“Actually, I get paid to do that.” I hear that every day in a client’s story. I say that every day in my own head. I’m betting you mutter it under your breath as well.
And still, most people struggle with finding the words to tell yet another “prospect” that what they’re asking for isn’t free. It’s actually the rarest of fruit that only comes from years of experience, study, real-life trials, and walking through the fire with a lot of clients.
You wouldn’t call a plumber and expect him to come to your house, diagnose, and fix your problem for free. However, every day, professionals, especially professionals of the creative class (doctors, lawyers, business coaches, marketing professionals, accountants, and other knowledge-based workers) are being asked to do that very thing.
If you’re a professional who draws on complex bodies of knowledge and experience to solve specific problems, you’ve probably faced this issue. So, how do you keep from having this recurring problem impact your business?
Here are some ways to communicate away the situation.
Stop giving it away. This first suggestion is certainly the simplest in theory and the hardest in practice. If you keep rewarding the bad behavior, you will just get more of it. When someone asks you to share your expertise for free, you need to have a practiced and comfortable answer.
That answer should be based on your organization, your brand, and your comfort level. It should respectfully and clearly explain that your advice is not free. In fact, that’s how you make your living.
Set the expectation early on. Long before someone ever gets you into a meeting, you need to establish the rules. On your website, in your brochure, as a part of your “get to know us” slide show, spell out the rules. Be very clear that your thinking time and expertise is delivered for a fee.
You don’t have to list prices if you don’t want to get that specific. Avoid being Midwest nice, and push yourself to be blatant that there will be a cost.
Don’t run after them. If they balk at being charged or try to get you to reduce your fee, be polite but stand firm. (This requires being fair when you set your pricing to begin with). If they walk away, let them.
I know this is tough when you really want the project—but they have just told you what value they’re going to assign to your years of experience. Is that really a client you want?
Give it away but with intent and purpose. One way to demonstrate the value of what you sell is to give it away. (I’m not contradicting myself, I promise!) So, go ahead and give it away to a non-profit or a start up you’re sponsoring.
Use that generosity to set the contrast for prospects. “Now as you may know, we did this same sort of XYZ plan for charity 123, but naturally, in that case, we actually donated our expertise.”
Next time you find yourself grumbling about this problem, remember—you are the one giving it away. And only you can keep it from happening down the road.
(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Fly Away)