The right (and very wrong) way to ask for opinions

It’s an epidemic.

I see it every single day among even the savviest of business owners.

I’ve even been guilty of it myself (gulp.)

What the heck am I talking about?

Asking for opinions about your business. From the wrong people. Or, in the wrong way.

Take a gander at the following scenarios and see if one (or more) resonate with you:

:: You think of a brand spankin’ new name for your business, program, product, or service and then run it by everyone to get their opinion…family, friends, posting random polls on Facebook that not only reach your current posse but also reach your old high school boyfriend, your grandma’s neighbor, and a slew of people you just accepted as friends but have no clue who the heck they are. Then you end up with a trillion different opinions and are left more confused than when you started.

:: You love your business, but every time you share how it’s going with family and friends they start to prod. Is this really the right decision? Do you really think you can make money doing this? Now you’re left in a sea of doubt and second guessing the reason you even started this biz in the first place.

:: You have an idea that gets you so pumped and you start sharing it with your mom, dad, partner, grandma, best friend, tarot card reader, favorite client, and dog walker – only to get 47 different opinions ranging from “awesome idea” to “that idea is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

So, what’s the deal here?

Gathering information and reactions is important…even crucial…in business.

The problem? If you fit any of the scenarios above, you’re gathering opinions from a lot of the wrong people. And when it comes time to do something with the information you gather, you start doubting your instincts. Heck, you may even begin doubting your entire business.

This is a vicious cycle I like to call over-polling. It’s something we do when our confidence begins to dip. We immediately start to poll for opinions and seek validation, which is really just a sign of insecurity. Then we’re left with a million hands in the cookie jar and feeling stressed and depressed that nothing is moving forward.

But, not all polling is bad. Here’s how you can “poll” for success:

// Poll the Right People

When it comes to business, you should only poll people that are your ideal customers. (hint: not just the people that will give you money, but the people that you live + breathe + feel inspired by.) If you’ve been in business for awhile, you’ll know who these people are. If you’re just starting out, daydream a bit about what your ideal customer is like and create a little character sketch (think of it like writing a character for a novel or screenplay.) Then, work to find a real-life match to this character and ask them your question(s).

While it can be fun to let family and friends know what you’re up to, don’t let their opinions trump your ideal customer’s answers and your own instincts.

// Ask the Right Questions

Keep your poll short, simple and easy to answer and avoid strange questions like “how much money would you give me for ______.” Instead, ask your ideal customers what their biggest struggle is and work to help them solve that struggle.

// Trust your Gut

Bottom line? You’ve got to have the confidence to own your instincts. And insecurity leads to muddled, weak-sauce offerings and a repellant business. Trust your gut…it’s a powerful business tool.