Raise your hand if you are an online entrepreneur.
Now, raise your hand if you are an actual human being.
Go ahead. Raise it. I’ll wait. [For some of us, this will be the most exercise we get all day…. lol.]
Now, raise your hand if you have, at some point in your career, been treated like a machine.
Now, reach for the sky if one of the main reasons you went into business for yourself was to be able to do outlandish things like go to the dentist whenever you feel like it, or perhaps eat dinner with your kids/friends/families on a regular basis.
Finally, raise your hand if your clients think of you as a real-live human. You only get to raise your hand if you can answer YES to all of the following questions:
Are they patient when life gets in the way of whatever they pay you for?
Are they understanding when your personal needs collide with their professional ones?
Do they naturally wait a reasonable amount of time for responses and service from you before they start getting mean?
Yeah… I bet you aren’t raising the roof at the moment.
For the last year, I have been managing projects for some really successful and well-respected people. Each project came with its own challenges, client types, personalities, and marketing strategies. But, they all had one thing in common:
As soon as someone gives one of my clients money, they begin treating them like they own them. Whatever is promised must exceed every expectation, and they must serve them in whatever fashion buyers deem appropriate. It’s like 40-50% of people that bought product X thought that it was their right as purchasers to dictate every piece of delivery and service.
“I know it’s 3am where you are, but I’m awake. Why haven’t you gotten back to me on the payment plan I asked for… the one that wasn’t offered. I know you’ll make an exception for me.”
“I just have one quick question in the form of a four-page email and expect you to respond accordingly in one hour or less… oh, and I would love to chat with you via Skype about it… it’s just a quick question, no need to schedule an actual session with you.”
“I didn’t get X when I thought I would. It’s been one day. I want my money back.”
“I read all of your content, took your course, asked you a thousand questions, and I just don’t feel like I got my $29.99 worth. I want a refund.”
The purchase process changes the way people interact.
It changes their expectations, and it can absolutely change normal people from sweet, loving followers into fearful, over-extended buyers. More on that later.
We forget that we all started doing this for roughly the same reason – we wanted to be able to live full lives and be treated with the respect that we deserve while getting paid what we’re worth.
But then, when we give someone our money, we treat them like they have a customer-service call center at our beck and call.
Because we are used to paying companies, not people.
Buyers don’t feel this way because they have unreasonable expectations [usually]. They feel this way because our industry [and buyer pool] is made out of world changers – people who set high standards for themselves and for others. We are an industry chock-full of movers and shakers that strive to elevate the norm – be better than big business, and that’s a good thing…
…most of the time.
Unfortunately, in our very young little online world, we see the slick websites of online entrepreneurs [you know, the ones we all create to make ourselves look like we are bigger than we actually are], and we forget that there is often just one person behind that well-planned aesthetic.
One person doing billing.
One person handling customer service.
One person filing, and planning, and executing, and Skyping, and tweeting, and writing, and creating, and doing everything else that comes up when you are building and running a successful business.
The thing is, that same person also has a whole personal world full of obligations that have nothing to do with their business.
Many have challenges that pushed them onto this path – things that made traditional schedules untenable.
So my question is:
Why do we expect more from solopreneurs than we do from huge companies?
In a word: Fear
Entrepreneurs are afraid of the very thinly veiled threat that statements like the ones above imply:
“If I don’t get what I want, I will launch a social media offensive against you that will blot out the sun.
You will be finished, and you will deserve it because you didn’t read my mind – and you failed to dazzle me at every turn.
I know I have this leverage because I know you’re small. You still care about what others think, and I won’t hesitate to use that against you.”
Icky. I know. But true.
Buyers are afraid that the course or product that they just shelled out big hunk of dough for [often against the wishes of their spouse or business associates] won’t deliver.
They are afraid of losing face. Of feeling dumb. Of wasting limited resources.
Buyers are MOST afraid of not getting value.
Unfortunately, everyone defines value differently.
Every business owner is painfully aware that the very thing that gives them the freedom and opportunity to run their business from their sofa, is the same thing that offers buyers WAY more opportunities to leave tread marks on your shiny reputation.
Perhaps it’s a cosmic way of keeping things in balance. We wouldn’t want things to be toooo easy for entrepreneurs, would we?
The problem is, behind the safety of a computer screen, people feel all warm and fuzzy about trashing your emoticon. After all, you aren’t actually you… you’re just a few pixels on a screen, right? It becomes so easy to forget that there is a whole person behind that perfect head shot.
So, it’s a problem. We’ve established this.
But what do we do about it?
How do we guard our integrity and reputation, honor our obligations, and help our clients overcome their fears all at the same time?
We model the behavior we want to see in our clients.
We remind ourselves that when we feel the urge to push boundaries, we first ask ourselves why we feel anxious.
We remember that whoever we purchase from has poured their blood, sweat and tears into what we’re buying. They are a human being, just like us.
They are not a website.
They are not a company.
They are not a call center or a customer service department.
Or a product.
Or a service.
They are a person. Just like you and me.
As consumers, we have power. Use it for good.
As a businessperson [weirdest, most confusing term ever, btw], remember that the only way to get the behavior you want from your clients is to tell them what you need and why.
In my experience, most solopreneurs need to be reminded that they are only human just as much as their clients do.