Clients & Business Relationships

Ralph And Carol Lynn Riff On Good Business Deals And Bad Ones

By May 22, 2017 No Comments
Ralph And Carol Lynn Riff On Good Business Deals And Bad Ones

Podcasting From The Car

We just got out of a business meeting where we closed a new client and decided that we’d podcast our way home. So we hit record and, in spite of having a script, ended up doing what we do, which is talk. A lot. About stuff that isn’t on the script. So next time we tell you what we’re going to talk about on the next episode, don’t listen to us.

Closing The Deal With Confidence

In a prior episode we talked about a new electric toothbrush that we got and how it’s made a tremendous difference in how white our teeth are. During the business meeting, as I was talking with our prospect, Ralph noticed my shining white smile. He also noticed how awesomely I closed the deal, but apparently my teeth were the highlight.

And in a way, the teeth mattered! A few years ago I did Invisalign because my teeth started to migrate to their post-teenager-with-braces place. Before doing that, I wasn’t happy about my smile, so I tried not to use it. Then afterwards and with a bit of whitening, I felt a lot more confident.

Since we’re both pretty avid tea and coffee drinkers, we end up with stained teeth easily. But the new electric toothbrush has made such a difference that it really does affect my confidence.

Speaking of tea, our friend, Superfred and listener Cyndi Harron, one of the owners of our favorite tea company, Simpson & Vail, wrote to us after the toothbrush episode to say that her teeth had been stained from medication she took as a child.

She’d always been self-conscious about it until getting veneers, and even had one customer admonish her for her hygiene! Unfortunately, people do judge us based on our appearances, even though sometimes things are out of our control. So we just have to do the best we can with what we have, and assert our confidence in other ways.

Are You Confident In Your Own Value?

Many of us underestimate our value. We compare ourselves to other people and wonder how we stack up. We wonder if we’re charging too much, or if we don’t know enough.

But if you want to do well in business and sell your services to clients, then you need to know and express the value that you bring.

That means understanding what you do well. And what you don’t do well. It means saying “no” when someone asks if you can do it cheaper. No, you can’t, because you know what you do and you know what it’s worth. And if you simply start cutting out services to make it cheaper, then you’re not really bringing your true value anymore, are you?

Once you open the door to lowering prices for someone, it’s pretty hard, maybe even impossible, to close it.

It’s taken us a long time to get to a point where we know what we want to sell and are confidently able to tell someone what it’s worth. It takes practice. And it helps to think about it ahead of time. Set your price and then don’t negotiate it with yourself. Don’t wonder if it’s too high. Understand that what you do is worth what you’re charging. Of course, that means you have to think long and hard about what you’re worth!

Again, practice. Do some research. Know yourself. Track your time. See how what you do is benefiting those you’re doing it for. Measure and quantify that. Then stick to it.

Pricing Is Not Arbitrary

We didn’t wake up one day and decide how much money we want to make. We base it on our time, experience, effort, and what we know we can and will deliver.

That’s why we don’t negotiate. Yes, you can negotiate under certain conditions if you choose to.

But if you’re pitching someone and you give them a price, and they ask you to do it for less, and you agree … then what was your service really worth? That only gives the impression that your pricing was, in fact, arbitrary. You made something up then changed it. Because.

Your position should be, “No, I can’t change it. Because…”

And have a reason for that.

Everybody wants a deal. It’s almost guaranteed that everyone is going to try to negotiate your price. Your job is to say no.

Don’t Focus On Your Pitch

When we pitch clients, we don’t tell them what we do. We don’t talk about ourselves. We talk about how we’re going to solve their problems and make their lives better.

You don’t need to talk about yourself to express your value.

Listen to what someone needs and then tell them how they’re going to get it. Listen to what someone is concerned about and then tell them why they don’t have to worry.

One of the sentences that our clients most love to hear from us is, “Don’t worry about it, we’ll take care of it.”

We make their lives easy. We manage what needs to be managed. We’ll educate them if they want or need to be, but when it comes to websites, or domains, or social media, or Google… don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of it.

Find out what your prospects or clients want. Give it to them.

On Patience

We’ve been working on closing this deal for about two years. It’s not like we sat down, shook hands and made a boatload of money.

So what did we do for two years? We listened. We helped. We said “no.”

Our prospect asked several times if we would change our pricing, or our services, at one point even offered us a commission on sales.

We said no.

We said no for two years until he realized that he needed to say yes.

Before that, he even decided to work with someone else. It was a deal he set up in trade, a service for a service. I offered to review the proposal. I gave him advice and told him where it was strong and where he might want to ask a few more questions.

All along, we never had to tell him that we were awesome. We never had to explain our value. He figured that out all on his own because we spoke to him in a way that demonstrated it.

We don’t pitch. We don’t “sell.” We tell people how to solve their problems and make ourselves available if they want to hire us.

On Being A Doormat

That story had a happy ending. But our second story didn’t. In this story, we started building a website three years ago for a price so low that it was almost not even worth charging anything.

We did it because the client was a colleague, bordering on friend, and he had hired someone else, paid a deposit and gotten a whole lot of not-much in return. So we stepped in and offered to help.

In the end, we did a whole lot more work than we initially agreed to do, because in spite of the money we wanted the site to be great. On top of it we spent three years chasing the client down for photos or content or other materials we needed.

A few weeks ago I started applying pressure to get the site done because this is the only project that doesn’t fit with our core service offerings and we want it off our plates.

But we couldn’t launch the site because he wasn’t happy with his logo, which we didn’t design. In the interest of speeding the project, I called the designer and got him to revise the logo.

Our client was happy. Everyone was happy. The site was ready to launch. Yay!

This is the part where we’re supposed to get paid the balance of the project and go home.

Except not.

Because our client has his email and hosting at Yahoo’s web division, which is now owned by Abaco. And Abaco only supports technology that has been extinct since 2009. There was literally no way for us to install a 2017 site on 2009 software.

So we introduced our client to an IT company to help move his services to another provider. The IT company told our client that email, domain and other services would be $67 a month, and that was a catastrophic deal breaker.

For perspective, Ralph and I pay more than that for services just the two of us. Because we want to be current and secure. Because stuff costs money.

But our client, used to absurdly cheap pricing on an outdated service, was outraged.

So what does that mean to us? It means we couldn’t launch the site. The site that’s done. The site that we spent three years working on for $500.

Then because we didn’t want to spend one more second answering one more question, waiting for him to decide what he wanted to do, or chasing him down to pay us, we decided to waive his $500 balance and sever ties.

We exported the WordPress site that we developed to flat HTML, which stripped out all the functionality but allowed us to install the site at Abaco, said “it’s done” and called it a day.

And whose fault is all this?

Mad At Myself

The only reason that web project turned out as it did is because I let it. The client has every right to demand whatever he wants. I have every right to say no. I could have told him that certain items were out of scope. I could have told him there were extra fees for certain things.

Maybe I couldn’t have sped up the process but I certainly didn’t have to spend three years exerting energy on this project.

It’s something worth coming to terms with. Are you doing something because you choose to do it, or because you tell yourself you have to do it?

If your client called you up and asked you to bring him an ice cream Sundae, you could do it. You’d be nuts, but you could. And if you did do that, you have no right to complain about the client. Either choose to do it, or don’t do it.

Every bit of extra effort that I put into that project that I didn’t have to, was my fault. Every extra demand I met, was my fault. I do that a lot. But if I put it into perspective, not by complaining about a client but by reflecting on the demands I put on myself, it becomes a lot easier to manage those relationships.

Apparently, this business stuff is hard work.