We know this, right? We say it often. We talk about the fact that you can only please all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time and most of the people much of the time or something.
So why on earth are we so resistant to the notion of letting go of an opportunity that’s not a fit for our business?
We scramble to write out “positioning” statements to illustrate why we’re the right choice for a person or company in a given situation. We mash up what we already have to spin it just the right way, in hopes that it will look like we can do the job. Even if it’s not our strength.
If we’re trying to provide solutions for small business owners, why would we waste hours putting together a mammoth proposal for Wal*Mart? One that would most likely send our business into an operational tailspin because if we were to win the contract, we’d have to scramble to find capacity for it operationally (because you certainly don’t buy the team and the infrastructure before you land the deal, right?).
But it happens all the time.
And the real kicker? We are absolutely resistant to the idea that handing off that ill-fitting piece of business to a competitor would be a good business move.
Why? Because we see the short term lost opportunity cost. We see it as driving the engine of the competition rather than fine-tuning our own. We see the trees instead of the forest, thinking that if we’ve lost that customer today, we won’t ever be able to have them.
The problem is that they weren’t going to be our customer. Not today, anyway. If we have to force-fit our company with their needs in order to capture a short term win, what have we done? We’ve put ourselves in the unfortunate position to have to cram a round peg into a square hole, and fulfill a promise we weren’t really qualified to fill in the first place. And that’s likely going to end with a customer who’s not very satisfied, which means not only might we lose the business, but we might lose their trust and respect as well – and those might be irreplaceable.
There’s a fine line between stretching your capabilities to capture a new market when the right opportunity is there, and stubbornly refusing to pick a rock and stand on it.
The backside to listening to the customer community at large is that there will always be someone for whom you are not a fit. You’ll be too big. Too small. Too expensive. Too cheap. Too traditional. Too renegade. Too something.
And if you listen to all of them and try to accommodate their needs, you’ll do nothing well.
But if you’re willing to be honest with yourself and the customer and admit that you might not be a fit for their needs – even send them to someone who would instead – you might just earn their respect and admiration. And down the road, if their needs change or your focus does, you’ve established a basis of credibility and trust that might just win you that business back.
image credit: wwarby