marketing and sales executives from Silicon Valley

Friday, January 29, 2010

Don't Waste Your Time on "Users"

Everyone knows a user or two - someone you only know because of all the favors they've asked for. They're generally friendly enough, but their actions are just a little off. If you spent a few moments thinking about it, you wouldn't really call them friends, you might call them a 'user'.

A 'user' is someone who thinks you're important only when they need something. They often suffer from an overinflated sense of self-worth, even beyond the bounds of self-confidence. There are many 'users' out there for several reasons:
1. Enough people crave even the short attention a 'user' will give them
2. Some people are too afraid of conflict or too polite to point out the usery
3. Other can't tell or refuse to believe that a 'user' is using them

Why does it bother us?
Users differ from you and I since they often act as if the world revolves around them. They tend to be oblivious of the personal and professional difficulties that befall those around them, and they often assume that you have nothing better to do than to spend your time helping them out.

There's nothing wrong with asking people for help, and in fact, a good networker knows that relationships are built by accepting and willingly doing simple favors. Every relationship has some give and take, and that give and take is an unwritten social expectation. The reason we get upset when we encounter a user is that a user does not honor the two-way relationship. He/she simply takes. Some users will do 'thank you' favors after the fact or pre-favors to guilt you, but those favors only become a source of anger when the user disappears from the relationship until he/she needs something again.

In reality, the user's actions are more like those of a company with it's customers, where a company provides a service, and the customer pays. In the company-customer relationship, there is also trust that the company will be paid a fair sum or reasonable compensation. The user does not pay for the favors he/she extracts from you. He/she violates the personal relationship rules and even violates the company-customer rules. The net result is that people hold users in disdain, with many going out of their way to avoid them, and business professionals tend to distrust them.

How to deal with them
If you consider the user a friend, and there is more to your relationship than doing favors for him/her, you should discuss the problem. If you have no choice but to deal with them, consider it an opportunity to test and develop your assertiveness.

The best techniques I've seen are simply designed to put the request in perspective and offer a learning moment. Here's a few request and responses for you to consider:

1. Request: Can you help me with [some task]
Response: Is it a paying gig? I was thinking that I might starting doing [some task] and turn it into a side business with you as my first customer. What would it cost if you hired someone? I'll give you a discount.
2. Request: Can you introduce me to [some person]
Response: I know a consultant who you can pay for that introduction. [some person] is not the kind of person I make business introductions to.
3. Request: You're not busy, you can help me do [some task] right?
Response: I wish I wasn't busy, I need to do [other tasks] or hire someone to do them for me. I tell you what - if you cover the costs of doing [other tasks], I think I can help.

The goal isn't to get paid, but to assert that your time is worthwhlie without being confrontational. Respond as above enough times, and the user will 'use' you less and less.

No comments :

Post a Comment