As I have immersed myself into a world of female entrepreneurs, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to have a woman-centered business – especially when it comes to look for new clients.
Many female businesses have a strong why attached to them — women want to start a business to change or influence the world. The result? It puts their hearts smack dab in the middle of their businesses.
It reminds me of Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail. Her independent bookstore, which had been in her family for generations, is purchased by Tom Hanks’ character (the owner of the movie’s version of Barnes and Noble).
He tells her the buyout “wasn’t personal.”
What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s personal to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?
Many female entrepreneurs operate their businesses personally, because they have a genuine cause behind them. So when a client relationship doesn’t work out, it’s easy to take it personally and believe it’s because there’s something wrong with the business.
If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve had a client relationship that didn’t work out. Let me ask you this: did you find your mind drifting toward self- or business-doubt?
If this client doesn’t want my services, are my services wrong?
Am I not as good as I thought I was?
Even the most confident business owners may have fleeting moments of doubt.
Here are a few things I ask myself when a business relationship or partnership turns out to be the wrong fit:
1. Was I Looking in the Right Place for New Clients?
Let’s say you’re a fitness consultant who specializes in quick, 5-10 minute workouts for busy moms. If you’re marketing your services to a group of hardcore gym rats, you’re going to fail and — quickly — lose your business confidence. Hardcore gym rats want to spend hours working out in the gym. You’ll hear no after no after no.
Does that mean you have a horrible service? Of course not! It just means you’re looking in the wrong place for new clients. A hardcore gym rat doesn’t bring the right set of qualifications to the table to make the relationship a good fit.
It’s up to you to make the proper adjustments to find people with the right set of qualifications: busy moms with little-to-no time to exercise.
2. Why Did This Seemingly-Ideal Client Become Not-so Ideal?
Sometimes a prospect seems to be exactly what you’re looking for, only to reveal itself as the wrong fit. Let’s go back to the fitness consultant example. You’re out for coffee with a friend when you strike up a conversation with a woman wearing workout gear. She’s just come from her spinning class.
What a coincidence! you say, I have a set of workouts I’ve developed that you may be interested in! This woman is, in fact, a busy mom and she clearly likes to exercise. You schedule a discovery call. You call her the following day, excited to add new business. At the end of the call, however, she tells you she’s not interested.
What went wrong?
It turns out that this woman really enjoys going to her spinning classes so she can be social with her friends. The idea of exercising alone in her living room just doesn’t appeal to her.
You’re totally bummed, but the first thing you shouldn’t do is internalize it and tell yourself you have a bad product. What you should do is refine your search process and stop prospecting women who attend classes at the gym.
3. Was There A Point I Should Have Said No?
It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new client, especially when you are in the business of impacting lives for the better! When a potential business relationship doesn’t work out, though, it’s important to ask yourself if there were any points along the way that you should have said no.
Maybe in our last example, the fact that the woman had just come from a spinning class should have been a red flag. Have you ever found yourself qualifying the red flags because you’re so eager for a little extra money, a new client to help, or the rush of a “win?”
Sure, she’s just come from spinning class, you may think, but just because she enjoys going to the gym doesn’t mean she won’t like doing my workouts, too! After all, she likes to work out and she’s a busy mom. I’ll make this exception and she just might work out!
When we act like the client is doing us a favor, we set ourselves up for disappointment. It’s important to enter into a prospecting situation looking for mutual benefit. Don’t make concessions so the client will say yes. Stay true to you, whether it’s in regards to business philosophy, money, or communication style.
As a female entrepreneur with an eye toward making a difference, it’s easy to get caught up in wanting to help everyone and growing discouraged when it doesn’t work out. Know that these things happen and that you shouldn’t want to be all things to all people!
Keep your eye on the right clients for you and keep on keeping on — it will all work out!