Why Creating "Document-Based Barriers" Is Critical For Your Business

Why Creating "Document-Based Barriers" Is Critical For Your Business

It was the year 2012. There we were in Washington DC doing a three-day workshop on Uniqueness.

And among the group of about 35 people, there was one person who was being disruptive. She casually interrupted the presentation to ask bizarre questions. She wouldn’t co-operate within the group. In short, this person was that pain-in-the-butt-client that you don’t want around. But you may want to stop and ask: Whose fault is it that this person showed up in the first place?

The surprising answer is: It’s your fault.

In this case it was our fault

No matter whether a client is doing any of our courses, or workshops or even membership to 5000bc, we insist on one thing. That they own (or have at least read a copy of The Brain Audit). And when you think about it, it seems senseless. What has The Brain Audit (for instance) got to do with an Article Writing Course? Or in this case, what does The Brain Audit have to do with the Uniqueness workshop? So we let it slide. We didn’t insist on the document-based barrier.

So what is a document-based barrier?

A book like The Brain Audit is a document. And when a client is required to read that document, as a prerequisite, that document becomes a barrier. It separates those who simply want to show up vs. those who are so motivated that they will read through an entire document (be it a book, or a video or a audio) just to be part of your event/course.

Document-Based Barriers are critical for at least two core reasons

1) They get rid of 95% of your audience
2) They help to forge a specific terminology

1) They get rid of 95% of your audience

The moment you put any barrier in place, it gets rid of about 95% of your audience. And only the most determined stick around. So for instance, when we say, you have to read The Brain Audit to attend a course, those who haven’t read The Brain Audit automatically disqualify themselves. And most folks will tell you that it’s a bad idea to get rid of such a huge chunk of your audience.

You should make it ‘easier, not harder’, you will be told. But in fact, getting rid 95% of your audience is a very good idea indeed. Because the 5% that remain are extremely motivated. The more motivated your audience, the higher the chances that they’ll achieve their goals, be cooperative and yes, not be disruptive.

2) They help to forge a specific terminology

Within any document you’ll find specific terms. In The Brain Audit for instance, you find terms like ‘roller coaster’ or ‘target profile’. And those who’ve read the document are aware of the context of the words and the importance as well. And so it enables them to work together more effectively. When you get someone who hasn’t read the document, you get disruption.

They don’t understand the concepts or the context, and will constantly be seeking clarification. This is extremely annoying to those who are in the know. And it sucks up precious time as well. So yes, having the document (and having specific terminology) alienates a large part of your audience, but unites the audience that most care about you and that you most care about.

But surely it’s OK for me to tell you to put a barrier in place, now that our business is well on its way…

In fact, the opposite is true. Way back in 2002, when we first wrote The Brain Audit, it formed the basis of the barrier. When we started 5000bc.com (our membership site) in 2003, we had very few members, but that didn’t stop us from putting the barrier in place. And since then, almost every course and workshop has required a reading of The Brain Audit.

So it’s not that we just made it up recently. It’s been there from the very start. And it seems illogical, doesn’t it?

Logic will tell you that you need to appeal to the widest possible audience. Friends and advisers will tell you that you need to appeal to the widest possible audience.

Ignore them

Put a document barrier in place.
And you’ll get a better class of customer. More cooperation and amazing results.

And best of all, it will keep the disinterested and the pain-in-the-butt clients away!

P.S. Do you have a qualifying process in your business? Tell us about it.

Why You Need The Brain Audit

“I purchased The Brain Audit and have increased my clientele two-fold.”


As a Results Coach, I am always looking for ways to up my own game and provide more value for my clients. I came across some promotional material for the Brain Audit and was impressed almost immediately! I started reading through Sean’s PsychoTactics material and was even more impressed.

His conversational approach, his practical strategies that WORK, and his dedication to making marketing and customer attraction easier and more understandable make me not only a customer but a fan!

I purchased The Brain Audit and have increased my clientele two-fold. Buy The Brain Audit…Read it…Apply the principles…Watch your business grow!

Sean is a breath of fresh air. His strategies, principles, and advice work! I highly recommend The Brain Audit.

Dawn Langerock ~ Results Expert and Coach
Synergy Coaching and Consulting, Austin, TX, USA

Read more at http://www.psychotactics.com/brainaudit

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  1. Mike Hayden says

    Great idea!

    I’ve always present my published agreements, procedures, and a code of ethics before meeting with a client, which sets the tone before we get involved.

    Up to now, I have only recommended that they read my company’s “bible,” but now, I’m thinking insisting on it might make a giant leap forward.

    Faithfully in Freedom,

  2. says

    In my business I help people create a freelance or consulting practice and I strongly recommend phoning potential clients for marketing purposes.

    Therefore, for one-on-one coaching clients, I ask them to read my book (or at least look through it) and to fill out a questionnaire, at least briefly, with some basic questions about where they are at. I also ask for their resume or LinkedIn link.

    People know what I recommend and if they hate the idea of phoning, they don’t follow through on coaching with me. That’s best for all involved.

    Understanding the person’s background and goals is also helpful. Why should they pay good money to explain to me in our conversation what I can read before we talk?


  3. says

    We disseminate an educational approach that’s completely out of the box (as in ‘the educational system’s box), and years ago we decided that we would not do workshops for any one/organization who had not read the primer on the approach. We did this because the approach really resonates with people who are either outside the box themselves or sincerely want to be, but almost seems to shut down those who aren’t or don’t – and the document barrier saves everyone a lot of discomfort and difficulty! Do some people get uncomfortable anyway? Yes. But they’ve opted in, so it’s a healthy discomfort.

  4. says

    Hi Sean,

    excellent post! And immediately actionable. I have been kicking some ideas around in my head for quite a while and this instantly crystalised them all into the perfect solution.

    I already have strict Terms and Conditions that users of my service have to tick the box for, but that’s after they have made the significant commitment to me.

    The Document Barrier will bring me the right people from the outset – thanks Sean!

    @Linda – I guess you always get disruptive clients, but if they’ve hurdled the document barrier as Sean suggests, then they’re not disruptive for the wrong reason.

    • says

      Barriers help. Yes, every darned Internet marketer will tell you to make things easier. But easy come, easy go.

      It depends if you’re the kind of person that’s fussy, or just will take anyone who is willing to pay you—or rather “buy you”. :)

  5. says

    Hi Sean,

    Thanks for sharing, really timely article for me, as just made a tough call to put up a barrier to adding things to our site. Had been criticized for it as will rule out lots of people, but reading this is great, gives me confidence as I only wanted the best of the best anyway.

    • says

      You’re welcome.

      We’ve had great success with both our work (and our breaks) because we have clients who are a lot like us. And they realise, that the best things in life require some work.

      It’s easy to get creepos who can boss you around and demand the world. It’s a lot harder to get quality clients. And to get them you have to set rules.

  6. says

    I work in the corporate training industry and I do just that – put in an artificial ‘block’ that tells me what type of a client I am working with…a dedicated one or a lackadaisical one.

    It is in the form of a Training Gap Analysis – that I get them to download off my website – I have found the following

    – ‘excellent clients’ – have downloaded it, read it and started acting on it or have a long list of questions about it.

    – ‘good clients’ – have seen it, but don’t know what it is or they are willing to try or are excited when you put a copy in front of them at the first meeting

    – ‘poor clients’ – don’t bother to look at it at all.

    Also if the General Manager or the CEO is ‘on board’ with the training I go ‘all the way’ with personalising, reporting and assisting the staff to fully define their training needs and proposals. We then look at additional resources and provide an inclusive program – why? Because this is appreciated by those people and they ‘follow through’ on making sure the training is successful and it gets the ‘best results’ from their people. They maximise R.O.I

    If I get a ‘training course’ where the management don’t care, then the trainees are not encouraged from the management ‘end’ and they training outcomes suffer.

    While I don’t ever ‘discourage’ a poor client openly. I know they are probably more ‘price sensitive’ than an excellent one (who is quality sensitive/service sensitive) so I can price my quotation accordingly and expect the same outcomes!

    The other way to discourage a poor client is to ‘bamboozle’ them with terms and ideas that you know are beyond they present-day capability or thought. So I introduce things like ‘long term training plans’ and ‘workforce strategy’ ideas – the ‘switched-on’ clients are looking for these things so may not be at the position to deliver them into a company structure yet, but will be better ‘prospects’ in the future because you have shown them a progressive pay. In the Training/HR business, many contacts will move companies that allow them leeway to change the corporate culture – and they remember you!

    We should apply the same ‘sales techniques’ and ‘sales filtering’ to our clients as people selling products do – they buy when they are willing to buy and they have restrictions and attitudes that create a sales/service environment.

  7. says

    Good morning, Mr De Souza.

    Whilst I fully appreciate where you are coming from with this and think a document-barrier is a very good idea, I am a little concerned that there might also be a risk of ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ in this instance.

    What happens if someone says they have read the document, but is still ‘disruptive’?
    I know that I would read, but I also know that much of what I had read would not stick. Experience has shown that it is often only after the seminar, course or whatever, that the document made full sense and ‘stuck’. I have to admit, I would probably be disruptive in the ways you describe in order to arrive at that position of ‘stuck’.

    Kind regards,

    • says

      Well, that depends on how precise your instructions are, right?

      The key is NOT to get them necessarily to read the entire document. In the case of The Brain Audit, most people have read the entire document. But in other cases, reading the recommended portion is part of the rules.

      Can you still be disruptive? Of course you can. We’ve had situations where the person is disruptive. But the odds are very, very low. In 10 years (yes, we started our 10 year run yesterday) we’ve only had two or three situations. And two out of those three were because they didn’t read the document.

    • says

      There’s also a difference between stuck and disruptive.

      Stuck is great. That’s why you’re there: to help.
      Disruptive is when you stop a presentation to ask: What’s for dinner? Disruptive is when you don’t pay attention to instructions and then ask stupid questions later. Disruptive is when you don’t do as you’re told and get in the way of others.

      Stuck is fine. Disruptive is just being a pain in the butt!

      • says

        Thank you for the words of reassurance, Mr D’Souza.

        Maybe I’ll catch you next time round in the UK and know I won’t be a nuisance….. 😉

        Kind regards,

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