A client recently asked me if I had the capacity for them to refer someone to me. Before I could scream ‘hell yeah, send them my way’, they explained that because of my online activity and from conversations we had, they assumed I had more work than I could manage.
The reality? Not so.
So where did they get that idea?
I decided to listen to the conversations I was having with clients and associates. I mean really listen. And I realised the subtle phrases I shared and the way I was glossing over tough times gave the perception that business was booming, the bank was happy and life was sweet. (Kind of like your cool friend’s Instagram feed, with the arty images of cocktails at sunset and an everlasting holiday.)
It was clear this perception other people had was impacting on my ability to attract new business, so I decided I’d try a new tactic the next time the opportunity presented itself: complete transparency.
And it wasn’t long before I got to try it out.
At a networking event someone I admire who just so happens to have an amazing marketing and business background asked me how my business was going. With a deep breath, I shared the truth that things were not going well. Instead of the highlights reel I gave the lowlights.
“My pipeline has dwindled to a trickle, leads who were super keen a month ago won’t return my calls and quite honestly, I’m not sure where to go next”.
It was difficult to be so vulnerable. I felt uncomfortable being so open with someone I didn’t know that well and had a massive amount of respect for. But it was also a relief. It wasn’t the world lifting from my shoulders but certainly a small country disappeared.
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In response to my vulnerability I received some amazing advice delivered in the kindest and clearest way. Advice that I can implement simply and swiftly into my business. I received a quick pep talk to re-set my head – just when it was needed – and a nice little kick up the bum too. (No one ever said this small business life was easy!)
There was no judgement made and certainly no harm to my business or personal brand. While I’m sure this conversation barely registered for the other party, for me, in the space of just 10 minutes, a lot changed. My head was back, I got some practical tasks to work on to move my business forward and I’m ready for another day.
Moral of the story?
Managing a small business presents everlasting challenges and no one knows all the answers. Also, everyone in business has experienced their own time tough times and has some amazing knowledge to share about how they overcame them – they just need to know you need that knowledge.
When was the last time you were willing to admit things were not going well?