Giving the bad news


Image by Jon Stow via Flickr

In my business one issue that crops up quite often is telling clients things they don’t want to hear. Not every business has that problem, but quite often I am called in to clear up other people’s mess. They have got themselves into the proverbial yukky stuff and I have to get them out and clean up.

Now cleaning up is what gives a great deal of value to my services, and of course I can charge accordingly. Often by doing this I am actually saving my clients a lot of money and like any cleaner or garbage collector I am doing work that others do not enjoy, even if it only involves metaphorical muck and not the real thing. Selling on value is not a problem.

The harder area of this issue is when clients come to me who do not realise quite what deep doo-doo they are in. I have to tell them what a mess they are in and get them into a mindset where they can understand it, or if you like, “smell” it. People don’t like being told they are in trouble because they can take it personally; even take it as an insult. That is a more difficult place from which to persuade them that they need to pay a fair fee to get out of it.

A fair fee is not just one which reflects the work involved, but also one which reflects the value in getting them out of it, which would be related firstly to the money I am saving them (which in my case is generally tax and penalties, or at the very least negotiation and a probable reduction in the penalties) and secondly the peace of mind  I am bringing them in removing the burden. They don’t know where to turn and I deal with the problem so that they don’t have to.

Whereas normal good selling reflects the satisfaction of a desire a customer has, often my clients really do need relief from the pain that many old-fashioned hard-sellers were out to persuade prospects they had. Unfortunately I often have to convince my prospects they have the symptoms before they will buy, and tell them the consequences if they don’t. I am quite good at that. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.

Does your business have to deal with pain or are you a “blue sky” seller?

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