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Stop Giving People Options: Be the professional they're looking for

I used to be somewhat timid when it came to business. I never wanted to be too sales-y or pushy or off-putting in any way.

But that’s changed.

Now I’m totally off-putting.

Just kidding. But I have gotten more assertive when it comes to telling people what I do, what I don’t do, and how much I charge. And that’s because I’ve realized one very important thing.

That’s comforting to them.

Picture it. Colorado. 2007.

Years ago, I was getting my house painted. Now, I had already made a monumental mistake in the color I’d chosen before (what I thought would be a lovely blue/green actually made my house look like the Jolly Green Giant). I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. So, I hired a color consultant.

The first woman who came over was an interior decorator and was one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met. She immediately produced an enormous book of colors and said, “Tell me what you like.” And I felt so totally overwhelmed I couldn’t even answer.

The second woman who came over (also sweet, but decidedly more assertive) took one look at my house and said, “Your brick and mortar colors mean you can choose between these three colors. Which one do you want?”

I can’t tell you the sense of relief I felt. Sure, if one of them had been highlighter yellow I would have said no. But to have someone eliminate five million colors so that all I had to do was choose between three - and flat-out TELL ME those were my choices - that was a huge comfort to me.

It’s taken me years to apply that knowledge to my business. I realize that people don’t want to be bossed around, but if they’re coming to you that’s because they need you. They need your expertise. Whether or not they realize it, by you taking control…you’re eliminating a lot of fear for them. And that means they can move into the next stage.


I recently attended a fundraising luncheon that I’ve gone to for years. This luncheon doesn’t cost much to attend, but they do have an “ask” – they encourage people to donate to their foundation.

For the first time this year, they actually put a number to what they were hoping to get. “We have 375 people in the room,” the emcee said. “Based on that number we would love to receive $150 from each of you. If you can’t do that, that’s fine. But that’s what we need to achieve our goal.”

I never knew that. All these years I’d been writing a check for $50 or a little more, because I had no idea what they needed. But having them come out and say the actual amount took the guess work out of writing that check. And it actually made me feel better.

Eliminate the Unknown

That’s why I’ve gotten more assertive. “This is what I provide, and this is how much it costs.” After all of these years of worrying that that might seem pushy, I’ve realized that the result is that it propels people to move in one direction or the other. Most of the time when people are stuck, it’s because of fear of the unknown.

I can’t remodel my kitchen because I don’t know how much it costs.

Getting my estate plan done seems so overwhelming because I don’t know what to do or where to start.

There are so many options…I just feel paralyzed.

Eliminate the worry. Give people tangible options. Communicate upfront about the cost.

Be the professional they’re looking for.

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