Manhattan, New York isn't a scary place.
And yet, as I stepped out of the subway into a sea of people, I was intimidated. I wasn't sure where to go. Or what to do next.
I was completely out of my safe-zone. I'd gone from a country of 4 million people (and a zillion sheep), to a country of 300 million.
And suddenly, I was intimidated.
Your customers feel the same intimidation when dealing with you
You're like a New Yorker. You know the streets. You know the subways. You speak the lingo. The client is a stranger. And intimidated as heck.
But where does this intimidation come from?
It comes from two sources:
1) The supplier (that's you).
2) The buyer (that's the client).
The product you're selling may be unfamiliar.
The information that you're giving may be buffet-sized.
The training may be bouncing right over the head of the client.
But it's not all your fault.
Because a good chunk of the intimidation may come from the client. The client may have some level of product-phobia. The client may have dealt with consultants before, and got easily confused. The client may think your training will put them in a spotlight they'd rather not be in.
As you can see, it's kinda impossible to guess what makes people feel unsafe. And therefore the first thing you need to do is announce the presence of a safe-zone.
Announce the presence?
If you're starting a consulting session, announce the safe-zone. If you have a membership site, announce the safe-zone. If you have any situation, where the client is outside their comfort zone, you'll need to create a sort of comfort-zone.
Or in other words, a safe-zone.
But in the rush to get things done, it's easy to forget about the announcement.
A situation where you're interacting with a client has a lot of factors involved. And it's easy to forget to announce the safe-zone, so I put in a reminder.
If I'm doing a workshop or training session for instance, I'll put the ‘safe-zone' slide in my list of slides. So right at the start, the slide pops up, and then I can make the announcement.
If it's a teleconference, we announce the safe-zone over, and over again. And if it's a consulting session, we announce it again. And again.
And demonstrate that no question is a silly question.
But of course, while you agree that the safe-zone works with services and training, does it work with products as well?
Yes it does. But it depends on the product itself.
If you're selling a pen, there's no intimidation.
If you're selling a sound mixer, the intimidation pops up quickly.
So many products create ‘Quickstart guides.' Guides that are simple to use and have specific 1,2,3 steps that anyone can follow.
And that's only part of the intimidation
The other part of the intimidation comes from the client.
Their past experiences.
The ghost that's in their head.
You can't fix that. You can never fix that.
So if I walk into the light from a Manhattan subway, I may feel a little jittery. But that may be because I'm not used to crowds. Or that I've just had a bad experience on the subway. Or that hotdog is starting to have an effect of sorts and I need to find a toilet pretttttty soon.
Who knows what causes me to be intimidated?
But the city of New York does its bit.
It puts up signs.
It prints maps.
It has visitor centres.
It maintains an informative website.
But is that all you can do?
No it isn't. It's important to ask customers how they felt when they first ran into your product/service or training.
What intimidated them the most?
You'll find that customers are more than willing to let you know. And then you should reduce, or better still, fix that intimidation factor.
And that's the first step to a safe-zone!
When we have our workshops, I'd start off the workshop at 8:02 am on the first day of the workshop itself. So what was intimidating about starting on the day itself? Well, most people don't know others in the room. Most don't know where they need to sit. Or what they need to do.
So one year, a client told us how he didn't feel safe and suggested we have a ‘meet and greet session' the day before the workshop. And so we did.
And what a massive difference it makes.
At the ‘meet and greet session' we show the participants the room; where they're sitting; and take any questions. I'm also dressed down in a very casual t-shirt and jeans. This relaxes the audience, and sets the tone for the dress code.
And so not only do they relax, but they also get to know each other. They share a dinner. They talk. And they rest well before the start of the workshop.
Instead of unsettled attendees, we have relaxed, calm, chattering attendees the next morning.
And that my friend is just one instance how you create a safe zone.
Jef Menguin says
I like to consider your suggestions on the safe zone. I conduct workshops every week and I think you have a point – there are many reasons why clients are intimidated.
I will help them.
What IS a “safe zone”?!! You never actually explain it.
Terry Dunn says
I’ve never really thought about a safe zone before, but now that you mentions it, I can see how it applies to quite a lot of situations in my life. Excellent article. I’m sure I can use some of this wisdom.
Jack Godfrey says
I will be applying this to my Introduction to Yoga classes.
1 – create the safe zone by talking about before classes start via emails to the attendees and in the sales page.
2 – interview them after the course is over to see what else can be done to make them feel safer.