Many business owners and salespeople have struggled with the effects of stay at home orders, mandated company closures and social distancing requirements. Some have been able to thrive, finding levels of creativity and resilience they never knew existed, while others have retreated, becoming entitled, fearful, or even hostile. It really shows how adversity can reveal a client’s true colors.

David:                    Hi, and welcome to the podcast. Today, cohost Chris Templeton and I will be talking about how adversity can affect clients. Welcome Chris.

Chris:                     Hi, David. Boy, is this true. You know, I imagine everyone in business has seen it in action. Some prospects and clients are doing everything they can to move things forward, while others are withdrawing, becoming moody and demanding. It’s almost like they become different people. Isn’t it?

David:                    Yeah, it’s really shocking in some cases. People that you might think you knew, people who you thought were one way and you find out they’re kind of not that way. It really does point out that people react differently to adversity. And let me just say, it’s completely understandable when people are dealing with really tough issues in their business and their lives, it’s going to have an effect. There’s no way that you can get around it. But I think as business people, we have to be able to recognize this, identify it as early on in the cycle as possible and determine, decide, is this person, is this prospect still someone that we would like to interact with in our business?

Chris:                     So, David, what do you think accounts for the primary difference in these people’s responses?

David:                    If I had to put my finger on it, Chris, I’d probably take it back to one primary thing. And that is fear. How frightened is this person? How scared are they about what’s going on? How scared are they about their ability to be able to handle it, to be able to deal with it, to be able to process whatever issues they’re having to process and to be able to move forward from it? I’ve had conversations with people who have been on both sides of the fence… separately. I have people who, some are on one side of the fence, who are really focused and they know what they’re doing, and they’re really geared up and they’re moving forward. And I’ve talked to people on the other side of the fence, who are just feeling defeated and frightened and not inclined to want to take action. And in those situations, the biggest difference that I see is the level of fear. The people who have the knowledge that they’re going to be able to make it, that they’re going to be able to pull things out, those people seem to be doing just fine. The ones who seem to be struggling the most are the ones who are not quite convinced of that. They don’t know what to do next, exactly. They feel like their business is really struggling and they’re not quite sure what to do to change it. So I would say in addition to the fear, it’s also the not knowing how to handle it, not knowing how to address the fear and make the changes they probably need to make in order to keep things going in the direction they really want to go.

Chris:                     I think that another way to look at this is that some people are in problem-orientation mode, and some people are in solution-orientation mode. And when you’re in problem-orientation, we keep telling these stories where we just pile it on and then there’s this and that. And how are we ever going to get this done? And you can just kind of feel the angst building and building and building. And then there’s the solution side. People who have a perspective that says “times are tough, got to monitor, got to adjust.” But they focus on moving toward the solution. And when you’re in problem-orientation mode, it is really, really hard to focus on the solution. But if you know that that’s where you are, then you start to create some of that space that lets you move back towards solution. So I would encourage anybody that’s listening to this and really feeling like they’re buried, recognize that you’re in problem-orientation mode and make a conscious and deliberate effort to be open with yourself about the negatives, but also open about how you can take those negatives and convert them one by one, into something that’s a little bit more positive.

David:                   Yes. And by changing the questions that you ask yourself, you can significantly change that pretty quickly. The thing that I noticed among the people that I talked to, who seem to be struggling the most, is that their inner dialogue, or their inner monologue, rather, is geared toward, “I can’t do this. I can’t afford this. I need to cut costs. I need to lay people off.” I mean, they’re thinking in terms of all the things that they need to do to get small, instead of saying, “what can I do to get things going again, to reinvigorate my prospects, reinvigorate my clients, reinvigorate my team, get things going forward, again, get things growing again?” And the questions that you ask yourself and the answers you provide, inside your own head, are going to determine the direction of your business. So getting oneself out of the mindset, it’s certainly easier said than done, right? I’m talking about it on a podcast. And if you’re struggling with this, you might be listening and saying, “well, yeah, it’s easy to talk about, but how do I do it?” And what I’m saying is that the way that you want to do it is look at that inner monologue, ask yourself what types of things am I saying right now to myself in my head and how can I change that monologue? How can I change the things that I’m saying to myself, the questions that I’m asking myself so that I can start identifying solutions instead of just magnifying problems.

Chris:                     Yeah. And ask if what you’re saying to yourself is serving you or not. And then the other thing I think just as a side note is to talk to your team. “I am struggling. I know everybody’s seeing where we’re at and we’ve got to figure out how to do this together.” I think a lot of times leaders think that they have to shoulder the whole burden. And when they make the choice to involve their team, not only do I get out of my head, but I also start to move to that solution-orientation, don’t I?

David:                   Yes. I also think that when people are facing this level of… whatever… problem, adversity challenge, that type of thing, the whole idea of becoming more of whatever we are, starts to surface. I heard that, as people tend to age, they tend to become more of whatever it was they were when they were younger. So if they were happy, they tend to become happier. If they were miserable, they tend to become more miserable. I’ve noticed the same thing with adversity in business. And people tend to become more of whatever they probably started out to be. So some people, you can sometimes spot it. People who seem to be putting on a good front, but you kind of recognize that underneath, they might not be as sweet and as nice as we think they are, right? And then they go through something like this and all of a sudden, the mask slips, and they start revealing what it’s like underneath. All the fear, all the insecurity, all the anxiety just starts coming out and you look at them and go, wow, this is not what I thought this person was. This is not the business person, this is not the entrepreneur that I thought this person was.

Chris:                     And you know, when you run into those kinds of people, whether they’re prospects or clients and they start to get angry and it doesn’t seem warranted, what do you do to handle that?

David:                   Well, I think you have to really identify, is this just a momentary lapse? Is this just, I’m catching them at a moment in time where they just are not rational or they’re just sort of lashing out or whatever? And if that’s the answer, then maybe the next time you talk to them, there’ll be better and there’ll be apologetic or whatever. But I think if you notice that it happens more than once. And if you start getting the feeling from people that they really are underlying, not all that nice, not all that great. Then you have to really start to reevaluate your relationships in business. Because if people are directing unwarranted anger toward you, if they’re pawning off their fears on you, if they’re becoming more demanding asking you to do things that would be detrimental to yourself and to your business, because they feel like you owe them, then you really have to ask yourself, “is this the type of client that I want to continue to interact with?” And in some cases, the answer will be yes. And in some cases, the answer will be no. And that’s where we really have to get very clear in our own heads about what we will accept from our prospects and clients and what we will no longer be willing to accept.

Chris:                     And being able to articulate that. Part of what I look at is, you know, when you run into somebody like this, at some level, you wonder if they’re ever going to find their way back to a better place to be. And I think that if you run into that as a business person or as a sales person and you articulate it in a way of, “you know, I really feel like you’re having a rough go and I’m not sure that this is the best thing for you or for me,” sometimes that’s all it takes. I remember having a client 25, 30 years ago that… he started getting angry. And then my brother worked for him and he came home and he came back to the office and said, “you know, I’m never going in there again.” And this guy was a tough guy and I called him and I said, “you know, Alan, is it time for us to wrap it up?” “Well, what do you mean?” I said, “you know, neither me or my brother are having any fun working for you. And you just seem angry all the time.” And you know what, David, that changed it, in a heartbeat. And from that point on, he was an absolute pleasure. So I encourage people to take the matters into their own hand in a nice and easy way and say, “gee, is this a good fit for moving forward?”

David:                   Yeah. Cause the thing is, we’re not really going to know, exactly, who’s going to be able to find their way back and who’s not going to be able to find their way back.

Chris:                     Right.

David:                   We have to make judgment calls along the way. And sometimes we’re going to be right, and sometimes we’re going to be wrong. But I know that one of the things that I’ve talked to my team about is that when we have an issue with a client or even a prospect, somebody who is coming across as whatever, not pleasant, not a good fit, all that type of thing. We do want to try to address that as candidly and as quickly as possible and to say to them, “Hey, listen, if we don’t have a good fit here, that’s okay.” You know, just let us know. We’re not looking to try to bang square pegs into round holes. We want to have a solid relationship with prospects and clients who understand and appreciate the value that we bring to the table. If we can do that, if we can continue to do that, I’d love to do it. If not, if we’re no longer a fit, I’m okay saying goodbye. If you don’t feel that we can deliver what it is that you need at the moment, if there’s another solution that’s better for you. I’m totally okay with that. The only time that I get a little frustrated is when I know that what we’re offering is so much better than what somebody else might be offering. And when they make decisions based just on price or they make decisions based on fear or spur of the moment decisions, that’s when I feel like I’ve failed them because I feel like, okay, if you’re not seeing it, maybe it’s my fault for not explaining it correctly. Because if you’re going to go to this really bad, inferior solution to save a few bucks, it’s going to hurt you more than it’s going to hurt me. And that’s…

Chris:                     Absolutely.

David:                   It’s hard to say that because it doesn’t sound, necessarily, great. I don’t know. But I really feel it. And I hate being in a situation where I know I can help someone, but they’re no longer willing to be open to that. But it happens. I mean, it happens in business all the time and we have to be prepared to let some people, whom we know we could help, go if they don’t see it anymore.

Chris:                     And from my standpoint, I’ve lost a few clients that way. And my stance has always been, “I’m sorry that this wasn’t a fit for you at this point, but I want you to know the door is always open.” And let me tell you, there is no bigger thrill then a client coming back and saying, “boy, did I make a mistake? Will you still have me?”

David:                   Right. Yeah.

Chris:                     And it’s all about how you frame it up before you part ways. And I think it’s so easy to forget how just a little bit of, “Hey, I just want you to know the door’s always open.” I think it brings the right people back when they’ve had a bad experience.

David:                   Yeah. And I think that door really does swing both ways. Because there are some people, over the years, you know, where we’ve had situations where it was no longer a good fit, they decided to go. And we said, essentially that, “Hey, listen, you’ve been great to work with. If you ever want to come back, we’d love to have you back.” And they’re “okay., fine.” And quite a few of them did and said exactly what you said. “Oh, wow. Yeah. That was really a bad mistake. I’m really glad to be back.” We’ve had other people who were potentially problematic even as clients so that when they left, we were like, “okay, this really wasn’t a good fit. It’s probably good that this person is no longer here. Now maybe we can help some other people rather than this person.” And there have been situations where people like that have come back and they’ve wanted to come back and we’ve had to say, “well, I’m afraid it’s really not a good fit. We’re just not doing that anymore.” Every business owner has to have their own level of tolerance for what they’ll accept and what they will not accept from their clients. And it’s important for everybody to draw that line. We can talk about that more in a future podcast. But I think the ability to do that, the ability to choose the types of clients that we want to work with and the types of clients that we are no longer willing to work with, in terms of just being pleasant or unpleasant, being professional versus being unprofessional, making those choices based purely on intelligent business decisions, I think is critical for everybody.

Chris:                     And boy oh boy, we can both agree that not making those tough decisions is a recipe for a lot of dissatisfaction in my job. Isn’t it?

David:                   Yes. That always comes back to bite you.

Chris:                   What do you want to wrap up with David?

David:                   Well, what I’d like to do actually is to sort of continue this discussion in our next podcast, by exploring the idea of rebooting our customer base. Time for a hard reboot!

Chris:                     I love it. I’m looking forward to it. Okay. If you need help minimizing the short term damage to your business and positioning yourself as the go to person for the recovery, go to top secrets.com forward slash call to schedule a strategy session with David and his team and find out how his team can help you. That’s top secrets.com forward slash call.

 

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