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We are packing to leave for a mini-work trip / vacation at the beach while our daughter CeCe will be spending a few days with her grandparents. It’s the night before and she has a small headache and seems more sleepy than normal. I’ve convinced myself it is something awful that will surely ravage her six year old body as soon as I’ve left town. A migraine, a sinus infection, a tumor . . . something. She is laying on our bed while I fold laundry in the other room. My guilt starts rising even though we haven’t left.

Going to the Beach Guilt

I feel guilty for leaving her behind and not taking her with us. Guilty that we are doing something fun without her…the beach of all places. Should I keep going? Guilty that I don’t have enough matching socks for her, that I can’t find her hairbrush, that we are almost out of children’s tylenol, that her underwear is getting too small, that my parents will have to take her to karate, that she needs one of those good showers were I wash her hair 3x and load it with conditioner so it doesn’t get too tangled. I should be in the other room with her not folding laundry. I should be staring in to her cherub face while cooling her head with a washcloth, or something.

On top of the guilt is a nice layer of sad. Sad she doesn’t feel well. Sad that we are not taking her with us. Sad that she will be missing some of the fun we will have. Sad to say goodbye tomorrow. We have been spending a lot of time together and being apart is more difficult than normal.

As if on cue, CeCe comes out from my room and snuggles with me on the couch. She squeezes next to me under a blanket and wraps her arms around me, her head rests on my side. I’m sure she is sad too, and not feeling well, and just generally upset that we are going away. Opting for silence and sweet encouraging filler words I say things like “hey baby, whatcha doing? what’s up? you need something or just want to snuggle?”

I can feel the mom guilt about to mushroom cloud sadness all over our house. It’s right there, sitting right on the inside of my lips, held back only by my six sessions of coaching. I feel like I have to acknowledge her obvious anxiety, the cuddling for no reason, the headache, the moping . . . it all must mean she is so sad we are leaving.

I shove down some tears.

She looks up at me, deep in my eyes, arms wrapped around me tight and squeezes an extra tight squeeze and says “I just love you.” A thunder clap of sadness almost takes me down. I say “well I love you too baby.” Then just as sweetly, with the same amount of dripping sadness, she said “can I have a treat?”

I was sitting in in sadness and guilt and she just wanted an ice cream bar.

How does this relate to your business?

If you have ever been worked by a kid trying to get an extra ice cream you can handle a client that tries to negotiate. Does this sound familiar?

“I adore your work and love the service you provide, and I am going to tell all of my friends and family about it and bring you a lot of business. So can I have a discount?” (Loosely translated, I love you, can I have. a treat?)

Emotional Currency

Praise and promises are emotional currency, not real currency. If a client tells you they adore your product and want to tell everyone about it . . . that is awesome! That means you met their expectations and did a great job of conveying your value. But if they follow the praise and adoration with a request that pushes your boundaries, then you are being manipulated.

So how do you handle a client who flatters you then asks for something in exchange?

Some phrases I’ve used are:

“Thank you so much, that means a lot to me to hear you say that. I am so glad you want to tell people about us! I would hope that your excellent experience would be enough to share with your friends and family without needing a discount since that isn’t something we do.”

“I understand why you’re asking, but I don’t offer discounts for great experiences (ha ha ha). I hope you’ll still tell your friends and family all the great things you’ve told me . . . “

“I understand why you’ve asked, I get asked all the time if we give discounts or referrals. Unfortunately I only have two prices, full price and free. And, only my mama gets me to work for free. It keeps it fair to everyone. I appreciate you asking. I hope you’ll still share what a great experience you’ve had . . .”

The Delivery

My delivery is friendly and light hearted. I don’t show with my face or my tone that it has hurt my feelings or irritated me – I keep the same expression I have when they just offer praise. Sincere, grateful, but firm. They should feel like you get asked this all the time and you rattle off the answer the same every time. Write yourself a script and memorize it until this comes naturally to you. Imagine you are a parent, grateful for the hug but firm that it doesn’t mean a treat

The Rebuttal

If they said they loved your customer service and how easy you made everything, reference those points in your rebuttal. Repeat back to them what they have said they liked. In the examples I used the phrase “great experience” but using their specific statements back to them has more power.

The Dispute

For the especially hard-headed client who doesn’t accept your friendly and light-hearted “no” then offer them to pay full price now and you will give a discount when the referrals come through. I don’t like to do this often, but it has worked well the few times a client pushed hard.

“Wow, it sounds like you’re really convinced you will send a lot of referrals. How about this, you pay full price now, but for every person you send me I will give you ______ credit back on your next _______.” You said that could be hundreds, what a win for you that will be!” That way if they come through with referrals, awesome! If they don’t, you haven’t lost anything. The bullshitter will know you have called their bullshit. The referral powerhouse will gladly take the opportunity. (Most of the time it’s bullshit).

Don’t Make Your Issues Their Issues

Let’s go back to the beginning, where this started. When CeCe came out to snuggle I was already feeling guilty, insecure, and sad. I assumed that she was feeling sad because I was feeling sad. When she came out to the couch if I had said “are you sad daddy and I are leaving? are you upset? does your head hurt? are you feeling bad?” What would she have done? She would have gone along with it. Yes mommy, I am so sad you’re leaving, and I feel so bad . . . can I have a treat?

Don’t spill your guts to your client and make your issues their issues. They don’t know all of your worst anxieties until you tell them. Your emotional fallout only creates more problems. Keep your anxieties and negative feelings to yourself.

What if it gets quiet? I hate silence.

In sales, uncomfortable silence is productive. Silence is good. Silence means they are thinking and you shouldn’t interrupt.

When the room goes quiet, don’t use it as a chance to spit up every stray thought you have. When they get uncomfortable in the silence, they will talk, and what they have to say is much more important to understanding their needs than whatever story is playing in your head.

How to do that? Wear a bracelet you can play with, take a sip of drink, move around some papers, squeeze your buttcheeks together . . . whatever it takes to keep your mouth shut. The first person to talk loses.

Stand Your Ground

If you gave in to a kid who manipulated you with flattery, you’d have a rotten kid. If you don’t want rotten clients, don’t allow praise and promises to move your boundaries. Accept praise, celebrate inside that you have done a good job. But when the praise turns into a maneuver for something they want, say “no” with the confidence of a parent who is pleasantly annoyed at answering this question again.