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How to Be in Charge (without Being a Jerk)

by Judy Murdoch

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Published on this site: November 19th, 2009 - See more articles from this month

Earlier this year, I was working at a sales training seminar and we were on the topic of handling customer objections.

A participant who owns a massage therapy practice was asking how to best address a prospective client who didn't want to follow his recommended course of treatment.

We then asked other audience members to share their experience. A couple people spoke up and their advice, however well-intended, felt off to me.

The advice focused on listening and negotiating with the prospect: finding a compromise position between what the prospective client was willing to do and what the massage therapist was prescribing.

I took the microphone back, and said, "You know what, you've been a massage therapist for years. You know what works and what doesn't work. You're the expert here and if you don't think what you're client is asking for is going to help, tell them that and stand firm on your recommendation."

It was uncomfortable to disagree with these other two professionals. They had a lot of experience in sales and marketing but in this case they were missing an important point:

# When you own a business and offer expert advice, you're the boss. You're the leader and customers are coming to you for your leadership.

Isn't Saying "What I Say, Goes" Arrogant and Obnoxious?

Well, yes, actually, that is pretty arrogant and obnoxious.

But that's not what I'm suggesting.

To explain let's look for a moment at what it means to own a business from a larger perspective.

A concept mentioned by all the great spiritual teachers is that of the "servant-leader." In Christianity the term "stewardship" is often used.

In more secular terms, the servant-leader means that the real authority is a higher power: something bigger and grander than ourselves: a greater good in the universe.

If you created your business as a means to make money and to make a positive difference, your position as a business owner is an interesting one.

In a sense your business is a vehicle to serve a greater good and you get to be a steward: entrusted to do the right thing.

Part of doing the right thing is serving your customers.

And if the value your business offers is based in your expertise, serving customers requires that you be an expert and stand in what you know as an expert.

Drawing the Line Between Being an Expert in Service versus Being an Argumentative Jerk

Ok, so where do you draw the line between holding an expert position and being a blowhard?

This is where we check into our hearts and look at our motives.

Let's go back to the example of the massage therapist.

Let's say the massage therapist tells the client they need weekly sessions if they want help with their lower back pain.

The client says, "I'm really busy and I can't afford to come in every week, can't I get the same results if I come in a couple times this month?"

The massage therapist has years of training and experience. He knows that if the client doesn't follow his recommendation chances are good that the client won't get the relief he wants.

This is a situation when, as an expert and business owner, it's important to step into your role as a leader.

Your role is to check in with your expertise and heart for the best course of action to help your customers get the support they've come to you for.

The client may not like your recommendation and that's ok. They may even leave and go to a competitor.

It's painful to lose a customer but customers who can't or won't follow your guidance won't get the help they need anyway.

Keys to Being a Non-Jerky Boss:

  1. Give yourself a Break: You're Human!

    No one does anything in business or otherwise because of a single motive. Maybe you're in business mostly because you want to make a difference but hey your ego likes being seen as an expert too.

    Empathy for yourself is not a luxury, it's a necessity for having effective relationships with others... including clients.

  2. Clarify, really why are you taking the position you're taking?

    It's not easy taking a stand--especially if it's likely to be unpopular. Which is why it helps to stand solidly in what underlies your perspective.

    I find it helpful to ask yourself, "What's my highest intention in this situation?"

    In the case of the massage therapist, his highest intention isn't absence of pain for his patients although that is one outcome they get.

    His highest intention is to help clients become more aware of their bodies so they can learn to prevent conditions that led to the pain to begin with.

  3. Find empathy for others

    In our culture, it's easy to mistake taking a position for being "right" and those who don't share our position as being "wrong."

    And when we get attached to our "right way" of doing something we can sound critical and judgmental which leads to resistance and defensiveness in others and drives them away.

    Remember, even if you don't agree with someone's reason it still feels true for them. There's a greater good in charge of outcomes-- you and I are just humble servants.

  4. Remember it isn't About Being Right; It's About Providing Leadership for Those Who Want What You Offer

    This is probably the most important point to remember.

    There are people, your "tribe" if you like that term, who care about the same things you care about and are seeking like-minded people with whom they can do business. These are the customers who resonate with your highest intention.

    You're job is to stand strongly in your position for these customers so they can find you and feel supported by you.

    This how you are in service as a business owner.

Bottom Line

When you own a business and offer expert advice, you're the boss. You're the leader and customers are coming to you for your leadership.

But just because you're in charge doesn't mean you have license to be a jerk.

Effective leadership means remembering you're in the position your in to serve a greater good: to support the customers who share your values and need the solutions your business offers.

Judy Murdoch helps small business owners create low-cost, effective marketing campaigns using word-of-mouth referrals, guerrilla marketing activities, and selected strategic alliances. To download a free copy of the workbook, "Where Does it Hurt? Marketing Solutions to the problems that Drive Your Customers
Crazy!" go to http://www.judymurdoch.com/workbook.htm.
You can contact Judy at 303-475-2015 or [email protected].

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