Please Don't Look in the Closet

Please Don't Look in the ClosetDecember 10, 2021

Have you ever been a guest in someone’s home, maybe for a holiday party, and asked for the location of the bathroom? Has the response included not only the directions, but a “just don’t look in the closet” response with a chuckle?

What your host is thinking at that moment might be a bit more frantic: “PLEASE, PLEASE, whatever you do, PLEASE don’t open that closet door.”

Professional services providers, prospective clients invariably have a messy “closet.” That's my term for what's underneath, what the world doesn't see. That’s particularly true for do-it-yourselfers coming in from out of the cold. It could be that they’ve been practicing law without a license (using Google to produce legal agreements), or that their accounting system of choice involves a Nike shoe box.

For coaches, the problem is particularly acute. Getting into the “closet,” that mess of emotional and mindset baggage a client has been carrying around, is the whole point of coaching.

To be effective in your practice, it’s vital to understand where the "closets" of your clients and prospects are located, and to know what those closets contain.

As you engage with a prospect, their “closets” are your competitors. That prospect sitting in front of you has deliberately put themselves in an emotionally vulnerable position. It might have taken them years, literally, to get over the embarrassment and shame they are feeling such that they are willing to engage an outside provider. The only reason they’ve called you is that the pain emanating from the closet is so bad that they just can’t take it anymore.

Part of your trust equation with that prospect involves giving them comfort that you’re not going to judge, and that no matter how disordered the closet may be, you’ve seen it so many times that it’s not a big deal—at all. It’s something like what my primary care doctor told me one time during an examination: 'I see many different versions of what you’ve got every day, so don’t worry.' What he actually said was a bit more colorful, funny, and therefore helped me relax. It was a marked contrast with some doctors I’ve visited who acted like they were working on a cadaver.

Further, it’s quite likely that that prospect became your client without all the closet doors being opened. If that client feels safe to share and isn't worried about judgment, as the engagement proceeds, they'll share, and you’ll have the ability to serve them much more effectively—deliver much more value—than you would have otherwise.

Our jobs, as services professionals, is to allow our clients to breathe, relax, and not worry about judgement. If we’re successful in this regard, we’re delivering priceless value.

Image Credit:  JumpStory

(This blog post was also posted on LinkedIn.)

©Ray Business Advisors, LLC and John Ray


About me: I help solo or small professional services firm owners with the confidence and positioning necessary to improve their pricing and change the trajectory of not only their business but their life.

I have a podcast called The Price and Value Journey, which features interviews with industry leaders and audio versions of my blog posts. You can find the podcast on your favorite podcast app.

I also have a book coming out in 2023:  The Price and Value Journey: Raise Your Confidence, Your Value, and Your Prices to Grow Your Business Using The Generosity Mindset.

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