Not the small biz experts you're looking forNot all bad clients are as obvious as Stormtroopers at a landspeeder check-point. In fact they may not be bad at all – just like we discovered Darth Vader really did have good left in him.

You’ve probably been approached at some point by a person who you’d love to work with. They’re fun, smart, and realize you are worth the fees you charge. There’s just one problem.

What they really need doesn’t fall into your expertise.

Yes you could do it. You probably could do it halfway decently. And because you’d give them a great rate and be able to build a relationship that makes it all ok… right?

Nope. Following that slippery slope of justification is exactly how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. He didn’t start out with evil intentions, or plans to be the ultimate bad guy. He wanted to make things better. To save the Republic and his secret wife Padme.

Good clients can be bad for you and your bottom line.

This post is part of the fun, insightful and slightly crazy small biz world carnival. Read all the posts by this month’s experts on Just Because You’re An Expert Doesn’t Mean You Know Everything.

I can hear you thinking, “Is she crazy? Did she really just tell me that good clients can be bad for me? That’s like saying water is bad for me!”

You’re right (except for the crazy part). I am saying there are times water can hurt you, and there are times good clients can hurt you.

Expertise Just Outside Their Needs May Be Worse Than Halfway Across the Galaxy

Alternate Title: Drinking salt water won’t fix thirsty

Imagine you’re extremely thirsty. Someone plops a bottle of bleach down next to you. Are you even slightly tempted to take a sip? No! You know the effects of drinking bleach will be far worse than feeling thirsty.

Now imagine someone sets down a glass of water, and tells you it’s from the ocean. It looks crystal clear, its cool, and you are parched. A sip would take the edge off wouldn’t it? It’s water after all, not poison.

You take a small drink, and for a moment you feel better. Then your thirst returns, stronger than ever. Desperate for relief you gulp down about half the glass. Uh-oh.

Not only does your mouth feel desert dry, the saltwater you’ve ingested is now sucking water from your cells!

Telling someone you can help them when you’re almost-an-expert is like offering a thirsty person saltwater to drink. It’s close, it’s available, it looks good, so yeah they’ll buy it to try and silence that need. Unfortunately that momentary relief you’re offering will result in a loss for their business, because you aren’t the real thing.

When Your Expertise Shortcomings are Discovered You Can’t Disband the Senate

Alternate Title: Of course I’ll tell everyone there’s salt in your water!

Disband the senate not an expert

In Star Wars when the Emperor didn’t like the feedback he received from the Senate he simply disbanded it. That is not an option for your business.

While the effect won’t be as immediate or dramatic as drinking saltwater instead of freshwater, your client’s business will feel the effects. At some point this dream client is going to realize your services really aren’t all they could be. They realize your not-quite-an-expert efforts are actually costing them money. You’ll find yourself wishing this was a movie, one that was going to end soon.

Of course your target customer is going to know or interact with others who would be prospective clients. Guess what? Those prospects are going to get an earful about your salty water.

Jedis Don’t Spend Time Daydreaming About the Future

Alternate Title: Be a hero by finding a bottled water vendor
When Luke first went to Dagobah for training Yoda almost wouldn’t train him. Yoda was worried Luke focused too much on the future rather than the present. You may also lose out by by focusing on possible future business from a current role that isn’t your strength.

Consider you’ll spend a great deal of time and energy trying to fulfill a service that doesn’t match your skills. More time than it would take for a similar project that did fall within your expertise. Add in the risk of completely alienating the client and you’re out a lot of money.

What if you invested a bit of time upfront to find and connect your prospect with a highly qualified expert that did meet their needs? Rather than just grab what’s at hand (saltwater), why not walk a few hundred feet, flag down a bottled water vendor, and bring them back to the prospect?

“But then they’ll think I’m not an expert at anything. They’ll never hire me.” Whispers that sneaky voice of insecurity (Emperor Palpatine). Not true! In fact both the prospect and the really-an-expert will remember and appreciate the connection. Plus you’ll have instant credibility in the future with both of them when you do claim to be a top expert.

The Force is with The Numbers Whisperer® when…

Alternate Title: I help people grow their profit and have fun doing it
I experience the not-quite-an-expert situation quite often in my business. As The Numbers Whisperer® I often get asked if I’m a bookkeeper (no), a CPA (no), or a Quickbooks Consultant (absolutely not). Now I understand and can apply accounting principles, I keep my own books, and I do have a working knowledge of Quickbooks.

At first this galled me, all these people looking to hire someone, why don’t I just do it and get the business? But I could almost feel Emperor Palpatine whispering in my ear, “Good… good. Use your fear and anger.”

I realized questions about services I didn’t offer were an opportunity.

First they give me the chance to establish credibility. I let the person know that isn’t my core skill set and suggest alternatives. Over time I’ve collected names of reputable people who can provide these services, and I offer guidance on what to look for when hiring someone.

These questions also give me chance to highlight what I do and how I can help them. Accounting is a critical task that needs to be done to understand what has already happened. I use the information generated (aka the books) to look forward, to plan for my client’s future.

I help people like you tackle their fear of numbers, understand how to achieve their profit goals, create an easy to implement plan, and have fun doing it. Learn more now about about how I can help you grow your bottom line.

Final Thoughts

Have you ever offered a current client or prospect some saltwater to drink? Do you have a redemption story to share like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker? Have you found a way to successfully drink water from the ocean and not suffer the osmotic power of salinity?