In Business, Honesty Can Be the Best Medicine


The other day someone emailed me to inquire about helping them build a website for a new business venture.

I responded to the inquiry a day late because I didn’t notice it in my inbox right away. The automated subject header (“Internet marketing inquiry”) was missing and in it’s place was the phrase “not human.” Normally I would have deleted the message without reading any further as I get a lot of spam. But something made me stop and read further.

Turns out this person could not get past a troublesome captchca code on my website’s contact form. Yet she still took the time to email me directly and let me know that she was not able to successfully “verify her humanity.”

As someone who offers usability consulting, I felt a bit silly, and embarrassed to say the least. But I was also incredibly thankful.

This person could have clicked away to another consulting site in seconds. Instead, she took the time to not only explain the very poor usability of my contact page but then asked about possibly utilizing my services.

To me this anecdote could apply to numerous scenarios in business. Too often we feel hurt or even maimed by the words of others in a cyber world where words are all we really have.

But this is totally unnecessary, and often causes us to miss important opportunities for both new clients and the better operation of our business.

When someone takes the time to be honest with you, it usually means they care. And they care about at least one of the following:

  1. about helping you be more successful
  2. about looking smarter than you
  3. about getting something they need from you
  4. about expending energy for no good reason at all

Number 4 is not common but it does happen (hey, we all need a hobby). Number 1 is quite common and generally brings good karma in a networking situation. (Just don’t ask for anything in return. Be nice. Say “You’re welcome.” And go home.)

Number 2 is darned annoying, but you must let it go as soon as it happens. There’s work to be done, and it’s the kind of child’s play that will wear you down fast. In the meantime though, be on the lookout for Number 3. For when honesty happens in this context, a rare business opportunity has just come a knocking. Ask yourself:

  1. Is this person representative of my target market?
  2. Does he or she have connections to my target market?
  3. Is he or she is a potential ally?

More often than not, those who take the time to give honest-and unsolicited-advice or feedback are people who can benefit you or your business in some way. And when you think about it like that, you’ve just been given pure market intelligence. For free .

Lap it up. Forget about your feelings for a moment. And trip over yourself to address whatever business problem or issue this person has just helped you to uncover. This, of course, is after thanking them profusely for their thoughtful input.

Just remember to close the deal! You’ve got the hottest kind of prospect on your hands. Attentive. Thoughtful. Honest. And looking for a fair trade.

That’s what I call a golden opportunity.


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