Free Prize Inside

Have you ever owned a supermarket?

Me neither.

But I am willing to bet that one headache of such ownership is the never-ending challenge of finding and retrieving shopping carts from the parking lot.

Even if you manage to keep track of them all (doubtful), you still have to pay people to constantly roam the lot. Not to mention dealing with unhappy customers whose cars are occasionally dinged by runaway carts.

Well, one innovative market near me (Aldi) has come up with a clever solution: the carts are locked together at the front of the store.

The only way to release one is to insert a quarter into a slot on the handle. When you’re done shopping, you return the cart and out pops your quarter.

So, am I annoyed that Aldi makes me do the leg work? Not at all.

In fact, the feeling is exactly the opposite: When I get my quarter back, and even though I put the damn thing there myself just a few minutes earlier, it feels like I just won a “free” quarter.

I know. It doesn’t make much sense. But I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way.

And it’s a pretty good example of why, if the majority of your clients and prospects are human, it’s worth paying attention to how what you do, write, and say makes people feel in addition to how it makes them think.

Three suggestions in that regard…

Is your doctor highly skilled in doctoring? Don’t bother answering; we both know you have no idea. Same goes for your accountant, your attorney, and your auto mechanic.

The fact is, half of all professionals, by definition, are below average. There’s a pretty good chance that some of yours are among them.

If you like these people, it’s not because of how technically skilled they are; it’s because of all the soft stuff: clear answers, quick response time, hugs when you arrive (that may just be my mechanic).

It’s easy to do. And yet, so many professionals ignore this part, instead assuming that credentials, experience, and that PowerPoint slide describing your approach that you love to trot out is going to separate you from the pack.

Hiring a professional feels risky. We are hard to sample and moving forward requires the prospective client to jump in with both feet.

The more fear-based obstacles you can remove, the easier the decision to hire you becomes:

If you … price flat fee, your clients don’t worry about what the final cost may be.

If you … give them your cell number, your clients don’t worry about not being able to get in touch.

If you … have no long term contracts, your clients don’t worry about becoming trapped in an arrangement they might one day prefer to leave.

Your fear-removal specifics may be different, but the concept holds.

Take a look at how you price, package, and talk about your services and remove things that may cause people to hesitate.

At first, most of my newsletter clients hesitate when I encourage them to share nonbusiness stories from their personal experience.

“Nobody cares … people are busy … it feels unprofessional.”

It seems logical – but it’s totally wrong.

I had coffee this morning with a very busy, very successful professional. We spent half the time taking about our kids … travel … life.

Isn’t that a waste of time? No. In the world of professional services, people hire people.

And sharing personal experiences – which, by the way, may be the only thing AI will never be able to do – helps us get comfortable with each other.

Back when I worked in a big company, we lived by an unwritten rule: if you can’t put it in a spreadsheet, it doesn’t exist.

Likeability, trust, fear … too hard to measure. So we’ll just ignore it.

The thing is, what I have found in 20+ years as a solo is that when it comes to getting hired, those kinds of things may be all that really matters.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever worked in a supermarket?
  2. Does your mechanic hug you?
  3. What have you done to take the fear out of hiring you?

Share your answers below…

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22 thoughts on “Free Prize Inside

  1. Jeremy

    Typically well said (in writing). This reminds me of Simon Sinek’s thesis that customers don’t buy what you do, they buy what you believe.

    Thanks, Michael!

  2. Arlene

    Yes, I have worked in a supermarket
    No, my mechanic has never hugged me
    Being relatable. I’m always smiling (mostly) and following my 1 minute story, I ask personal – appropriate – questions. They always get relaxed and share as much as they can. 🙂

  3. Keanisha Mona Johnson

    I remember treating my mechanic to a chocolate fruit basket for Mother’s Day because I’ve been a long time customer and I wanted to show my appreciation but why’d I do that for they didn’t even say thank you. I think that’s bigger than a hug.

  4. Jean Feingold

    I’ve never worked in a supermarket. Here some Aldi customers are too lazy and think so little of a quarter they leave their carts in the lot. Sometimes entrepreneurial poor people hang around the lot, retrieving the carts so they can get the quarters. No idea how many bucks an hour they make doing this.

    I briefly dated a former mechanic. We’re still friends although I rarely see him.

    Main reason people hire me is reliability. I never miss a deadline (except for the time the hurricane dropped a tree on my house and I couldn’t use my office). I quickly bought a laptop and was only a few days late. My editor was understanding; a tree squished her car.

  5. Evelyn Starr

    1. Never worked in a supermarket. I’ve waited tables though.
    2. My mechanic has never hugged me, but we have a great long-running relationship. So thrilled with their service that takes my fear away, I featured them in a newsletter. (
    3.. To take the fear out of hiring me…My newsletter and blog feature bits about me and my life along with marketing insights, so prospects get a feel for who I am and how I think and work. I communicate clearly, address the fears I perceive in getting to know them, and produce a clear and specific proposal so we both know what to expect. Upon hire, I send a handwritten thank you note to reassure them.

  6. Janet Falk

    I dId not work in a supermarket nor hug a mechanic.

    My Public Relations and Marketing Connunications services and packages are listed on my website with the fees and my hourly rate. That keeps the tire-kickers away.

  7. Loring

    1. Yes I have worked in a supermarket. I was a Deli Manager (aka Deli doll), cashier, and stocked frozen food when I got poison ivy and couldn’t be in the deli.

    2. Never been hugged by my mechanic – eeuuwwww.

    3. I’m straightforward, no nonsense and open. I take time to get to know prospective clients and I don’t push anyone to work with me. Actually getting my newsletter off the ground will probably help too…just sayin’

  8. Stacey

    1. I worked at Trader Joe’s for 6 months in between giving up my business and getting a new job. It’s was like a spa day for my mind! I didn’t have to think about anything and making someone’s day was as easy as showing them where to find the shallots. Not to mention the 20% discount!

    2. Never hugged a mechanic.

    3. I’m as open and transparent as possible about what folks can expect. Also, I stopped hiding my personality and ideas. Acting like someone I’m not is exhausting! Plus, they know exactly what they’ll get before they get it! (It’s why my current employment is working so well.)

  9. Patti Hermes

    1. Never worked in a supermarket.
    2. Of course my mechanics hug me, they’re my kids! (Before that, my dad and my grandfathers, we have a family full of gear heads).
    3. I mostly work with intuitives, so if there’s any fear it’s not a good fit. I provide a clear proposal and flat fee for whatever project level they choose, and retainer customers never see an increase (unless they expand their service level).

  10. Alistair

    Thanks, Michael. I love your thoughts and your questions. No, I haven’t worked in a supermarket. However, I used to love chatting up the check-out chick and putting a smile on their face. Now, it is all self-service and only a machine to get frustrated at. No, my mechanic has never hugged me, but wow, I could have hugged them. After years of crap service, I found a new mechanic, and the difference was super awesome. They rang me before I arrived to ask if I wanted to borrow a car; they were super friendly and very helpful, and they offered to research a problem and gave me helpful advice. They couldn’t do more. I am in love! One way of removing the fear is by showing samples of your work and testimonials and being responsive to their needs.


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