Don’t You Like Me Anymore?
A few weeks ago I got an email that completely blindsided me. It was from a client I’d been jumping through hoops for for the past four months in order to secure a contract.
Things had been progressing well every step of the way. At each meeting, there was a new, more ‘senior’ manager to meet and, at each meeting, the buying signals got stronger. ‘Just one more hoop’, I thought and this contract is in the bag.
What a contract it was, guaranteeing my business a monthly amount that met all my business expenses and then some. Meaning every other client was effectively ‘gravy’.
Then the phone and my email went quiet. Not a peep from this company when previously there had been several touch points in a week. So I emailed my main contact… nothing. I left it a few days then dropped them a text message. Again, nothing. I waited. I was falling deeper and deeper into a trap that’s known to so many new-to-business owners. A true ‘rookie’ mistake, I’d been counting my chickens and the eggs hadn’t even been laid
The following week I finally thought I’d give them a call. Immediately I could hear the shuffling of feet in their voice. “Oh,” they said, “no one has been in touch?” Right in that moment I knew – for whatever reason – that my contract was no longer in the bag. Not only was it not in the bag but it had become dead in the water.
I had made all the rookie mistakes that I’ve warned so many other new business owners about:
1. I counted the contract as being ‘in the bag’ before it was
This is probably the single biggest mistake I see new business owners make. They go out, talk to a bunch of people and count the contact as a contract. Here’s the harsh reality though. Most people don’t like conflict and they certainly don’t like saying no.
It’s much easier for most people to smile and nod, then never get back to you than to say, “thanks but your product / service is not suitable for us”.
2. I had allocated the money I was going to earn to projects in my head
Because I had been in the ‘dating’ stage with this potential client for so many months and I had made the rookie mistake I just outlined above, I had also taken the next logical step and began allocating funds to various things I want my business to be able to do.
Now fortunately I hadn’t actually physically committed to anything, nevertheless the contract not going ahead still caused a grief reaction that sent me into a funk for a few days.
3. I set myself up for failure
Being in business for yourself is tough enough without setting yourself up for a failure. Yet that was exactly what I’d done. I’d allowed myself to get too comfortable with the process of winning a new client, instead of staying present, answering each question as it came in, building rapport and showing my best work at every opportunity.
Instead I got distracted by my future projection and that contributed to an uncertain outcome. The disappointment led to a pretty significant pity party, lasting for a few days. The lesson here is to stay in the moment.
Sure, it’s helpful to plan for your business future, who you want to be working with and how you want those relationships to look. But allowing yourself to be absorbed into the fantasy of new income – before the contract has been signed – is just plain dangerous.
Another lesson is not tying your personal happiness to a business outcome. I got so caught up in losing that contract that I never actually had. I actually spent quite a few days in a depressive funk. I obsessed over, ‘how did it happen?’, ‘what did I miss?’ and ‘what did I do wrong?’.
I sought feedback from the company as to where the process broke down and why they had decided to go in a different direction (cause that’s just sound business practice) but I had tied my happiness and self-worth to winning this one contract.
You will not win every contract (by the way, you wouldn’t want to), you will not be everyone’s cup of tea and you will probably strike out more often than you hit a home run.
So instead, tie your business goals and successes to outcomes that are unrelated to your own personal happiness and self worth.
Trust me… it’ll save you a lot of heartache in the long run.
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