A few weeks ago, during a complimentary Instant Insight Session, the person I was talking with had an “aha” moment. She had been struggling to meet her clients’ expectations in ways that didn’t really work for her. If she couldn’t be herself when helping her clients, this told me she wasn’t really working with her ideal customers. Later, she sent me this:
“What a relief to know I don’t have to get a personality transplant to boost my visibility, attract more clients and hopefully be more successful.”
I started thinking about what it is that attracts ideal customers to you, and how important it is for you to be yourself—not only for your work and for your clients, but for your own well-being. And it reminded me of this article I wrote a few years ago about asking questions and listening. So I dusted it off and I’m re-running it for you today—the kids are a few years older, but the message is the same!
“Moopie, are they dry yet?”
The clay figures we’d made that morning were taking FOR. EV. ER. to dry. And that meant we wouldn’t be able to paint them before we had to get on the road the next day, when it would be time for me to take my little charmers back home to their parents.
(I am “Moopie” to my son’s children, not because it means “Grandma” to them, but because I’ve been “Moop” to everyone in my family since before I can remember. For reasons known only to them, my older brother and sister found it easier to say “Moop” than to say “Marcia.”)
So, since the carefully sculpted Angry Birds, Hello Kitty, butterfly, worms, and pizza were going to have to sit and dry, we moved on. To t-shirt painting!
I’m the facilitator
I am merely the facilitator in these exercises. I guide the wishes of the true creators: Austin, age 7, and Sydney, age 3. I can get my hands on the good stuff and make it work — their job is to bring the ideas. (I have a friend who says that for a kid, having an agreeable grandmother is like having a big Baby Huey to play with — one who can drive.)
Austin is definitely more controlled in his art than his sister. He knows what he wants to create, and when he’s comfortable with his tools, moves ahead with confidence and a plan. If he comes to a new challenge, he asks for help. He asked for help painting the Angry Bird on his shirt. The fabric paint was blobby and difficult to control. He stood behind and directed me.
Sydney doesn’t have a plan, or a thought, or a moment’s hesitation. Anything goes, and she’s always thrilled with what she’s created. She threw the permanent fabric paint all over the table — it was all I could do to follow behind, mopping up. The medium was the message, for sure.
In the end, both kids got what they wanted out of our weekend (except I did make them take baths at the last minute). Both were very pleased with themselves.
They had been catered to and presented with options.
Listened to more than talked at.
Understood more than sold to.
Assisted. Guided. And respected.
And shown in every possible way how much they were loved.
After they left (and after my 3-hour nap), I was reflecting on how easy and natural it is to be Moopie. Kids know what they want from you, and the difference you make to them.
It’s almost the same with my business
As long as I’ve been in business (over 30 years), I still grapple with the problem of how to communicate my own strengths, what I do, and how I can help, even though this is something I work on with you, my clients, every day. It’s really hard to find the exact words, isn’t it?
We should all know how to describe what we do so people will want to work with us, right? And if I’m teaching this to you, I should be able to do it for myself, shouldn’t I?
I used to try extra hard to explain how I made a difference. I used lots of big words to tell you what I do – because, after all, I’m in situations every day where I may be meeting prospective clients, and they may need to know I can help.
But. Even though I know that’s important, when I stopped trying so hard to convince you of my wonderful strengths and started watching what you need and asking questions instead, an amazing thing happened. It became much more clear to me (and to you) how I made a difference.
I started asking questions on purpose
Six years ago, I did a whole slew of interviews with business owners, a lot of complimentary discovery sessions, and a many one-on-one networking meetings. I still try to do as many Instant Insight sessions as I can.
I asked you questions, and you answered them. Or you asked me questions, and I answered. And as we talked, I learned what I most needed to learn.
I found that the better I got at asking questions, the better you got at telling me how I could help you, and what my particular strengths are to be able to do that.
You tell me what you really want
When I ask Austin what he really wants, he knows:
“I want to make six Angry Birds out of clay, three big and three small. Then I want this Angry Bird drawn on my shirt, but this paint is too hard. I can’t make it look good. So I want you to do it, and I’ll show you how. Please.”
When I ask Sydney what she really wants, she knows:
“I want to make a butterfly and a pizza out of clay. And Hello Kitty. Make a green dog on my t-shirt. Do it faster. And I want some milk. Please.”
It makes me feel really humble and special to be in this place with my grandkids. Because I know that, at that moment, I am the only person who can help them. I got the clay and the paints, and I spread the newspapers on the table on the porch, and I know how to draw both an Angry Bird and a green dog, and I can sculpt the best dang Hello Kitty either of them will see that day.
I found out what they wanted and I gave it to them.
I am Moopie. And I make a difference to them.
You also tell me what you want
You tell me what you struggle with, the things that overwhelm you, and how stuck you sometimes feel. You tell me how frustrated you are with your business, and how dumb it makes you feel at times, and the fear you sometimes feel, too. I’ve been in awe and so grateful for what you share with me, for what you trust me with.
And it makes me feel exactly the same way I feel with Austin and Sydney, when I can help you, too. It makes me feel really humble and special to be in that place with you — to know, at that moment, that I am the person who can help you. I have the tools, and the resources, and the knowledge, and the patience. I spread the newspapers on the table on the porch for you. I found out what you want and I gave it to you. And I make a difference to you.
When I talk with you, I try to present you with options.
I try to listen to you more than talk at you.
I try to understand more than sell to you.
I try to assist. Guide. Respect.
And show in every possible way how much you are loved. Yes. I do love my clients.
(I know I’m not supposed to say “try.” I’m just supposed to “do.” But I’m not perfect and I don’t always get it 100% right, so I keep trying, I keep working on it. And I keep getting better.)
Moopie makes me a better coach
I think being Moopie makes me a better coach. Moopie slows me down. She’s not as intense as Marcia the business coach can be, not trying so hard. She naturally asks questions, listens, and helps.
And maybe listening to what comes naturally is more of what we all should be doing, instead of trying so hard to figure out what we should be doing.
When I do what comes naturally when working with you, here are some of the things you tell me:
“It feels good to see some light instead of overwhelming weight.”
“I feel very comfortable telling you how I really feel, and I can already tell it’s made a big difference, too.”
“Thank you for unsticking me.”
“I’m more engaged in my business than I’ve ever been, my relationship with my husband is better, and we have several new clients.”
“My mood and motivation have been much better since working with you, knowing you have my back.”
“You’ve really helped me clarify some important things in such a short while. You are quite amazing!”
“You don’t try to turn me into someone else, you just bring out my best me.”
“I feel empowered in a way I had not been before.”
“I’m smiling a lot more, I’m a lot happier, and I’m seeing an increase in profitability.”
“Thank you for rejuvenating my spirit.”
“I cannot believe how much I have grown under your mentorship.”
“It’s been an incredible, incredible, experience, working with you.”
But here’s the key: I had to stop trying to figure out how to describe what to offer you, and had to start listening to you instead
And guess what? There’s a real consistency in what you tell me:
• you’re feeling stuck, overwhelmed with everything you have to do in your business
• you want someone who’s been there to guide you so the whole dang thing doesn’t just collapse around your ankles
• you want to be able to cut through the crap
• it has to be easy, because you’re busy running a business and don’t have time to mess around
• you want someone to hold you accountable, because you’re serious
• you want that person to also understand your fears, support you, and make you feel safe – because maybe you don’t do things the “right” way. After all, you had to learn this all on the fly, right? And you pieced things together as you went along, right? And what if someone finds out you never look at your bank statements or that you’ve never managed anyone before? Who the heck can you talk to about this stuff, anyway?
I know this is what you worry about, because you tell me. I know that supporting you in this way is my area of strength, my difference, and this is how I help you – because you tell me.
You can do the same thing with your customers
And, like Moopie, I’m merely the facilitator. I can get ahold of the good stuff and make it work (because I’ve done it for myself and many others), and you can be safe to bring your ideas and let your imagination run wild. If you come to a new challenge, you can ask for help. Or you can dive right in and I’ll follow behind, keeping pace as best as I can, mopping up.
So why am I telling you all this? Did I think it was time for a commercial?
No. The real purpose, which I couldn’t get to without going through all of this, was to show you my process for understanding how I make a difference. So maybe it will help you make a difference with your clients, too.
To show you that you can do the same thing, no matter what kind of clients or customers you have, or what industry you’re in. Asking questions and listening to the answers is very powerful for drawing out how you can really, truly help.
Whether as Moopie or as coach, I need to ask how I can help
I need to know what you really want.
I don’t make it up. I don’t decide how I can make a difference and then find people to sell it to, although that is really tempting to do. It doesn’t really work though.
What I did was to start asking questions. I figured out how I could answer those questions in a way that could make a difference for you. I started answering those questions, before you were my client, and even if you never become my client. And now I continue to check my difference with you every time I work with you. The deeper I work with you, the more I find out what you want, and the larger a difference I can make. At least that’s my intention. It’s an ongoing process.
And you can do it, too.
If you’d like me to ask you some questions (or if you’d like to ask me some questions), sign up for a complimentary Instant Insight session.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
P.S. For more specific strategies to work on your business in bite-sized chunks, check out my Business Blueprint Chunks, short recorded classes on individual strategies to help your business.
For making a difference, I recommend:
Class 3: Find Your Sweet Spot: How to know what you do best, so you can focus on it. $17
Class 10: Your Unique Brilliance: There are lots of great companies to work with and many places for people to spend their money—why should your customers work with you rather than the other guy? $17
Class 14: Your Ideal Customer: When you do the exercise, you’ll feel closer to your customers, understand them a little bit better, and feel more focused about how to reach them—about how to assist them instead of just trying to sell to them something. $17
Click here to purchase individual class recordings, or purchase the entire series.