Your Need Is the Ugliest Thing

“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 give my advice where it hasn’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 as a prospective client.

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 didn’t want help.  If you do want to attract clients to your practice or service business, welcome help, be gentle, assume the best, and keep REACHING…


Ruth Greenwood says:

Sandy, I had to come back and reread this one because it’s a point rarely made and really needed to be said.

It reminds me of a time when another songwriter sent me a CD with at least 20 of his songs, hoping to collaborate, and then got angry because I didn’t contact him in a week. No deadline had been set, it was at least 14 more songs than anyone should send…and he didn’t even take the time to ask me about me or what might be going on in my life that kept me from responding quickly.

Collaborating on an artistic project with someone often requires a lot of openness and trust, and for me as a professional songwriter, it is also a business relationship. This would-be collaborator attitude failed on all counts.

It’s good for us to believe in our own importance and value…but it’s also so easy to think that we deserve priority above the business and personal activities, the phonecalls, e-mails, indeed, the hundreds of other bits of life that are clamoring for our target client’s attention.

Marie missed an opportunity to ask and learn what your communication preferences and timelines are. She was a strong client magnet in one sense: magnets have a positive/attract pole and a negative/repel pole–she used her negativity and it repelled you!

Great point, Sandy, and I’ll remember it whenever I get impatient waiting for a return communication.


Rich Vaill says:

Great post, Sandy.

Besides appearing needy, the perception is that she’s not very good at what she does and lacks confidence, which may not be the case. You can be persistent and not appear to be desperate for business. I recently brought in a client who I had been prospecting for over a year. I was professionally persistent (no more than once a month) and he respected it.

If she had been “professionally persistent,” she may have acquired your business.

Ken Lonyai says:

Sandy – great points!

With the difficulty of finding sales and the seemingly growing trend of people hiding, rather than saying “not interested” or “no”, it seems that Marie’s frustrations may have shown. Nevertheless, as you point out, one never knows what the potential customer’s circumstances are and should never vent their frustrations or desperations towards the hoped-for client.