It’s obvious in business when you get an offer or a proposition that someone is trying to sell you something, an idea, a partnership, an opportunity, or some oceanfront property in Oklahoma. I saw a colleague from my non-profit client, Resist Attack, try and give away his free pepper sprays at an upscale coffee shop. And guess what? Not one taker. Why? He was nicely dressed, he was actually not asking for anything, and the package was clearly marked as free.
As I watched the last woman reject his offer, I tried to figure out what the downside to the proposition was for her. My guess, without asking her, was that she was suspicious that he was asking for something even when he said he wasn’t.
So when I professional can’t give away a free product to his target demographic, even with a friendly smile and assurance that there were no strings, what does that say about our current culture? Are we averse to marketing, or offers because they all seem to have a catch? Have we grown so cynical that even a free program from a non-profit can’t give away its services?
Another example is from my personal/professional life. I was networking with a friend and potential business partner. And though we have never done a project together our historical relationship goes back several years. Via a social network, I proposed, “How about lunch or coffee sometime this week.” He had been propositioning me about becoming a coaching client of his, and he was often asked if we could “do a project” together without ever proposing the project. No worries. I considered him a plus.
He was online and responded quickly.
Um. Clearly, he was waiting for the proposition.
“Being friends, connecting, no agenda.” It was Monday mid-morning, I was looking to set a time during the week to chat about plans and ideas, but NOT a specific money-making project.
“That would be cool…weekends are good for that…maybe a Sunday.”
Wow. Alright. At least he was clear.
I was talking about plussing, providing additive value by being with someone. adding energy and ideas. He was talking about business. And obviously, from his perspective, the “value” of lunch or coffee was not obvious. I let it rest.
Turn the tables and today I get a text from him, this morning.
“Want to do some work together?” Since he is in the coaching business, I figured this was another coaching offer. He has floated several “let’s start now” messages to me.
“I’d rather collaborate on something… need money, don’t have any to spend… you got anything like that?”
“That is what I meant. We’d put together a premium services sheet and ship it out this week an close on a nice 20-50k proposal.”
This sounded to me like he had a proposal and was looking for my services as part of his plan. Cool.
I asked for more details. “Can you send me info, or shall we meet for coffee/lunch/beer?”
But I had missed some part of his transmission. “Info?”
“I thought you were saying you had a proposal you needed me to join in on?”
“No. We’d put the proposal sheet together and (aka take the best of what we are) and productize and market it RAPIDLY.”
Uh oh. He didn’t have anything. He was doing an ask similar to mine the week before, BUT. He was looking for some partnership energy to work up a plan and market our services together. The RAPIDLY was a bit more telling. That URGENCY seemed to belie a problem in his current pipeline.
I backed out of the opportunity. I didn’t need a partner to go looking for work. I needed a proposal that I could be a part of, yes, but prospecting with URGENCY with someone who I liked but who was unproven, was not my idea of good resource allocation.
So what is it that puts us in the “What do you want from me?” mode so quickly? Last week I was offering an open partnership and idea/energy exchange. I was rejected. This week, the same person was asking for a business/partnership and I was the rejector. Neither was wrong or right. But we had different agendas. Different approaches. I’m not looking to get into urgency with anyone if I can help it.
I appreciate the clarity of his request. It allowed me to see what he was looking for and politely decline. Perhaps that’s what’s wrong with my soft-sell propositions.
The good news is I have some honest friends. And one, in particular, approached me about the free idea about a year ago, but we never made it happen. He asked I offered specifics, but it never happened. Now in some primary research, I’m going to invite that friend to coffee and pick his brain about why my offer, my FREE offer, failed to close with him and his small business.
I’m clear on what I want in each of these offers, but I’m not sure what the potential client is. I need to get even more clear.
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