From a coaching client whom I’ve been helping with her business:
A few days ago I got a call from a potential client. They were referred by someone whose name I did not recognize. That person must have known of me thanks to my blog.
After a conversation with the potential client, I sent a proposal.
The potential client called back this morning with (as he put it) ‘just a few quick questions.’ He said that he had worked on Wall Street and was trained to never take the first number offered. He asked if my fee was a typo. He told me that my price was 40% higher than other consultants’ prices. He asked how much of a discount I was willing to give him. He told me what a great source of referrals he would be. Then he started asking me for solutions to problems he clearly wasn’t willing to pay me for.
By applying the good lessons you have taught me over time, I saved myself needless suffering. Not only wasn’t this guy going to ever pay my fee, but he wanted me to give him free solutions over the phone.
I puffed up and got ready to lay out all the reasons why I charge what I do and why I was worth every penny I charge. When all of a sudden, I heard you telling me that ‘When you’re explaining, you’re losing.’
So instead of giving him all the ways he could deal with his problem, I confirmed my price for the project, told him I had a client meeting to prepare for, politely excused myself, and ended the conversation.
I doubt he’ll call back, but that’s not the point. All I invested was one proposal and one short follow-up conversation. That’s the end of it. I didn’t give anything away, I didn’t waste my time, I didn’t hang up the phone and beat myself up. I simply went on with my life and went on to use my time productively.
Now you might think this is just a very nice thank you note (and it is). But you don’t know the backstory.
Before our work together, my client felt obligated to answer every question she was asked and to provide documentable evidence for her fee. She reasoned that if she explained where she went to school, how many degrees she had, how many certificates she had earned, how many impressive clients she had worked with, and she described it all in meticulous detail, people would line up to hire her.
Of course that wasn’t correct. Because contrary to popular belief, if you build a better mousetrap, the world WILL NOT beat a path to your door. You’ll just wind up with a whole lot of dead mice.
Ironically, it’s not the better mousetrap that attracts the buyers. Why? Because the function of catching mice is what the trap is supposed to do. Customer acquisition depends on the sales program, the marketing, the branding, the outreach and all the other things it takes to effectively sell a product.
The bottom line is that my client does not need to get better at explaining what she does to her potential clients. Her assignment is to get better at picking better potential clients for whom she can do her good work and let them spread the word about how wonderful she is.
That way she’ll be able to spend her time doing more good work instead of explaining why she’s the right person to do the work in the first place.