Would you ask the great detective to help you find your cat?
Let’s look in on Holmes and Watson for a moment, and see what would happen if you did:
Holmes and Watson are sitting in their study having tea and casual conversation. Watson opens the mail and shares inquires from potential clients as Sherlock Holmes listens and sips his tea, plucking at his violin.
Watson reads the first one.
“Gentlemen; I think my husband is having an affair and I would like your help in finding the truth… I will pay very handsomely.”
Holmes says, “blahhh,” and mumbles something about money not being very interesting….
With a smile, Watson continues to the next inquiry.
“A widow has lost her cat and… ” Holmes growls at Watson like a wolf about to attack… and Watson says, “Oh right, of course not.”
Watson reads yet another:
“This young woman is very concerned about her grandfather, The Lord of Bluehaven. Apparently she witnessed some sort of strange cult ceremony and her grandfather seemed to be the leader. She is very…”
Holmes interrupts. ”MRS HUDSON, GET MY COAT! Make haste Watson! We must go immediately and call on Miss… What was her name?”
If you’ve read any of Conan Doyle’s stories about the great detective, the elements of this scene should not be surprising. Holmes chase a missing cat? Holmes work only for the money? Baah! But a mystery he can sink his teeth—and skills—into, now that’s another matter!
I shared this hypothetical—yet typical—Sherlock Holmes scene to make a point:
You should choose carefully who you work with in your business.
This is true whether you are selling hard goods, services, or even teaching and training. This applies to every business with very few exceptions. You see, Holmes knows that if he starts taking jobs chasing down kitties, not only will he be bored out of his mind, but he will also start to be known as the detective who chases kitties. Furthermore, he knows that little old ladies and cats are quite demanding and not who he wants to work with.
Oh, and as for the case of philandering husband for a lot of money… well, Homes has the same reservations about the case as he did about chasing kitties. He doesn’t enjoy chasing husbands, either. Yes, Holmes needs the money—don’t we all? But it is always secondary to his work. He wants his work to have meaning… meaning to him and to his clients.
When he is excited about the case and finds the client interesting, it gives meaning to his work and his life.
So how do you vett your clients?
Do you just take on any client who is willing to pay you? Or do you carefully attract and select your ideal clients?
And how do you choose your clients when you don’t work with clients one-on-one, or know little about them other than their email addresses?
The answer is simpler than you think…
You let them select themselves.
They self-select when they read your website, social media posts, or any other type of communication. If you have a clear idea of whom you’d like to work with, you can then craft your communication towards that ideal client. That way, when an ideal client comes across your company, it resonates with them and they will reach out to you. If does not resonate, they go elsewhere and find a business that does. Someone is, after all, the “kitty-chasing detective,” and there’s no shame in that. It’s just not Holmes.
This may seem counter intuitive. Because what we have been taught is to talk about our business and how great we are. We’ve been taught not to let a potential client go, or take his business elsewhere. The problem is, that is not helping our potential customers. They need to know that we understand their problem and they need to know who we are as a business. Just as Holmes didn’t want to become known as a kitty-finding detective, regardless of the price, you don’t want the wrong clients approaching you, eating up your valuable time.
Over to you
Have you taken on clients that are less than ideal? Please leave a comment and share your stories.