What is your knowledge worth?
Many contractors offer free initial consultations. How much information does a contractor need to share in a consultation to inspire you to use their services?
Do you charge for all subsequent conversations?
Recently I’ve heard of too many cases where potential clients have picked the brains of a contractor and then decided that they have enough information to then go away and do the job themselves – or worse, to direct a cheaper counterpart to do that job. All without paying a cent for the time and knowledge of the contractor that had information valuable enough to utilise.
While in some cases I would see that as a case of ‘that wouldn’t be the right client for me anyway’, if I was faced with this situation, I’d still be pretty frustrated.
So what information can you share with potential clients before they become paying clients?
Imagine your business is a cafe – you’d be happy to tell a new customer that you offer coffee. And you’d be happy to let them know what sorts of coffee you offer, and even brands if asked.
But the second you start talking brands, you know you are starting to provide information which can allow that client to go and make their own coffee – just like yours. So do you feel nervous?
Imagine that you don’t feel nervous. You are happy for them to make their own coffee at home if they want to. What you know is that the environment of the cafe, the way you make the coffee, the machines you use and the skills you’ve acquired all equip you to make a fantastic coffee. One that is difficult to replicate at home. One that makes the customer feel good, get some energy, have time out – whatever it is they really need by purchasing a coffee in the first place.
At no point do you bring them into the kitchen and teach them how to make the coffee and tell them where to purchase the supplies needed. Because that would be crazy woudn’t it?
And you don’t chat with them about coffee over a free coffee each day in the hopes that one day they’ll actually buy one – do you?
At the end of the day, any customer can go home and make their own coffee. And if they are anything like me, they’ll make it pretty badly! But what you know is that the service you offer is special because it responds to a customer need. It might be the timeout your coffee or cafe provides. It might be a decadent weekly treat for someone. Or it might be the only part of the day that a busy Mum feels is her own.
How the customer feels because of your service is more potent than knowing how the coffee is made.
If you are happy to teach people how to make coffee like you, then that’s great. But you would charge for that service. Wouldn’t you?
Now imagine you run an administrative support business. You know all about great software solutions, you know formatting tricks and you have an eye for design.
You meet a potential client and you are so keen to have them as a client that you show them how clever you are by sharing those tricks, explaining all the software programs and sharing design ideas. Surely the client would want you on their team!
But if you’ve given them everything you would normally charge for – why would they stay and pay? Especially if what they haven’t seen yet is why getting you to do the job would save them money, time and pain. How it will address their need. How it will make them feel.
We all have ‘pain’ – how can you, the contractor, take that pain away? What really is the clients’ need?
In the initial consultation find out exactly what the need is.
If you enter a cafe, they ask you what you need – it’s the first question! Do the same when you meet a potential client.
Determine whether it’s something you can do (do you have the skills and ingredients), and want to do (is it on the menu?).
If so, offer to put together a proposal which would outline what you plan to do to accommodate the clients’ need, and what the cost would be. The proposal doesn’t outline how. It outlines what and why.
If you have faith in your services and are skilled and equipped to support the client, you shouldn’t need to explain in detail how a job is going to be done. You need to give them confidence that you can do it and that you understand their need. Don’t worry about telling them how great you are – focus on communicating how your client will feel when they use your services – how they will feel when their needs are met.
Now how about that coffee?
I’d love to hear your views on this. Please share them.