Last winter my wife came home and told me about a strange sign she had seen in the window of a local specialty children’s clothing store. It said something along the lines of, “My kids can’t live on clothing— everything’s on sale!” At first, my tender-hearted better half was worried and wanted to shop there so the owner’s kids would get some dinner that night. However, the desperation on the sign made her feel uncomfortable, and she end up not even going in. Desperation is a major turn-off.
Lots of small businesses are afraid that if they try to create a big persona, someone will see through them. Rather than trying to act big, they act desperate and behave small. They beg clients for work and plead for lower prices from their vendors. This kind of attitude makes clients, vendors, and competitors alike all cringe. It’s embarrassing.
Have you ever seen the movie Hitch, starring Will Smith? Smith plays Alex “Hitch” Hitchens, a love specialist who helps men take the right steps to find and catch their dream girl. At one point in the movie, Hitch teaches one of his clients how to kiss. First, he says, you have to watch the signals. A woman fiddling with her keys at the door is signaling that she wants to be kissed. Once you know she wants to be kissed, you lean in; however, you have to stop right before you seal the deal. Let her come the final 10 percent of the way, Hitch explains. If you take it upon yourself to just kiss her, you might succeed that once, but likely not again.
Watching two men discuss and practice the art of kissing was absolutely hilarious, and at the same time the situation contained a principle that is true in many aspects of life. When you are a small but competent company, you have to make a great first impression, be creative in your approaches, and make sure you have a “great first date.” When you find the company fiddling with its keys, go in for the kiss. As you approach, however, make sure you allow them to come to you in the end. No matter how badly you need the work, letting them come to you helps them feel that they really are benefiting from your services and not just giving you a handout. Using language such as, “We’ll give this some time to make sure we’ve got the best fit,” is an amazing tool to make your interest known but not appear overly excited about the deal.
Porter’s Points – Don’t Do Desperation
- No matter how badly you need that deal, play it cool. Great business deals and great first dates are based on confidence and common interests, not on groveling and haste.
- A good business relationship is almost intangible and unwritten. It’s not strained, emotionally charged, or jittery. It needs to feel natural and comfortable. You won’t create that feeling if you’re operating out of desperation.