“I most certainly did not need a lecture!” Marie, an internet consultant, wrote me this week.
Last week, I had asked for proposals for help with an internet project I’m working on, and Marie had been the first to respond. Her email had specifically addressed my request and was filled with enthusiasm, and she appeared to have experience in both of the areas in which I needed help. Each of the other consultants who responded only had skills in one area or the other.
When I spoke to Marie a few days ago, we got a little more into the details of the project, and I told her that I still wanted to talk with the three other experts who responded, but that I would get back to her after my conversations and after reviewing her detailed proposal.
Marie then called me on Monday to make sure I had received the proposal, and to find out if I had reviewed it.
Yesterday, just one week after our initial contact and two days after her follow-up call, she wrote:
I’ve yet to hear back from you, so I guess it’s safe to assume you’ve decided on hiring someone else.
Regardless of your intention, a note like this conveys a neediness and negativity that can make a prospective buyer of your services run for cover. There were several good reasons why Marie didn’t hear back from me this week. What basis did she have to assume I had gone elsewhere? Was her intention to “guilt” me into reassuring her that I hadn’t made a decision yet, or to decide to use her?
Upon receipt of Marie’s note, I could have: (a) decided that the negative, needy tone was a turnoff and simply made Marie’s message a self-fulfilling prophecy, or (b) ignored the negative and needy tone. But because my work is helping professionals get more clients (something about me Marie needed to know), I chose option (c), to tell her how her letter might appear to a prospective client:
…It’s a giant and negative leap to assume that because a week has gone by, I’ve decided to work with someone else. A better approach might be to ask if there’s any way you can help a client decide.
I haven’t made my decision yet–let’s talk again next week!
Marie’s response is above. She also said,
Perhaps we would not be a good fit after all.
When you’re trying to attract clients, your need for their business is the ugliest thing you can show them. Perhaps I shouldn’t have given my advice where it hadn’t been requested–a good lesson for me! But perhaps the reason “we’re not a good fit after all” is that I was right about my sense that Marie had shown me that her need to have another client was more important than my need to have the help.
By the way, had Marie understood why I was giving her advice on dealing with prospective clients, it would have shown me she completely understands the work I do, and she would have surely had the job. She could have disagreed with my interpretation of her email, or on my tone, and we might have discussed it–but none of that can happen now.
Marie wanted more clients…but she wanted it so badly that she turned me off and away. If you do want to attract clients to your practice, send supporting material, be patient, and assume the best, and, of course, keep REACHING…