How to lose a client in 10 seconds

Sometimes people shoot themselves in the foot when they think they are shooting others. This little story is from two Tango parties, but it will relate to any type of customer-seller relationship, you’ll see :).

A few weeks ago I was at a Tango party. I’m not a Tango dancer – I love it though, I like to make stuff up as I go and I did have quite a few great dances with people around Europe who thought I actually can dance it properly. I insist that I can’t, although I can on occasion fake it pretty well… Anyway. I enjoy it. I enjoy creating within it. Every once and again I end up at a party, where I try to absorb moves and tricks as I watch them. So here I was at one such big event.

Towards the end of the night I asked someone (turned out to be a Tango teacher) for a dance. I normally let everyone know I know very little of Tango when I ask them to dance, by the way – he was no exception. I was looking forward to picking up yet a few more things on the go.

He had a more defined lead than others I danced with and, to my understanding (as I’m a very light follower, mind you), he gave me that extra energy that normally signifies some extra stuff going on (for example, flicks). I’m a good, girl (on occasion 😀 ), so I did what I thought I was supposed to. Less than a minute into the dance, however, my partner stopped in the middle of the floor, looked at me and asked “Do you want to dance alone?”.

I said something in reply on the lines of, well, I wasn’t familiar with his lead and I basically felt enough of a push to do what I was doing, which was why I was doing it etc. etc. etc. He then (thank you, your majesty), was kind enough to finish the dance. He also told me, in the meantime, that he would be holding a workshop the next day on exactly that – connection and lead interpretation etc, where I could learn it if I wanted.

Well, I wanted. I still do. Just not, my dear friend, with you. You lost me in the few seconds that it took you to say your arrogant-son-of-a-bitchy “Do you want to dance alone?”, to which I had to summon all my manners and will power not to reply “Yes, asshole, that’s exactly why I asked another person for a dance – so I can do it on my own. Duh.” Want to know a trade secret? If you wished to promote your workshop, being such a dick towards me was not the way.

Let me, in the near zero chance of a hope you may one day stumble upon this, tell you how you could have handled this whole thing with much more class and maybe even could have seduced me into your workshop:

1. Ask me a different question. Ask me something like “hey, I’m wondering if you normally prefer to do these things in general, or do you feel like I’m leading you into it?”. I would have told you that was what your lead felt like for me and we could then sort it all out in a much more dignified manner.

2. Compliment me. Even if I were absolutely terrible (I wasn’t), stepped on your feet at every step (not once) and was heavier than a load of bricks to lead (I’m the opposite, which actually causes problems sometimes). I’m your potential client? Make me happy! Say you’re impressed I could pick up so much without proper lessons. Say you can see how I could very quickly learn a lot more if I did take a lesson here and there. Then wait.

3. Wait for me to tell my heart-wrenching digest of a story of how I’m hardly ever in the city for long enough to take a course (so if I paid for one, I’d miss out on several lessons inevitably, which makes a course not worthy of an investment for me).

4. NOW pitch your class. Tell me I may not even need a full course necessarily (another self-esteem boost), but a few specific workshops can help me interpret the lead better and end up jumping ahead in terms of dance abilities. Say “by the way there is one tomorrow if you’d wish to come – we’d be doing exactly that and I’d be happy to see you there”.

Guess what? I never considered going for that weekend’s workshops. But. Had you played the situation out that way – I could have been very easily persuaded out of my money and you would have gotten it. I would have gotten a valuable lesson, too (I’m sure. I may still one day – just never with you…). And instead of writing this entry, I would be writing an entry with your name in it, praising your skills, workshop and everything about it. Wouldn’t you benefit from some positive publicity?

Instead, you ruined my evening. You made me feel absolutely terrible about myself. You’ve basically shat on what to me is actually sacred: an ability to express what the music stirs inside me through movement. You’ve also crossed out every single occasion when other (mind you, very good) Tango dancers told me they thought I danced already for a long time and didn’t believe me when I would tell them I’m no more than a beginner with a decent ability to fake it – on a good day. You made me cry. I hardly ever cry. You made me think I should never dare show up at any milonga ever again because I’m a worthless pretender with no hope for ever being able to enjoy this particular dance, which I happen to love.

To my luck, I’m a stubborn person. It’s probably the only quality that keeps me still afloat in life. So I gathered the tiny pieces of my shattered dance-esteem and forced myself to go to another Tango party the following night. It was mixed with other music, so I was more within my element in general. And here another Tango teacher character enters the story.

Of course, I asked him to dance. And of course, I also told him I’m sort of just starting out there and don’t dance more than once in several months. But he was pretty much the exact opposite story to the first guy.

There is one figure I kept making a misstep on – I do it often, I’d like to correct it but I didn’t pick up on it yet. So by misstep number three I apologized and told him for some reason I always seem to get that one damn thing wrong. Instead of patronizing me though, he said there is no such thing as ‘wrong’ in Tango. It’s about creating the movement together and enjoying it! (I respectfully disagree about “no such thing as ‘wrong'”: when you’re not matched in balance to the partner, it’s ‘wrong’ in Tango – ideally it shouldn’t happen, and my misstep is the kind that disturbs that balancing act that Tango is, but enough of the technicalities…).

We ended up dancing a few more times that night and if he had ever invited me to a workshop – I’d rob a bank to go to it if I had to. Because that, that was a true teacher of his craft. And a great salesman for his goods, so to speak. And I am very happy that I had forced myself out of the house and into that other party that night, where all it took was a warm smile and a friendly, but very true comment to mend my badly damaged dance-esteem back together and return to me that hope that maybe one day I could actually learn to dance this thing properly… If I ever hear about him being back in town and teaching something – he has my money, mark my word.

Here is the tl;dr ‘moral’ of the two stories: don’t be an asshole. If you’re in the business of offering something to people for money and you’re interacting with someone who may be (however slight the chance) your potential customer – treat them nicely. You may gain a customer in their person, or through their reference. Word of mouth goes a very long way – don’t allow that huge potential for publicity go sour just because of one stupid, condescending comment. No matter how much you may wish to say something mean – think of whether it would end up bringing the money into your pocket if you did. It probably won’t. Don’t be the teacher #1 from my story – be teacher #2. You shall reap rewards for remembering that.

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About in shade

A cocktail of personality traits hard to digest for some but ultimately soothing for those who can. I observe, enjoy, travel, interact, photograph, dance, contemplate, write and love my way through this life's countless occurrences. This blog is a way to share with the world and its people some of the treasures they give me every day.
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