The coffee date seemed so perfect.
We met and I felt an instant chemistry. He smiled when I said something insightful or clever and I completely understood his frustrations with past relationships.
We connected on shared goals, our perspective and philosophy about how the world worked. We both held a deep commitment toward making a difference.
We discussed a few specific “next steps” that seemed eagerly embraced by one another and I was already envisioning a beautiful, long-lasting relationship.
“I’ll call you,” he said.
I followed up with him by sending an email with more ideas and thoughts to take our relationship to the next level.
I never heard from him again.
Looking For ‘Quan’ In All the Wrong Places
If you’ve not guessed, I’m referring to a fictitious meeting with a prospective client, not a romantic rendezvous. But replace “next steps” with “a discussion about the project” and “more ideas and thoughts” with “proposal” – and it’s almost the same.
Remember ‘quan?’ It was that magical term used in the movie “Jerry Maguire” by Jerry’s one client, Rod Tidwell. Tidwell was a self-absorbed football player who wanted all the quan he could get. In his words, quan was more than money. It meant love, respect, community… and the dollars too. The whole package.
It’s that “R” word I’d like to focus on.
Whenever you start a new relationship – whether it’s personal or professional – you probably are looking for respect. No one wants to be taken advantage of or mistreated in a relationship.
Healthy relationships are a combination of concessions, acknowledgement, recognition and appreciation. Those who are smart know that not everything is going to go their way in any relationship. However, with a little work they can still feel as though they’ve created a win-win outcome.
Respect is given over time and often come as a result of passing certain “trust tests.” But there is another aspect to respect that needs to be explored.
Respect Is Shown In the Way You Communicate
I am an independent creative contractor and business consultant. When it comes to hiring and working with other independents, business owners have one common complaint.
It’s when the person they’ve hired suddenly disappears.
It’s a fear many business owners have. They just spent valuable time getting an independent contractor or consultant onboard with their business objectives. A deposit was paid to get the project rolling.
And then… nothing.
The person hired doesn’t respond to emails or phone calls. Or weeks go by without any deliverable. The business owner feels disrespected and scammed. As far as he’s concerned, he’s now out of hundreds (or thousands) of dollars with nothing to show for it.
The inverse also is true.
An independent contractor or consultant wins a proposal to work with a company. He invoices a percentage of the fee to get the project started and after several strategy sessions, he’s ready to dive in.
After an agreed-upon time frame, he delivers the first draft of a project, hoping he came close to what the client wanted.
And then… nothing.
No email response. No phone calls. Nothing. And the independent contractor is left wondering if the project has been put on hold or if the business owner suddenly skipped town. Who knows?
During times like these, it’s easy to think the worst. If you’re the service provider, it’s tempting to think you did something wrong. If you’re the business owner, you might wonder if you exercised poor judgment for choosing to work with someone who was so untrustworthy.
However, I think the answer is obvious – and relatively painless.
The most important thing you can do, as either an independent contractor or a business owner who has hired one, is to ask what’s going on.
Email someone and explain you’re following up on the agreement. And if you don’t get an answer within a week, pick up the phone and call your contact.
If you’re the business owner, you can let the person know that you don’t want this project to fall through the cracks and would like to see progress by a certain date. Define exactly what “progress” looks like to you.
It could be a wireframe for a website re-design. An outline for a report. Or some rough drafts of logo designs.
The point is, we all could be much clearer with our communication.
For independent contractors and consultants, one of the more common mistakes I see made is to simply send the first attempt at the project and then never follow up with the client.
It’s always good to follow up because you never know what else is going on with their schedule. They may be out of town at a conference and forgot to tell you. They might have had an internal emergency and had to press “pause” on the project they were working on with you.
Again, you’ll never know unless you ask.
Your Client Just Isn’t Into You
It was an episode of “Sex In the City” that brought this concept to the forefront.
The character Miranda was giving her girlfriends the scoop on her previous night’s date. Carrie, the popular writer for a newspaper’s sex column, happened to bring Jack, her date, who ended up changing Miranda’s life.
As Miranda shared what she thought was a nice evening. At the end of the date, she asked her date if he wanted to come upstairs but he declined, saying he had a meeting the next day. He then ended the evening by telling her, “I’ll call you.” Miranda wasn’t sure.
Her girlfriends soothed her doubts by saying of course he’d call. Jack had another opinion. Miranda asked what he thought.
“You really want to know?” Jack asked.
“Yes,” Miranda said, “I’d love to hear a man’s point of view on this.”
Jack leaned forward.
“He’s just not that into you.”
It was like Jack dropped a bloody severed head on the table and shouted “Trick or Treat!” The effect was immediate.
Carrie squeaked her indignation and embarrassment and Charlotte, friends with Carrie and Miranda, instantly started to console Miranda, saying that of course her date would call.
But Miranda was intrigued. She asked Jack to elaborate.
Jack laid it out in plain English. “I’m sorry, but if a guy is really into you, he’s coming upstairs. Meeting or no meeting.”
You can do everything right on a date. Show up on time. Be courteous. Laugh at the other person’s jokes. But if they’re not “into you,” it won’t matter. They simply won’t call you.
And this is true when it comes to clients.
Relationships are such complex things because we’re complex things. A certain tone in your voice might cause a prospect to decide not to do business with you. A small typo in your email may sink a deal. Seemingly tiny infractions may mean more than you’d think. Whether you pursue them or not is your decision but it also may be tilting toward windmills.
There is a truth I have found that works both for my personal and professional life and you might find it to be true, too.
Those for whom I’m meant to be with, are into me. Those who aren’t, aren’t.
My long-term clients trust me. They like what I’m able to do for them and tell me so. But if a prospect doesn’t see the value I’m delivering – for whatever reason – then any attempts I make to try to get them to understand that falls flat.
Good, solid relationships flow. Difficult relationships usually start out like that. If you can learn to tell the difference early on, you may save yourself a lot of time and trouble.