Management Lessons from Queen Elsa

If you’ve got little kids, or maybe grandchildren, you see a lot of Disney movies. In 2013, it was Frozen, an animated retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, “The Snow Queen.” One of that film’s highlights was Queen Elsa, voiced by pop star Idina Menzel, singing “Let it Go.”

“Let it Go” is good advice in a lot of situations. Yet we see so many cases where TaxCoach™ members have a hard time with it, especially when it comes to clients.

We work hard to attract clients to our firm. We hate to see that effort go to waste. But not all the leads we work to cultivate will become clients, or even should become clients. Sometimes we discover, at the last minute, that they just won’t be a good fit. Maybe they balk at fees. Maybe they stall when they should act. Maybe they just rub you the wrong way. It’s really hard to get those prospects so close to closing, and give up.

It’s even harder with actual clients. We look at a failing relationship and blame ourselves, even when the fault isn’t ours – or there’s no fault at all. We see clients with unreasonable expectations or demands, and try to satisfy them rather than confronting them with their unreasonableness.

That’s all understandable. But is it right? Is it fair, to us and our prospects and clients? Of course not. So, what do we do about it?

If you’ve got just one prospect – and you need to close that prospect to pay your rent – you’re going to do whatever it takes to close that prospect, including swallowing a lot of pride. If you’ve got just one client – and you need to keep that client to feed your kids – you’re probably going to let that client walk all over you, if they choose.

The solution here, as it is with so many business problems, is marketing, which I define as “creating demand for your service.” The solution, in two words, is deal flow. If you have a steady stream of interested prospects who see value in your service, you can afford to let those difficult prospects and difficult clients go.

How much time and effort do you spend trying to close difficult prospects? How much time and effort do you spend satisfying difficult customers? How much revenue do you give up meeting their unreasonable expectations, simply because you’re already “invested” in them?

Do you think you could take that time, effort, and revenue, and re-invest them in finding more appropriate clients?

(Note that I said “more appropriate” clients, not “better” clients. Often, the problem isn’t that clients aren’t “bad,’ in any quantifiable way – they just aren’t as good a fit as you’d like or deserve at this point in your career.)

None of us likes to realize that we’ve wasted time and effort in cultivating a prospect or client who just won’t work out. But sometimes we let those sunk costs cloud our judgment and refuse to move on, even when continuing the pursuit or relationship is no longer in our best interest. Behavioral economists call that the “sunk cost fallacy,” and it’s easy to fall prey to.

So next time you’re faced with that situation, ask yourself if it’s really in your best interest to pursue the relationship . . . or if you’re better off taking Queen Elsa’s advice to just “let it go”!