If your business is helping people directly and involves deep relationships, then this article might be final piece of business advice you will ever need.
Actually, it applies to all businesses. And all relationships (suppliers, clients, employees) within all businesses.
Follow the Golden Rule.
If Sunday school was a ways back, the Golden Rule is basically this: “Treat everyone how you would like to be treated.”
This is what happened for me.
A couple months ago, business was not quite right. Externally, everything looked fine.
I was making money. I was helping people. But something was missing.
Then it hit me. The obvious.
I wasn’t having fun with the marketing and sales. And that’s a very important value of mine. Having fun.
I followed the teachings of the marketing and sales gurus. But something in the process felt fake. Forced. “Unnatural.” And not that fun–even when I was signing clients for “big money”.
I stopped everything to take a mini-sabbatical. And I thought about why I wasn’t enjoying marketing and sales. There had to be a better way. Something could be fixed
Inspired by Rich Litvin, I started looking at ‘client acquisition’ through a completely different lens.
What if I just started treating everyone related to my business exactly how I wanted to be treated?
In essence: What if I just loved everyone?
That thought triggered tectonic shifts.
I let go of “sales models”. No more ‘building on common beliefs’ or ‘handling objections’ or remembering the “sales steps” in precise order.
I stopped all pressure and artificial scarcity. I abandoned knowing ‘how the sales conversation should go’. It felt vulnerable. I felt fear. But on another, deeper level, it felt right, as I embraced a more organic way of interacting.
Marketing and sales started being fun. Marketing transformed into “having fun to get people’s attention”. Sales became ‘meeting new people and helping them‘.
Now, there were no more ‘problem’ contacts. I took time to ask every person what they needed and really listened.
Rather than try to ‘sell anyone’ a package (by ramping up their discomfort or other ‘tactics’), I just worked to solve their most immediate pain. I listened deeply and provided my very best thinking and support.
Instead of ‘aiming’ for a specific outcome of our conversation, I paid exquisite attention and stopped worrying about what I wanted.
Love and compassion begin professional relationships. Money enables them to continue.
All the sudden, we were both on the same side. We were one, working together to solve their problems.
No longer were we antagonistic ‘negotiation partners’ on ‘opposite sides of the table’ that I used ‘clever tactics’ to ‘get to sign up’ for something a lot more expensive than they might have planned on.
Here’s what happened:
1. My ‘potential client’ calendar completely filled up. I had 2-3 conversations with “people who I could help” planned every day for a week in advance. This had never happened before. No more staring at my empty calendar and wondering how I was going to fill up the space.
2. I really enjoyed my conversations. Every time someone left, they were so grateful and happy, they treated me like their long-lost brother. There was no ‘sales pressure yuck’ taste in either my mouth or theirs. I usually knew within 5 minutes whether someone was a fit. And, I still spent focused energy and time helping as deeply as I could. I used to dread the conversations where I knew that they wouldn’t be hiring me, but I still had to ‘kill time’ listening to them. I felt like I was “giving my brilliance away” and that “I wasn’t being valued” if I didn’t get paid immediately. No more!
3. “Conversions” went down. I went from 80% ‘client conversions’ to perhaps 10%. I wasn’t even mentioning continuing to work with me to most people. And most people didn’t ask. They said “thank you!”. I said ‘you’re welcome!’ and they danced away, smiling.
They benefited from our short time together. I enjoyed it. And that is how most connections are meant to be. This was a good thing. It means that I am working long-term just with my optimal clients. It hasn’t cost me money. Quite the contrary. (See the last point on this list.)
4. My service quality increased dramatically. When I am focused on service, my intuition is turbocharged. I am not distracted by trying to ‘remember the steps in the sales process’. Nor am I thinking about how I was going to ‘overcome their objections’ to working with me during the conversation.
I am serving people from a place of deep caring and concern (which is who I actually am). I am giving them what they need.
5. My ‘scarcity mentality’ around money and potential clients disappeared. Since my calendar is always full, I realize that there is an inexhaustible supply of potential clients. Nobody ‘has’ to fit and ‘be the right one’. Everyone can be with me as they are, and we can follow the natural energy of the interaction. And it feels great to serve them
6. My “perfect clients” sign. Now, there is a special energy when I ‘click’ with a potential client. They feel that energy as well. We both know we are ‘meant’ for this relationship. Then we simply have an open conversation about how to make it happen.
7. Recommendations and referrals have gone through the roof. One recent conversation triggered five other conversations. I am simply present and helpful, and people are writing about it on their Facebook walls, telling their friends, and sending them to me. It’s a snowball effect.
You know how it is: most people go to a service provider of any kind because of word-of-mouth referrals. If you get referrals, building a business is easy. If you don’t, marketing becomes very challenging.
8. My client service level increased dramatically. I thought, “What do I really want to give my clients? What’s the best level of service I can provide?”
I thought about what they really wanted and needed, and designed a program based on what my income needs are and how much time I would like to spend 1:1 with my favorite clients. It ‘looked’ much more expensive, but I knew the time I would spend and the value my optimal clients would receive. I don’t have to ‘convince’ or ‘sell’ those who are a fit and who are looking for that level of value. I am guided by what ‘I would want’ as my own client.
I understand my value and bring 100% of myself to my client relationships.
Here’s a few questions I have been asked about my ‘new way’ of doing business (that is 2000+ years old!).
Q: Ok, I understand caring, but you can’t just spend 1000 hours with someone and not get paid, can you? Don’t people use you?
A: What I learned is that money is what allows relationships to continue. It doesn’t serve anyone if I ‘serve’ myself into starvation! I find that after about two hours we usually know whether we want to spend more time together or not. If we do, we have a conversation about that.
And then, they either write a check, or, in some cases, I will spend time coaching them through how to make the money part of our relationship work. Practically, this means that ‘completely free time’ ends at around four hours. There is a natural decision point that happens organically.
If I haven’t helped them find an obvious breakthrough in their lives in four hours, then I probably wouldn’t do so in 40 or 400 hours. Even if I do make that breakthrough, it may just not be meant for us to work intensively together. And we both seem to know that.
The key is that you are doing what will best serve the world and make others happy with your time. Since I have a coaching business, that means spending time coaching, regardless of whether or not I’m paid.
Paying clients simply get my best for longer. Because this is the best, most effective way to serve others.
Q: What was the hardest part of applying this ‘new way’ to your business?
A: The hardest part was ‘unlearning’ and letting go of things that formerly had worked OK. I had no guarantee that this would be effective. Indeed, I spent 20 hours in ‘free’ consultations before anyone expressed interest in my new, intensive program. I had no guarantee that anyone would decide to go deeper. And it took some faith to keep giving of myself from that perspective in the belief that ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’.
I believe that, whatever you want: love, connection, support–you should be giving that. So, I decided to radically apply the Golden Rule for as long as it took, and indeed, it does work.
Q: Why don’t you just give away your time permanently, if it feels so good?
A: To take another Bible quote: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I could do that, but I wouldn’t want my neighbor to run out money, not be able to pay rent or buy food. So why should I want that for me?
I know that there is abundance for those who are truly in service…there are plenty of people who can pay my clients for their true value. And allowing them to support me in living a powerful life is part of me loving them.
I did actually give my sessions away for free for about a year with no program to sell. My experience was that, sure, I did a lot of great sessions. But it did not serve my clients as well long-term, because they didn’t have someone who could serve them from a position of abundance. Nor could I commit to serve them over time–I needed to find a way to eat!
We simply didn’t have the energy (in this case money) exchange that allowed the ‘circle of value’ to continue.
Q: So, I can just do this in my business and it will work, right?
A: I believe the principle is effective. Your application may be different. It may not be possible or of service to clients to give away your initial sessions.
You need to consider what would be best for people you work with and for you in the long term, and make changes accordingly.
It took me a few months to make all these changes. I’m still making them! Try to apply this in one area, see what happens, and that will give you confidence to apply this principle somewhere else as well.
Q: Was there a way this didn’t work for you?
A: When I left myself and my own needs out of the equation, it didn’t work. I have to love and take care of myself just like my clients. In fact, until I loved myself effectively, I couldn’t really love my clients how I wanted!
I had to do a lot of work around self-love and self-acceptance before I could even see the path of ‘as I want to be treated’ to apply it first to me and then to my clients.
Q: What else should I think about before doing this?
A: You must truly understand your own value and structure your business and prices accordingly. I actually arrived at my prices via deep meditation and prayer. They are connected to ‘what I really want to offer’ and my deepest soul. Inevitably, when it feels like I am ‘raising prices’ (which is seldom true, because my service multiplies more quickly than my prices have ever gone up), fear arises.
I’ve doubled my prices as a coach three times in one year.
I have one ‘package’, which is a year-long intensive program.
1) Enables me to work with just a few select clients as deeply as I want with powerful, transformative relationships
2) Enables me to spend the time and energy I need to with these clients while also taking time to ‘give back to everyone’ with my other projects (like writing this article).
I have begun applying the Golden Rule to every aspect of my business.
I ask: “How would I like to be treated if I were on the other side?”
It’s a simple solution to almost every question.
This has transformed my coaching and every business process.
I would rather be listened to instead of “dazzled” with knowledge and facts, so I spend more time listening.
I want ‘high contact’ with my coach. So I offer that. I would like to be able to ask questions at any time, so I offer that.
I want to be able to go to a free event to get to know a potential service provider before speaking 1:1. So I offer that.
Since I wanted some idea of prices before having a conversation, I published mine.
Since I want e-mail and telephone reminders to help me make decisions to benefit my business, I provide those (not as a sales tactic, but from an attitude of service).
I love trying out potential service providers (accountants, lawyers, coaches) for free before I invest with them. I want to know they are competent and that we are a fit. So I offer that.
I create the content I want to read, watch, and listen to.
I want my coach to be honest rather than nice, so that’s what I provide.
I want to know about my coach’s weaknesses, failures, and shortcomings, so I share mine.
So many of these steps look like ‘best practices’ and tactics. But I am no longer thinking of them that way. My heart is my guide, and that has made all the difference, even for the things that have stayed the same.
This feels like an incredibly natural way to do business. A perfect mix of “Sacred Sharing/Gift Economics” and “energy exchange”. I feel like I’m giving to the world freely and I am taken care of as well.
My income is rising faster than ever. My client relationships are deeper than they have ever been. My clients are moving forward more quickly than ever. They feel more supported. And I feel joy in their support.
My ability to ‘support my entire community’ is dramatically improving as well.
This is business in alignment with my soul. This is how I’ve always imagined relationships to be–and now I’m getting them in a place where I long thought that true, deep, transformational relationships couldn’t happen.
I’m happier than ever before.
I can only recommend using the Golden Rule to guide your life and business. It may just change everything for you as well.
I’ll update this post as my experiences with “The System” 😉 continue.