Well, if you haven’t had the chance to sign yourself up for “The Exceptional Experience” yet but have been planning on doing so, today is the last day to do so if you want to get the Early Bird pricing!
So go ahead and check that box off your to do list by joining us here, and I’ll see you bright eyed and bushy tailed when we start on November 4th!
Get Comfortable Talking About Money & Its Role
Now onto this week’s post – answering the question, “Can you do this for less?” In all of my conversations and work with designers, not surprisingly one of the topics that they say causes them the most discomfort is the topic of money. That’s in fact probably the number one thing that’s mentioned as causing stress and discomfort. And that’s understandable. Talking about money is something that very, very few people are actually entirely comfortable with. But unfortunately as a designer, you have to do it a lot.
In your time with a client you’re talking about money in probably around 50% or more of your interactions with a client in one form or another. Now if that number seems particularly high to you, let’s break it down into some pretty likely times that you’re discussing it. That way we can bring some awareness to just how often the topic of money is going to come up – and help you realize just how crucial it is to get comfortable talking about money and its role in a project.
- You’re talking about it on the screening call when asking for their budget.
- You’re mentioning it again on the call when talking about charging for the initial consultation.
- At the consultation you’ll be talking about it again as you discuss design fees, the retainer, etc.
- Then you’re talking about it again at the proposal and LOA signing
- Then you’re talking about it majorly at the design presentation.
- During the ordering phase you’re talking about it when discussing a discontinued item or an unforeseen challenge that will take up more of the budget.
- You’re talking about it as you mention a bill coming in the mail or that a bill needs to be paid.
- Then you’re talking about it when sharing that the rest of the deposit needs to be paid before the furniture is delivered.
- Then you’re talking about it when discussing installation day and the extra fees that come with that.
- And finally you’re talking about it when reminding a client that there’s still one more invoice to be paid, even though the project is installed and over.
Wow, 10 times. There’s at least 10 major times that you’re going to need to discuss money with your client throughout the project. That’s a lot – especially if it’s something that you hate doing. Because that also means there’s 10 possible times that you’re likely to start giving away your services away, undercutting your profits, not charging for a lot of time and work you do because you’re worried about the backlash, and ultimately threatening the long-term viability of your firm, because you’re uncomfortable talking about money.
Can You Do This for Less? – Absolutely I Can
Now most likely you’re not giving away your services for free or for less than what’s profitable by your own suggestion (if you are, then you REALLY need to stop that terrible habit – never just out of the blue suggest that you can work for less because you notice a client’s hesitation). No, what’s most likely happening is, you start giving your services away for less because your client is asking you some form of the question, “Can you do this for less?”
Now if you’re already uncomfortable talking about money, getting this question is like a punch to the gut. It’s something that you hope and pray doesn’t happen to you, and when it does, you quickly move into panic mode. You stutter, your palms sweat, you lose your train of thought, and all semblance of coordination flies out the window faster than they can say “Boo!” And frankly, if they did follow that question up with a “Boo!” you may actually scream because your fear of that question is really just that great.
So, how do you deal with that kind of question? How do you not have it throw you so off your game that it takes you ten to twenty minutes to rally again and once again find your footing? Two answers.
They’re Not Negotiating to Offend or Disrespect You
First, you don’t want to take it personally. And I don’t mean, don’t take it “too” personally. I mean don’t take it personally at all. People are asking you this question for a variety of possible reasons, and most of them have nothing to do with thinking you’re undeserving of the fees that you’re asking for. Instead they’re asking because
- Someone else told them they needed to.
- They negotiate everything.
- Negotiating is part of their culture.
- They think they “should” so they’re not overpaying like when you buy other big ticket items- paying for a car, house, etc. and they don’t realize asking for a lesser price is offensive.
- They want to see if things are negotiable or not.
- They like saving money and just want to get the lowest possible, allowable price (emphasis on the world “allowable” – meaning you’re the one allowing it).
So there are at least six other possible reasons, and I’m sure there are even more, that a client might be asking you if you can do your work for less – that have nothing to do with well, you. The conclusion of that? Don’t take the question personally, or as a shot to your professionalism, experience, etc. Just take it as what it is – a question. Just take it as people honestly trying to see if there’s a way they can pay less or not. That’s it. It’s nothing more, nothing less. It’s just a simple question – is there a way I can still have this but pay less money? Pretty good and understandable question really.
Get Comfortable through Preparation
Second, be prepared with an answer. The more prepared you are with an answer, the more capable and comfortable you’re going to be, giving an answer. Now what should your answer be to, “Can you do this for less?” You want to tell them some variation of this – “Absolutely. So, we can move to a different service option where we’re a bit more hands off and you take on the role of project manager, or we can choose items that while still wonderful don’t have the same level of customization that these current items have.”
Now if you notice, you’re saying yes, you absolutely can in fact do this for less, but that with the lower cost, comes lower services or different items. And you’re not saying it in a sarcastic way at all of course. Sarcasm has no place here. You’re just letting them know that if they need to do this for less, that’s totally fine, and here’s the way to accomplish that.
By answering in this way, you’re letting clients know that your fees aren’t negotiable, but the amount of services provided or types of items chosen are. You’re also focusing on what you CAN do, rather than what you can’t. That’s what people want to hear. They don’t want to hear, no, they want to hear yes. And this is the way for you to still be able to tell people yes, without having to put your firm’s profitability at risk. You’re just focusing on how you can work with your client and their request for paying less, rather than how you can’t or won’t.
Get Comfortable Through Practice
At first answering in this way may make you feel too bold, or awkward, or uncomfortable, which is entirely understandable. So how do you get comfortable saying it so people (including yourself) actually believe it? Practice saying it.
Practice with your spouse, or your best friend, or another person on your team. Heck, practice it first in front of the mirror or while driving in your car alone. Then move up to a neutral third party, or rather a party that loves and supports you. Then, eventually, you’ll be ready when it’s happening to you in real time, with a prospect, whose project you really want. But this time instead of giving up your profitability, and your monthly income, one more time, you know how to answer, and do it comfortably.
And the great news? Well, there’s really two pieces of great news here. First, the client is likely to just realize that your fees aren’t negotiable and say something like, “hmm, ok, no we want the full service design and the higher level pieces you chose for us.” and then move on with the conversation.
And second, the more comfortable you become answering this question of money, the more comfortable you’ll become talking about money in general. You’ll become more comfortable talking about money in those 10 or more times throughout a typical project where money is likely a subject. Now you may never LOVE talking about money. But you may become at least fine with talking about it, or at least capable of talking about it without becoming so squeamish that you just start giving in to whatever the client asks of you.
Everything is Going to Be Easier When You Get Comfortable Talking About Money
Because once you take the personal side out of the money conversation, and you start to come prepared with an answer, everything is going to become a lot easier. You’ll become much more self-assured about your ability to handle the project, the client, and the conversations that are likely to come your way. And that, I’m guessing, is probably one of the top New Year’s resolutions you’ll make for yourself in 2020. “Become more comfortable talking about money with clients?” Check √!
And if you want to become even more comfortable discussing money and fees, join“The Exceptional Experience,” for the last session of 2019!
During our time together you’ll get conversation scripts to handle discussions about fees, project issues, and so much more, helping you to provide the kind of client experience that gets you greater profits, efficiency, and loyalty, register here now!