A funny thing happens when a prospective client questions whether they can afford my work. One minute I am right there with them, present and connected. The next, I’m looking for a box to put over my head.
Somehow money issues send me into virtual hiding. And I know I am not alone.
It’s easy to understand why Accidental Entrepreneurs are uncomfortable talking about money, especially the lack thereof. Who wants to look at their clients as dollars?
The trouble is, we need to have open, honest, and clear conversations about money if we want to stay in business. When we avoid those conversations, our economic survival instincts kick in. In other words, the more we try to hide from money issues, the more we think about money.
Driven underground, our legitimate interest in money sours. We feel ashamed that we, who aspire to authenticity and service, could spend so much time thinking about money.
And there is nothing like shame to send a person looking for a box to put over her head. 😉
Out of the Box
There’s a way out of the box, a way to have open, honest, and clear conversations about money, even when a client seems to be struggling.
The first key is to realize that you can’t possibly know for certain what the client is experiencing. Is it financial turmoil or indigestion?
This is not to trivialize people’s financial problems. And it is critically important that we learn to stay out of the client’s business, allowing them the dignity and space to take care of their own interests.
A Thought Experiment
Imagine a conversation with a client who balks at paying your fee. Notice how your body reacts. Listen to your internal dialogue. notice how you are mentally explaining the situation to yourself and what expectations arise from that.
Now imagine the same conversation with a twist: you watch and listen to the client with a kind of naked curiosity, as if you honestly don’t know or need to know anything more than what you are hearing in the moment.
The difference between those two conversations is the difference between going into hiding and staying present.
And that has everything to do with what happens next.
So, Tell Me More
The natural next step when someone tells you something new is to ask clarifying questions.
What a thought!
From inside the box, asking questions about the client’s financial situation is unthinkable. Invasive. Manipulative. Sleazy.
From outside the box, it’s common courtesy. When we know what we don’t know (i.e., what this situation really means to the client), we are teachable.
Let’s say John Artless asks if you can lower the price on a painting. Inside the box, you leave John and go chasing after thoughts like these:
* He thinks I charge too much. * My work will never sell at this price. * Friends shouldn’t expect discounts.
But outside the box, in the clear light of not knowing, you can respond with the simple request, “Say more.”
How simple is that?
As soon as you ask a question from outside the box, a magical thing happens. Your connection with the client gets deeper.
When you stay present and connected through a vulnerable moment (and talking about money makes just about everybody vulnerable, whether they look vulnerable or not), the connection deepens.
The simple act of staying present to and connected with another human being when money is the subject is a radical and transformative act. In that moment, you have left the world of tit-for-tat and entered a living dialogue.
There’s no telling what may happen.
The Critical Importance of Letting Go of Results
This kind of magic depends on not-knowing, on letting go of your preconceptions as well as of the results of the conversation.
This is not a magical formula for getting people to give you money.
This is a practice that is guaranteed to transform your way of being when money is an issue so that you can stay present and connected.
Trust me, if the two of you can benefit from doing business, you’ll find a way so long as you are present. And if you aren’t a good fit right now, you can both walk away without slamming doors or stepping on toes.
The key from start to finish is to know that you don’t know what a client’s statements and requests about money mean. Stay in the moment, question your interpretations before they send you into hiding, and you’ll be amazed at how your bottom line will change.