Zen and the Art of Being Patient in Business
Everyone’s talking about execution these days. Seth’s talking about it over here. Ok, well it’s mostly Seth, but well, we should all be listening to him anyway.
Execution is critical to success in business, and it’s the very thing that many people fall short on. Lots of people get wrapped up in the thrill of the chase, but once they’ve landed the gig, actually executing on what’s been promised proves to be a challenge. Projects fail all the time because of failure to execute. Personal goals fail all the time for the same reason. Failure to execute.
Often, the failure happens long before the point of execution. We meet a prospect. We have a great chat, about all the possibilities. Both parties walk away feeling inspired and excited. Perhaps you even get to the point of putting together a proposal that outlines how execution can happen, but by the time you deliver it to your prospect, excitement has waned, other priorities have taken hold, and execution might seem impossible. In this case, it’s easy to blame the other party. After all, you worked till 2am to deliver that gorgeous proposal, how dare they not call you back right away! They were so excited about what you had to offer last week – why aren’t they making you a priority now?
Eventually, the prospect fades, but your resentment doesn’t. So you continue to go through the process – prospect, proposal, crickets. Prospect, proposal, crickets.
So, what’s wrong with your prospects?
Well, absolutely nothing.
What’s wrong is your approach. You see, the problem is we’re hungry. Our focus is on the prize (the paycheque, and/or the glory). So, we just want to skip a bunch of steps. We want our prospect to just say yes and sign on the dotted line, and we’ll figure out the rest later. It’s like calling someone your girlfriend when you haven’t even had a first date yet.
Patience is not my bag. I’ve never been an exceptionally patient person. When I get something in my head, it’s all I can think about. I dream about it, imagine it happening, becoming a reality in front of me. I feel the joy it will bring. I’m showered in good feelings.
And then I just want it to happen, like, NOW.
More than anything, having my own business has proven one thing to me. Good things DO come to those who wait. The longer a prospect takes to make a decision, the more comfortable I feel that they have done their homework, comparison shopped, dotted their I’s and crossed their T’s, and secured their funding. It’s an absolute fact that it always takes longer for someone to say “yes” then it does for them to say “no”. And that’s a good thing. I’d much rather my clients make an informed decision that they feel good about than to dive in with both feet and realize they’ve made a mistake halfway through.
So, be patient. Be really, REALLY patient. Out-patience your competition, and be the one who is still around when the prospect finally comes back and is ready to move forward.
But being patient doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sit back and wait forever. Follow up is still important. Dropping a line to say hi, I’m still here, is more than acceptable. Inviting your prospect to lunch, or coffee, is perfectly fine. Keep the relationship moving, let the prospect know you’re still there, is a very good thing. Often, it’s just the small tap they need to get the ball rolling again. Time it well though – use your instincts to guide you to the right next step.
Bank accounts are not patient. You’re right. Bank accounts are notorious for not being patient. So are those insistent people you have to pay your bills to. They don’t really get the whole “Well, I’m just being patient until my prospect makes a decision” thing. So, that just adds to our pressure, our hunger to get a decision out of people.
So what to do in the meantime? Well, keep pursuing new prospects, for sure. But find something else to do, to ease the financial pressure. Pick up a freelance gig. Heck, get a part time job, or keep your full time one. Don’t put yourself in a position that you’re starving. I work several days a month for a project management consulting firm. It’s a side gig, where I can make my own hours and work from home. I’m given assignments, deliverables, and deadlines, and as long as I meet them everyone is happy and I get a cheque every couple of weeks. I keep this job going because it provides me with a buffer zone, and makes me less anxious about signing that next deal. Plus, I really like the people I work with over there. Plus plus, it’s provided me with some new opportunities for my own business. But ultimately, my sales cycle is not dependent on me making the bills for the month – so I have some room for patience, negotiation, and a bit more time to build that comfort level and relationship with my prospects.
Growing a business is a process. It may seem to you like other peoples’ businesses are overnight successes, because we only get to know about them once they’ve landed the huge client or made a million bucks. Nothing could be further from the truth. The formative years of your business are right now – where you’re building your portfolio, creating long term relationships and expanding your referral network.
The rest is just patience.