I Know You Love Me, So When Do I Get Paid? (Why reputation drives pricing)

Avatar Jim Macdonald
October 15, 2014
First a story…  I know a local business person who is arguably one of the best providers of their service in the region.  Awesome product, amazing presentation, very precise attention to detail.  The company has grown over the years and the quality has remained top-shelf.  But despite that, the prices have not increased substantially.  The reason… Fear.  It’s a scary thing to deal with pricing, but if you’re really good you have to charge for it. And people will pay!

I remember doing work for clients over the years, and it was truly painful.  Not only was the work unfulfilling, but getting paid was like pulling teeth. (Actually, seeing some of these clients experience the discomfort of having teeth pulled would have been pretty cool.)  You know the type.  You do great work for them, send them the bill, and they nit-pick and argue over every line item.  Do you know what the problem is?  It’s you, or in this case it was me.

You see, we get so upset that the client doesn’t just recognize and appreciate the great work and pay the bill, that we don’t step back and realize that we picked the wrong client.  That’s right.  It’s your fault for allowing a bad client to take you to this point.  You end up curled up in the fetal position and sobbing every time the client tries to ‘bully’ you into lowering their price.  Because ultimately, that’s what they want.  They will only be happy if you agree to delete a line item from their bill or lower a price because they don’t agree with it.

Now, don’t think for a moment that I don’t get it.  We can’t just go around refusing to take on work just because we think the client is probably an a$#^hole.  Sometimes you need the money, need the work, and are willing to take your lumps.  We’ve all been there.  You have to pay the bills.  So what can you do to avoid this?

First, realize that every client is not going to be ideal, especially in the beginning.  Next, work toward getting such an excellent reputation that you get the opportunity to take on some really great clients.  Finally, begin the process of removing the bad clients from your list as you find better replacements.  I know what you are thinking, and you’re right.  This could take years.

Eventually you will develop a "Spider Sense", something like a bad client radar that will stop you from taking on the bad ones.  You may even create an ‘onboarding’ process.  In our case, I have a few tell-tale signs that get my spider senses tingling when in the presence of a potentially bad client.  The most telling sign is if the first question your prospect asks is, “How much will it cost for X?”  Just run away, or better yet, explain to the client that you haven’t even talked about their needs, goals, hopes and dreams, so it wouldn’t be prudent to give them any pricing at this time.  If their next statement is, “Yeah, but how much does it typically cost for X?”  Then you can run away.  They obviously weren’t listening to you, and I can guarantee that your entire relationship will be based on them not listening to you.

When you run away, there are ways that you can do it tastefully.  Don’t go running through their office screaming, “That guy is such an a#$%hole!”  That probably won’t help your reputation.
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