Forgiving the tyre-kickers

 

Ford Model T

Ford Model T (Photo credit: Jon Stow) – Don’t kick these tyres

Most of those who inquire after my services know what they want. They know that what I do will give them value. If they do not understand that, I hope I am able to persuade them of the value they will get.

Just now and again I hear from people who do not know what they want. They may think they might. It is a bit like wanting a car and thinking “luxury” in their mind’s eye. After going to the showroom they realise they only want to be able to get from A to B, and perhaps choose a cheaper option in an older basic model used car. That is fine and it will probably work, but they will not get the care and attention and after-sales service that a dealer in new cars will give as part of their three or five year guarantee.

I get prospects like that. My firm offers a great all-round service (I would say that, but we do our best to make it true), but if someone wants the basics and is scouting around for the best deal based on price, all they want is their papers filed and no after-care. So I forgive, refer them to a provider of basic services, and warn them against going with the cowboys.

Some people do just want the basics. Maybe that is not what they need and they could do better, but persuading them against their mindset will not result in retaining them as clients for very long.

I forgive the tyre-kickers and send them on their way. What about you?

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More time-sheet follies

We are not all the same

Hammering home my point about time sheets, remember how much we are selling in terms of our know-how. For those hung up on charging for time spent on each job, if you must think about time, remember how much of that you spent learning to do what you do.

What counts is always what value both in comfort and in money we give to our clients. I remember once upon a time when I was with a large firm we sold a product which saved a particular client £500,000 every year, for which we charged £50,000 just once. The staff time doing it in terms of salary and overheads cost no more than £15,000. The client was happy to pay, still being ahead £450,000 in the first year, and the whole £500,000 per annum for several years afterwards.

Not long before I “left” my last job I was beaten over the head along with the team for having hardly any time down to clients on my time sheet. Those who were upset were stuck in the Dark Ages. Most of my time was spent on research with a little marketing and selling. As I said , selling was not my best attribute, but of the one-in-four (let’s be conservative) products I sold, the price was £6,000 to £10,000, and I had just done one for £30K for a couple of weeks work, because that was what it was worth to the client.

You have worked hard. Your knowledge has cost a great deal of money and a lot of your time. Always remember what you are worth and don’t sell yourself short. You will, won’t you?

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Selling our knowledge as a small business service provider

 

So what’s it worth?

They can’t do what we can

Having knowledge, an expertise, is to have a highly valued asset. It is up to us to exploit it as well as we can. If we are service providers there are two ways of doing it. Either might be the right way for us, but it is up to us as to how we use our special knowledge.

Processes

The first way to profit from our knowledge is to sell a process. In one of my businesses the equivalent would be completing tax returns with basic accounts as necessary. This satisfies a need. A client would find the process too much or too incomprehensible to do, or at least to meet the deadline.

No one wants to worry about a fine, and at the same time they want their tax return to be correct. If they don’t have that confidence they pay someone else not only to take on the task, but to take away the worry of having a ghastly chore (as they see it) hanging over them. What they are really paying for is relief from stress.

Valuing the product

From the provider’s point of view, it is mainly a process. Hardly any Tax Returns are exactly the same of course, but the process is something the service provider is very used to doing. However, the sale price (our fee) is based on the length and complexity of the process. It is theoretically a process the client can shop around for, so while there has to be a degree of trust, there tends to be a perceived limit to the value. That is a psychological barrier which is hard to overcome for the provider, no matter how many bells and whistles we attach to make the client feel as happy and comfortable as we can. However, there is a value which we can sell in terms of giving the customers the feel-good factor.

Made to measure

Our second method of selling our knowledge is by providing bespoke consultancy. Accountants, solicitors, architects and all sorts of engineers might do this. People have a specific problem, unique to them, and they need a solution. The solution might be worth a great deal to them, whether (depending on the profession) it is the best way to buy another business, the most tax-efficient way to sell their rental properties, the design of the client’s perfect house or how to build a new bridge across the local river.

There is a significant value in any of these which might involve cost-saving or fulfilling dreams, or simply as a practical solution to a difficult problem. Clients will also pay not just for peace of mind, but to save time, and simply to make their lives easier. When we sell on value here, we should pitch the price as to what it is worth to the client; not what it costs us to do at the time, because that is a totally false basis.

Value yourself

Like all providers, I know what my office costs are, but we who have the knowledge did not gain it overnight. We have been on so many courses, we once burned the midnight oil passing our exams, and we pay a lot to keep ourselves up-to-date with all the latest developments. We have worked hard to have that something others do not have, which is our knowledge; not only that actually in our heads, but the knowledge as to how to find out what we don’t know if you ask us right now.

Never under-value your knowledge. Ask yourself what the imparting of knowledge is worth to your client. Remind yourself how hard you have worked to know what you know. Convince your client of the value. They won’t buy what they don’t value and you don’t want to allow them to buy at a price that doesn’t value you enough.

Reward yourself and give your clients real value for money at a price they and you can afford.