Last week, a wonderfully-skilled electrician installed a new light fixture for us. He was competent, courteous and efficient. He answered all our questions simply, with skill and eloquence. I was amazed, as you might imagine, when I asked him how much we owed him, his embarrassed reply was, “Gee, is $50 okay?”
With the quality of work he’d done and the amount of time he put into it, I would have expected to pay double that amount. His resistance to naming his price reminded me of my small business clients who have the same problem.
All entrepreneurs feel fear at some point, including attorneys, consultants, coaches, and writers. It’s a natural part of starting or growing your business. It can be uncomfortable to take risks, to name your price and tell a prospective customer that you want to work with them.
Roberto Goizueta, the late chairman of Coca-Cola, said, “If you take risks, you may still fail; but if you do not take risks, you will surely fail. The greatest risk of all is to do nothing.” Put this mantra into your head: Risk equals reward.
So, what’s the problem?
I’ve discovered seven common reasons why we’re afraid to discuss our fees:
- Do you feel your fees are too high?
- Do you think you are not qualified or experienced enough to charge that rate?
- Are you afraid of rejection? (Or, possibly, afraid of acceptance, which will mean you will have to perform?)
- Are you afraid the prospect will raise an objection to the fee, and you won’t know how to reply?
- Are you shy and uncomfortable talking with strangers?
- Are you afraid to take risks?
- Are you generally uncomfortable talking about money?
Where do these thoughts and beliefs come from? Is it part of your personality or is this a behavior you learned from your past experience or culture?
In many families and cultures, it’s taboo to talk about money or to ask to be paid. While it might be personally beneficial to look inside yourself for the reasons why you act this way, it’s also important to get unstuck by using techniques which help you move forward, such as:
Have a good pricing strategy. Research the average fees for your type of business so that you know your prices are in line with expectation. If you can’t get competitor pricing information, try Brenner Books. If your experience warrants it, increase your pricing to reflect your higher skills, knowledge and experience. If you’re not sure how to create a pricing strategy, research it online or talk with a small business consultant or mentor.
Before discussing prices with a prospective customer, establish that the prospective customer needs your services or products. You’ll feel more comfortable discussing your fees if you know the prospective customer really wants what you offer. Ask a lot of questions to see if their problem and your solution are a good match.
Here are some more tips:
Put your fees on your website and brochure. In this way, prospects will know your fees before the sales conversation begins.
Be honest. Tell the prospect what the options are for your services or products, any quantity discounts you offer, and how payment is delivered. Practice saying this over and over again until the words and phrases slip comfortably from your mouth.
Act confidently when delivering your fees. Don’t downplay your fees. State your fees, then shut up. Don’t make excuses for your fees, or ramble on about them. Look directly at the prospect while delivering your fees.
Don’t automatically offer discounts. This tells the prospect that your fees are soft and that they’re negotiable. Instead, state your fees and options, then ask them which package is right for them.
Act “as if.” How would an experienced person in your industry act, when discussing her fees? Act as if you are that person and you’ll find your confidence increasing with each conversation. Practice, practice, practice.
Get training. If you’re uncomfortable with the whole sales process, get sales training. By attending a class, you’ll learn different ways of saying the same thing, and you’re bound to find a way that’s right for you.
Refer out. If the prospect really can’t afford your fees and you can’t afford to offer a discount, refer that prospect to someplace where they can find an alternative. Say, “If you can’t afford my fees, you can try these online referral services where you might find someone in your price range.”
Talking about your prices can be uncomfortable. But with practice and persistence, and a willingness to overcome your fears, you can begin to have comfortable conversations with your prospective customers.© Copyright 2008 Karyn Greenstreet