I will first preface this article by admitting I’m not a psychologist, although psychology is part of what I do for a living.
Copywriters are always trying to find out what makes a person buy. And we also know that buying decisions are rarely logical.
However, this isn’t about getting people to buy what you’re trying to sell.
It’s about selling you.
Surprise! You’re the product!
Many entrepreneurs find that when they launch their own business, they need to wear many “hats”—accounting, research and development, manufacturing, distribution, marketing and… sales.
As a one-person show, it’s up to you do figure out how to accomplish tasks that previously were held by dozens of people in your former employer’s company.
Some people who are organized can find their way through this process. Others may have a more difficult time and immediately outsource certain parts of the business.
But the more I’ve hung out with entrepreneurs and “solopreneurs,” the more I discovered that most of them didn’t know how to sell themselves. When it came to prospecting and finding clients for their business, either they failed to present a persuasive case for hiring them or they accepted clients who couldn’t or wouldn’t value them.
A confession from my past
I was raised by extroverted parents.
My mother was an outgoing Italian who never met a stranger. My father was a gregarious salesman who commanded respect. However, somewhere along my childhood, I slipped into a desire to please others at all costs.
This people-pleasing behavior stayed with me throughout childhood and young adulthood. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I started to realize this wasn’t serving me well. It was a good day when I discovered a better way.
I first joined a therapy group that tackled the book, Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them: When Loving Hurts and You Don’t Know Why, by Dr. Susan Forward. I wasn’t happy with my dating life and the book was a bestseller at the time. When the opportunity came up to study the book in a group setting led by a psychologist, I grabbed it.
It opened up a whole new world. I started to see that what I didn’t like in my life was often the consequences of my poor choices. I started to understand why I attracted certain types of people. I also started to understand I was replaying scenarios from my childhood, hoping for different results.
This time of self-discovery lasted for over fifteen years. During that time, I discovered other books and groups that helped me understand the roots of why I made certain decisions and how I could make better ones, choices that would bring me life and vitality instead of depleting my energy.
Throughout this time, I started to separate myself from people’s opinions (whether I accurately assessed them or not) and finally started to march to the beat of my own drum.
It wasn’t easy. I still made mistakes by trusting the wrong people and got deeply hurt. But I’d get back up, give myself some strong, positive affirmations and move on. I didn’t realize I was preparing myself for the day when I would launch my own business and learn another aspect of people-pleasing behavior.
Fast forward to today
I just finished reading Donald Trump’s book, Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life. It was a great book. I highly recommend reading it if you’re trying to please everyone in your life.
The truth about trying to please people is that rarely do you please them.
When you bend over backwards trying to help people, you have a tendency to attract people who will never be happy with what you give them.
Trust me, I know. I’ve been nice to people while trying to figure out what they wanted and doing everything in my power to deliver it. What I found was a bunch of ingrates. There’s no other way of saying it.
People who are unhappy with their own life are always ungrateful.
Especially when someone is trying to help them move toward their goals.
Nowhere is this truer than in the business world. Some are unhappy with their jobs or business. And when they meet a vendor whose job is to meet their expectations, they quickly make their lives a living hell as they present one hoop to jump through after another.
This is where a people-pleaser can get into trouble.
Because when you’re in that place, you draw the conclusion that if you do A and B (as required by the unhappy client), then they’ll be happy.
Ah, but you didn’t realize that you had to jump through hoops C, D, and E.
You find out about those hoops ONLY after hearing the client rant and rave that you didn’t do them. But you didn’t realize those hoops even existed until your client condescendingly told you that you should have figured it out.
This is what is called “crazy-making” talk. If you listen to it long enough, it will drive you mad.
If you want to remain sane, there are a few things to remember if you are entrepreneur or freelancer.
When it comes to selling your services, you’re the boss
You call the shots. You define your own ways of doing business. You set the standard.
Not your client.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but stay with me, here.
From the very start, you need to take control of the relationship. This means that you clearly define what you can do for a client, the boundaries for communication, in essence, the “rules” for dealing with you.
This will immediately knock some of the time-suckers out of your world because they hate rules. They don’t like being told that certain things are off-limits. So they’ll move on to someone else they can harass.
If you want to attract clients who appreciate you, you need to start becoming more firm in how you present yourself to them. You can’t use phrases like, “I am so honored you chose me to work with you on this project.”
They are the ones who are privileged to work with you if you’re giving them solid results. And they’re going to pay for that privilege by respecting you and letting you do your job.
All of this needs to be communicated early in the client relationship. Don’t assume they know anything. In fact, assume that they’re used to dealing with people-pleasers and let them know you’re not one of them.
I have more to say but I can see it’s going to take me more than one article to do it.
Start today to change the way you do business by finding business leaders you admire and reading their books. No one takes advantage of Donald Trump. Ask yourself why.
When you start to adopt some of the same behaviors, it may feel uncomfortable at first. But feeling strong and confident and having clients who appreciate you will go a long way toward making that discomfort disappear.
Confidence is the key.