Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Victim or Perpetrator?

If you're in professional services of any type, where you have to put a price tag on your time, this definitely happens to you. If you are not, it's likely you're doing this to people delivering professional services to you.

Let's look back, for a moment, to my post "Thank You For Your Time" -- are you expressing gratitude to people for their one finite commodity, their time?

Service professionals in all industries struggle with the question of pricing. The actual real value of the dollar fluctuates constantly, the purchase power of each greenback gets weaker by the moment, housing, stocks, retirement savings plans, investments, everything around us is bouncing around like a yo-yo on a daily basis, but we need to have a snapshot fixed hourly or service-based rate that we can quote to people. Or perhaps today we're sending out a 20-page proposal on a 6-month contract and trying to gaze deeply into our crystal ball and project our financial needs for 6-months + the period of time we'll be looking for the next contract + padding for inflation and emergencies over 6 months, and oh yeah a profit margin so maybe we can actually advertise.

But for some reason, people have little or no respect for time -- our one finite commodity. As they firmly grasp and push forward the hands of our lifetime clock, taking our time that we will never get back, the mechanisms screaming protest in clockwork agony, they hold onto their wallets for dear life. Money, however, is an asset that you can quite readily get. Ask any affiliate marketer, you can get a residual income for an up-front investment. That up-front investment, again, is time. But it will continually pay off, the check's in the mail from the company paying you a commission. If you ask law of attraction aficionados money is ready to come to you in great quantities once you free yourself from disbelief and actually act on your dreams, fulfill your mission in life and STOP WASTING TIME by getting in your own way.

Even as they lengthen our lives with medicines, cybernetic enhancements, nanoprobes, and everything that the creativity of science can leverage against the Reaper, lives will still run out. We can squeeze only so much out of life before it is gone. With the caveat of a few people on ice awaiting immortality.

So why do people "leak minutes" on the boob tube? (I don't) Why do we often commit sins of robbing others of their time and being stingy on the compensation? While we should come at this with an attitude of gracious thankfulness, instead we hang on to our wallet when someone is willing to leverage their expertise, blood, sweat, and most especially precious moments to further our cause. It's perhaps one of the leading causes of burnout amongst the experts, since we always have to fight for the right to feed our families, insure our business, plan our financial future. Hear the sound of clients crying in agony, clinging to their wallets like we were ripping out their heart, when what they're paying for is the ransom for saving them that one absolutely finite commodity -- time.

If you could do it yourself, in less time than it takes you to make that money, and with the same quality, then you should do it yourself. What you are hiring is higher quality than you can produce, with less of a <cough> commitment <cough> of your time (remember: the pig is committed*), far less stress, and the ability to "set it and forget it" with regard to achieving the results you need. You decide what price that's worth to you, and PLEASE save the expert a lot of time by telling us up-front if there's a hard price limit on what that's worth to you. We shouldn't spend 5 hours writing the 20 page proposal if we can tell we'll need over $15,000 to do the work, but your hard limit is $10,000.

Below is a video message that's absolutely brilliant. I think it was meant to be funny, but I didn't laugh. I thought I would share it to help you understand the patent ridiculousness of arguing with service professionals who have set their fees, or poured over your RFP to give you a quote.

Are you the victim or perpetrator? Enjoy:

Perhaps this can help change people's attitudes? Here's my wishful-thinking:

If you're in need of an expert's services...quit haggling. If you must, ask if the price is final, or if there's budge room, but don't whine if the quote is final. Perhaps removing a few unnecessary items from a quote will lower the price to an acceptable fee for excellent service. You can save precious minutes, or hours if you keep requesting revisions to a quote -- both yours and the professionals. And if you're more interested in price than the high quality of the professional who gave you the quote, ask: "Do you know someone who can provide a comparable service for $1000?" Cut to the chase. Everyone can save some grey hairs on the issue.

On the service person's end: if you've poured over pricing and you think it's fair -- It Is! Quit letting customers haggle. If you really feel that you want to work with them, level with them: "What exactly are you willing to pay?" Then decide whether you can remove some items from the list of deliverables to bring it down to their price, but don't compromise. If there's no equitable solution cut your losses, reclaim precious minutes and walk away. Someone so willing to haggle over everything is going to be a source of pain for every moment while you're on the job. If you lower your prices, you will resent doing the work. You shouldn't charge money if your very best will be tinged with resentment or regret. Don't low-ball yourself by jumping the gun and offering lower fees if the potential client hesitates. Just keep your trap shut and wait. Either they want you or they don't want you: they'll speak with their wallet.

*In the making of the average american breakfast, the chicken and cow are involved, the pig is committed.

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