as well.nnThanks a lot for the cool info Jennie! I always learn something new about this kind of stuff.

  • have a couple of root servers based in Libya also – service hasn’t been affected and is unlikely to be, but it’s not the ideal place to be at the moment…

  • Thanks Beatrice.nnYes definitely, the Google Keyword Tool is the first place to do some keyword research – to see what terms people are actually searching on.nnFor your own business, while your name is distinctive perhaps it is suggestive of ‘personal’ as opposed to ‘business’, implying 1 employee, whereas in fact you may have more or expand in the future. nnBut then it depends on the business. Niall feels he’s in the opposite situation, where his personal name has become his brand, and his domain name (while it has keywords) no longer reflects this.nnn

  • Hello Denver,nnI’d have to agree with you there – people will always go to the .com first. A .net is kind of like second place.

  • Anonymous

    Niall,nnThat’s the beauty of this exercise. I often hear how busy small business owners are and I get like that too. However, without an overarching plan, we’re more like hamsters on a wheel. I look forward to seeing how Bloggertone blossoms over the long-term!

  • Hi Elli, nnFor me, it’s about brand building. Why? Because Google is rewarding brands as trusted sites and relegating others. Gotta get that brand out there 🙂

  • Solid advice, Elli. Having gone through the growth/contraction cycle a couple of times I’d add the following to number 2 (Numbers & Stuff): budget. Any business has to know, as close as possible, what it costs to run on a month by month basis; that’s where any analysis of numbers and stuff has to start. nnThis is especially important for small businesses, being out by u20ac500 a month is a u20ac6k gap over a year – and for one-person / small business operation that can be hugely significant. The only way to do it is to record absolutely every expenditure over the course of at least three months – sometimes you’ll see where savings can be made, sometimes you’ll understand where savings MUST be made. nnKnowing, as early as possible, when things have become unsustainable will help you make better informed decisions – leaving things run their course and refusing to face up to tough decisions will only make things far far worse. nnOne thing I’ve learned over the years is that a sale isn’t a sale until the money is in the bank. No amount of promises or good intentions, from even the most normally reliable of clients, will pay the bills. Thankfully we’ve a enough clients who’ve stuck with us through thick and thin, but not every business is that lucky.

  • Anonymous

    I have to agree! Keeping good bookkeeping records is important so the budget can be based on real numbers. That u20ac6k over a year can catch up with a small business in a hurry! When we talk about running a lean business, we’re really talking about not only having accurate financial information but the strength to face challenges and make tough decisions. nnGlad to hear you’ve found a way to remain sustainable! Keep up the good work!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment, Ivan! It’s a lot easier to grow when people know you exist. Brand builidng is definitely a tool that requires us to remember SEO and keeping our online content fresh as well as the offline brand building activities.

  • For me, most of the business clients that come to me because they are “stuck”, it is often because they perceive they do not know where to turn, but they often forget who they must turn to first – the CEO/Manager i.e. themselves!!nTrying to teach an old dog new tricks may be near impossible, but teaching oneself and keeping up with the ever changing world of business and sales, is surely easier if done on a continuous basis, that is there are no surprises and no “new” tricks, just better solutions.nnA great read on sales and consultative selling that really brings it together for the Owner/Manager is “Hope is not a strategy” by Rick Page, a must-read for non “sales” people who have to sell – whether a service, a personal brand, or a bespoke solution. We are all sales people, whether we like it or not ;)nnA great post Elli, thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your comment, Elaine! nnTruly you do have to start with yourself-the business owner! Thanks for the reading recommendation! Finding your way of doing sales is a crucial part of one’s strategic plan.

  • It has occurred to me that I have set the bar high for myself in 2012 and I daren’t risk being late with a post again after this…
    Mr Devitt is in fact a good sport. Cool 🙂
    ~ Helen

  • Eamonn O’Brien

    I really enjoyed your article Helen, nicely done. I’m with you on this – responding to criticism can rankle a bit but ‘fessing up to problems or mistakes quickly, honesty and offering solutions for the future strike me as good ideas. I think you cover off on 3 counts when you do this – a) you show you’re listening, b) you respond positively to look after your customers’ interests, and c) you move the story on to what you’re doing now vs where you’ve been. 

  • Your comment rounds off the post nicely there Eamonn, well put. Thank you!

  • Guest

    I was expecting an actual ‘call out’ here – this, rather, was neither a call out nor criticism, just a tongue in cheek comment in jest…#disappointed, heheh 🙂 

  • Your post is smart, but the example you use sorta bothers me, though I can see it was tongue in cheek. If it had been a real call out, then I would have questioned the one who chose to take it to a public forum when they could have dealt with you privately. This is a HUGE problem in social media, since people seem to skip over etiquette and taking issues public which need not be. I have found the reason is not usually honorable, but manipulative. I could give you story after story of people who have “called people/companies out” in public without even attempting to handle the problem in other ways. Some say it is because they get a faster response, but I hold attempting to give a person/company a bad mark publicly first is wrong. Your response was good leaving all egos in check. 

  • Hi Del
    I’m not sure why the example I used bothers you, but I didn’t want to focus on a real complaint and potentially embarrass a business owner. As you say, the example is tongue-in-cheek 🙂
    Yes it’s true that people do a “knee jerk” call out on Social Media now without attempting to resolve the issue with the business first. This is the world that we live in, so businesses have to deal with that. Many of my clients are in the tourism sector, and have to deal with poor reviews on Trip Advisor, and the 3 components of a good response are derived from dealing with actual complaints there, some of these complaints being justified, some not. As I say in the article, “The important thing to remember when formulating a response on a social media forum is that you are primarily writing it for visitors to the forum and not for the person who made the comment in the first place.” How you deal with a complaint says a lot about your business, and that is what matters in the end, rather than the complaint itself. I’m  Thanks for adding to the post Del. 

  • Liz

    Good example.   I don’t like public call outs – I think it should be done privately – but this was a good example nonetheless.  In fact, depending on the feel of the facebook account and culture of the company, it might have been very appropriate.  

    I thought your response was good, and the fact that you already submitted two posts to complete the year rather than saying you ‘are going to submit’.  You were pro-active and proved it.

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