Could you serve your clients better?

by Michele on October 6, 2011

Solopreneurs can sometimes give too much information for it to be useful

Solopreneurs can serve best by editing what they know

I just got back a few days ago from a live workshop given by one of my favorite teachers Alicia Forest.  As promised, I’ll be sharing some insights I gained there over the next few weeks.

One of the outstanding things about this event was the perfect pace.  There were ample breaks and the days were not excessively long, and this made for great learning.  Contrary to what it may seem, I’m sure I learned more because of the “white space” the schedule provided.  I don’t think I would have been able to learn as much if we had long days, night sessions and short breaks.  Even though more information could theoretically be conveyed with a more intense schedule, the retention and the big shifts I got would not have happened.

Aside from being beneficial to me in this setting, it made me think about how often we as solopreneurs tend to “firehose” our clients in our fervor to serve.  We have so much to give and so much passion for helping that we tend to give too much information.  This might seem like you are being generous and selfless with your knowledge, and perhaps you are, but maybe you could serve your clients better by pulling back and filtering what you deliver to better suit their needs.  No client needs to know everything you know about a subject the first time they ask about it.

Why do we do this?  I think it’s a mix of a few things.  We are so on fire with what we want to share with clients and customers that we want to give it all.  Maybe they don’t have another session booked and we want to make sure we give so much that they can’t help but see the value.  Maybe it’s a desire to be recognized for how much we know.   Maybe we don’t remember that we gained our knowledge over a period of time and it’s best for our clients to gain it the same way.  Maybe we use our knowledge so much that we forget what it’s like to be a beginner.  Maybe it feels like cheating to hold back.

For whatever reason you might be overdoing it on the information delivery, try to recognize it and stop.  Take a few seconds and listen to what is being asked and then consider the range of answers you can give.  Instead of trying to give all you can every time, make your highest goal that which would best serve your client.  Even if you know much more than you say right now, that which serves your client best is the best answer to give.  You may know 10 ways to do something, but don’t give all 10 if they only need one.  They could Google and get the 10 ways to do the task, but only you could help them pick the one that is best based on your experience.  That’s what makes you valuable to your customers.

Have you ever stopped to ask for directions and the kind person helping you gives you 3 different ways to go, leaving you confused and in search of someone else to ask?  The best, most helpful answer is to give just one choice.  As a stranger in town, you have no way of evaluating the 3 choices, so that wanna-be-helpful person could be much more helpful using his knowledge to winnow your choices.

You might even want to frame an answer by saying that there is tons of information on this topic but what you need to know right now is the first few pieces.  Once they have the first few pieces down, you can give them the next few pieces in the right order for them.  That’s where you can add value.

Giving more information than requested or than a client can use is not being of service.  The best answer is just the right amount of information tailored to exactly where the client is right now.  Oh yeah, and for the record, I’ve been guilty of this but now that I’ve been taught both ways I’m resolved to do better.

What is your experience of getting too much information?  Is it a service or something you wish people wouldn’t do?  Have you been guilty of underserving by giving too much?


  1. I, too, have had to learn to put a nozzle on my firehose! There are 2 specific ways I do this. Both involve asking the person who is asking the question to guide me in selecting the information to share:
    1- Before I start answering, I ask a narrowing or focusing question. In the example of being asked for directions, I might ask, Do you prefer freeways or surface streets? If they prefer freeways, I might ask, Do you know how to get onto the 10 from here?
    2- After I start answering, occasionally I will pause and make sure my answer is helpful. This is especially relevant if the question was an “essay” question. I will give an opening sentence or two, and then ask, Is this what you have in mind? This has saved me so much embarrassment, as it protects me from launching into a lecture that is completely irrelevant!
    As much fun as it is to share our knowledge and enthusiasm about a favorite subject, fortunately for our audience, it is even more satisfying for us to share just enough to allow them to have the aha! moments you appreciated so much in Alicia’s workshop.

    1. Michele says:

      HarSimran, no way is this TMI! Your points are great and I will be using the two techniques you describe. I think they are great ways to serve others in the best way possible.

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