cant-please-them-all“I love what you are doing here!  I want to signup, but I just need you to make these few changes in what you do and I’ll sign right up”, said the prospect.

I hate losing a sale, I also hate not pleasing a potential client, but I knew what I had to say. “Sir, I’d love to accommodate you, the service you have selected wasn’t built for that and it won’t work well for you.  I can do exactly what you want, but it will not be with this service and the price point will be a little higher since it is a custom solution.”

Then the client responded, “Well, if you can’t make these few changes to do what I want with the service I selected, I’ll go elsewhere.”

Again, I knew what had to be said.  “Sorry to hear that, best of luck sir.” *click*

Have you ever had a conversation like this?

Today I was unable to meet a clients request and as a result I turned away work.  It wasn’t that the clients request was that hard, it just went against policies I put in place that allow us to rapidly deliver quality work.  Ultimately, I knew what I built my service to do and it wasn’t the right fit for the prospect.  I could have changed for just the prospect, but I knew I’d then fall into a pattern of one off changes and eventually lose control.  Fortunately, as I got off the call I remembered one of my favorite fables.  I’d like to share it with you in the hope that it helps you deal with any similar situation you might have.

A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to sell him at market. As they were walking along beside the Donkey, a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what good is a Donkey but to ride on?”

This caused the Man to be embarrassed.  In order to rectify this, the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way.  Soon, they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “Look at that lazy kid, he rides while his father walks.”

This caused more embarrassment to the Man.  So, the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself.  However, they didn’t go far before they passed two women, one said to the other: “Shame on you, you lazy jerk.  Making your poor boy run along side of you.”

“What to do?”, thought the Man.  Now, he picked his Boy up and they sat together on the Donkey.  They had finally reached the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked, “What are you complaining about?” The men said:

“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey with your heavy frame and your heavy son?”

The Man and Boy got off the Donkey and tried to figure out what to do. They thought and they thought, until the Man had a solution.  The Man cut down a branch to use as a pole, tied the donkey’s feet together, ran the pole between its legs, and carried the Donkey upside on their shoulders.  They continued along through the laughter of all who met them till they came to the Market Bridge.   As the crossed, one of the Donkey’s feet got loose.  The Donkey kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole.  In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and as his other feet were still tied together, the Donkey drowned.

“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them:

Moral of the Fable: Try to please all, and you will please none.

You cannot possibly please every person all the time.  If you are like me, when you run into these issues, you can get really downhearted and start to question if you are doing the right thing for your business.   So, if we can’t please everyone and we don’t want to feel like failures to our clients, what should we do?

These are some simple things you can do to keep from getting down when you can’t please everyone:

  1. Focus on what you know how to do.
    Just because a client wants you to add a product line or feature doesn’t mean you have to.  Ultimately, you know your goals and how to achieve them.  It certainly doesn’t hurt to evaluate options on including new things in your offering,  but don’t force it in just because one person wants it.
  2. Do what you do well.
    If you make sure your offering is the best it can be, you won’t worry as much when naysayers and hater come to try to tear you down.
  3. Educate your clients and prospects on what it is you provide and how it should be used.
    If you properly set expectations on what you provide and how your client is to use it, chances are they will not be disappointed when you have to say “No” to a pet request.
  4. Keep in touch with the latest innovations in your market to evaluate what fits and what doesn’t.
    If you are staying on top of the latest trends and innovations in your market you are more likely to be prepared when a client hits you with a new request.  Recently I had a client conversation similar to this: “Can we use XYZ email instead of your brand Email.”  Since I was up on the latest trends in health data compliance, I already had a list of great reasons why I decided not to use XYZ email. ”  My response was this, “We could use XYZ Email, but it’s not HIPPA compliant.  I wouldn’t want to see you hit with huge fines if patient data got out.”   Since I had a ready answer they stayed.  Had they left it wouldn’t have mattered to me, because I knew I had made the best decision for me and my business.

Remember, only you know the path you want your business to grow towards.  Don’t be afraid to do what’s right for your business, even if it means not pleasing everyone.