Do you have a fear of Losing the Business?


picture from Peasap via Flickr

picture from Peasap via Flickr

We’re all hard-wired to respond to fear in specific ways (the whole Fight or Flight response thing) which works great when you’re trying to get away from bears or zombies (or the elephant in the room)…but doesn’t always work out so well with less tangible but equally real fears like losing a client.  One of the interesting things that happens to us all when fear kicks in is that we don’t think as well…in fact our higher level thinking gets shut down in order to deal with the threat – bottom line you will stop thinking straight when you’re operating out of fear.

Have you ever tightened up with a client (or a prospective client) because you thought you might lose the business? Maybe you were tempted to gloss over a problem with your product or service in hopes that the client wouldn’t notice. Maybe you stopped listening and just threw everything you had into your sales ‘pitch’. Fear can drive a lot of bad behaviors.

The Fear of Losing the Business is a huge driver at some point for all business owners…but the ones that have long term success figure out how to manage that fear and do the right things.

Getting Naked with Patrick Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni knows more than a little bit about business success, he’s the author of a slew of great, best-selling business books like The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Advantage and he consistently brings out great ideas on how to create organizational health and competitive advantage for businesses of all sizes.

One of my favorite Lencioni books is Getting Naked which focuses on a counter-intuitive approach to creating amazing levels of customer engagement and loyalty. His key point is that clients are looking for you to step up and be a real person with them…to be vulnerable (or as Lencioni puts it ‘naked’). Based on his own real world success with his consulting company and their clients, Lencioni makes a strong case for engaging in very real ways that go against the conventional wisdom of ‘Fake it ’til you make it’ and ‘Don’t let them see you sweat’.

His formula for success in Getting Naked starts with overcoming what he calls the Three Fears – the first (and biggest) is the Fear of Losing the Business (the other two are the Fear of Being Embarrassed and the Fear of Feeling Inferior).

When you fear losing the business, both before and after the sale, you are going to have some problems:

  • You’ll try very hard to sell – going into all out sales mode…and nobody likes to be sold.
  • You’ll push to be perceived as perfect and as a result you’ll end up not being real or approachable
  • You’ll tend to focus on short term wins – which could cause you to lose the long term relationship
  • You’ll whitewash any potential problems you see with the client…hoping the issues will go away rather than jumping in to help solve them.

Everyone worries about losing clients (or not landing that great new prospective client) but if you let that turn into fear that drives your behavior, then you’re going to have problems.

How to Overcome the Fear of Losing the Business

The good news is you can minimize these impacts…and it mostly requires a mindset change rather than some kind of big operational change. It’s easier said than done, but if you can develop the confidence that you know what you’re doing,  that you consistently add value to clients, then it’s not a huge leap to stop worrying about losing the business.

With that in mind, Lencioni suggests the following specific ideas to help you get there.

1. Always consult instead of sell.
Your clients (or prospective clients) don’t want your sales pitch, they want help and they’re willing to pay you for it once they know you can help them and they believe that you’re not just trying to get their money. By forgoing the traditional ‘sales’ pitch and just starting to help them solve their problems, it will soon be pretty obvious if you’re a good fit for them.

2. Give Away the Business
You’re trying to create a long term, trusted partner relationship. That means you need to be generous and willing to give on the little things in order to make the big picture work. If a client disagrees with something they were billed…and it’s client you like and want to keep for a long time, give ’em what they want. That doesn’t mean you roll over, it means you take the high road when needed and error in favor of the client.

3. Tell the Kind Truth, Enter the Danger
As an independent 3rd party for your client, you’re going to see problems that they may not be able to see. You’re going to see the elephant in the room and one of the great ways you can add value is to find a kind way to tell them about that elephant. ‘Enter the Danger’ is a phrase used in Improvisational Comedy. It’s a reminder that the best results in Improv come from addressing the things that are difficult, the stuff that no one else wants to touch. If it’s mundane and boring, then it’s not going to be funny – so no payoff. For your client – you can add the most value by helping them see and deal with the things that don’t typically get talked about. The stuff that no one on their staff wants to bring up.

Do you ever find yourself operating out of fear of losing the business? Have you been aware of it? How have you managed it? We’d love to hear your thoughts – leave us a comment if you have a minute.

Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach