A wise and successful entrepreneur once told me “The value that you believe you have is what your price tag is.”
Looking back on my single years, I see now that I dated lots of guys who didn’t value me. They talked a good game and somehow convinced me (or got me to convince myself) that they really, really liked me.
So why they heck was I always getting dumped or feeling like I didn’t matter as much to them as they did to me?
The truth is, I didn’t really know what I wanted in a relationship. And while going through the lousy ones helped me sort that out, it was often a painful experience. Finally, after pining away for one particular guy for two years (yes, two years . . . ) and not getting what I wanted from him or from love in general, I got fed up.
One Saturday morning I raced along the Massachusetts Turnpike in my little black Mazda MX-3 and showed up on his doorstep, without telling him I was coming.
(I know, it’s a little cuckoo-cachoo).
I simply said “I want to be with you. No one else. You.”
And it was immediately clear from his reaction (or lack of) that he didn’t want the same thing.
For a week.
But then it was liberating.
Because I finally knew what the hell I really did want . . . a respectful, mutually loving and healthy relationship. I was ready for the real deal.
Three weeks later, I met my husband.
And that happened because:
1. I got clear and committed about what I wanted
2. I shifted my own value (from “please love me” to “I deserve love, real love . . . and I’m done with even entertaining anything less than that”.)
Business sometimes feels like you’re going on 100 bad first dates. You keep putting yourself out there and attracting duds for clients. Or maybe you feel like you’re going for a potential client who is “out of your league” and you blow it because you get freaked out. So then you go back to courting the wrong prospects. You know, the comfortable ones. The warm leads who will tell you that they love you, think you’re great and REALLY want to work with you, but they never commit. You let them tell you this for months. Maybe for years.
And at first you’re OK with it. It feels good because hey, they like SOMETHING about you right?
But after awhile it feels like hollow promises.
Just like I spent two years waiting on the wrong man to finally commit to me, I’ve spent far too long waiting for less than ideal potential clients to do the same thing.
Can you relate?
If so, here’s what you do about it:
1. Draw your line in the sand. It’s one thing to know and say you want a different kind of client (you know, the kind that can’t wait to work with you, happily pays you and is committed to doing what it takes to get results?), but until you say “enough is enough” to those less than ideal clients and commit to something different, things rarely change.
2. Get clear on your perfect fit. Marketing and brand strategists (myself included) love to talk about creating ideal client profiles. It’s good advice, but sometimes it’s really hard to extract from yourself what would make an ideal client. Talk to someone else. Some of my biggest revelations about the type of clients I want to serve don’t happen when I’m sitting at my computer filling out an ideal client questionnaire. They come from having conversations with my coach and my peers about who I do and don’t want to serve. You need the combination of your own experiences, reflection and discussion to get a clear picture of who is the perfect fit for you.
3. Cut your ties. You’ve got to let go to make way for something better. Wrap up whatever remaining agreements you have with existing clients who are less than ideal for you. Stop chasing leads who want to nickel and dime you and don’t respect your time. It’s much harder to focus on attracting Mr. or Ms. Right Client, when you allow the wrong clients for you to take up your time, energy and attention.
4. Feel, then move on. Breaking up stinks, no matter what the situation is. You need to take time to process what happened, what you’re feeling and what you’ve learned. Take the time and feel what you need to, but don’t wallow. With each day, focus more on what you want and what you’re moving toward and less on what you lost.
5. Go for it. With your new clarity, you’ll know the right client when you see her. Step into your value and be bold with your intentions. When I met my husband at a cookout, he was flirting with another woman most of the night. He talked with me too but he seemed more interested in her. I was discouraged at first so I didn’t make a move that night. When I went home, I knew I really wanted to get to know him more so I found a way to stay in touch. Soon we started talking on the phone almost every day, and not long after we had our first date. This happened in a matter of weeks. Within a month we were seriously dating and that other girl was long forgotten.
The same happens in business. Maybe your ideal client is working with someone else or simply just considering working with someone else. That doesn’t mean you have no chance. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a conversation. I’m not saying go out and steal clients, but a little competition can be a good thing. It helps you see how much you really want this relationship, and what you’re willing to do to create something amazing for both of you. Be curious about the person you’re courting. Find out how you can complete them. Go for it . . . the worst that can happen is that they say no.
And wouldn’t you rather get a definitive answer either way than wonder how awesome it could’ve been if you’d just gone for it?
As always, I’d love to hear your lessons learned from running your own business. What would you add to this list?