While we were on vacation in New Orleans, we did one of those obligatory swamp tours. I say “obligatory,” but you know that as an #animalnerd and life-long nature freak, I had been totally looking forward to it. It wasn’t my favorite experience of the trip, I will say that, but still, we were in the swamp, which was glorious, and there were alligators and wild pigs and then the engine totally died on our way back, leaving us adrift and quiet (bliss!) in a tributary of the mighty Mississippi.
Once we finally docked, I decided to slip into the gift shop for drinks and snacks before the 40-minute ride back into the city. At the coffee set-up near the entrance, the boat-driver who’d towed us back was just filling his cup. Another guest asked him, “Is the coffee complimentary?” to which he responded, “No, ma’am.” She puffed loudly and said, “I know you just work here, but seriously, can’t you do something? $2.73 for this cup of coffee? That’s outrageous.” I couldn’t help myself. I had to cut in, as I was leaning in to fill my own cup, “Lady, it’s like this everywhere. You don’t have to buy it.”
She thought the coffee should be included in the price of admission.
She wanted the coffee to be free.
I am reminded of this story this morning since I just had a tssssk experience of my own, someone reacting to my pricing with outrage. With outrage expressed in a volley of 3 rapid-fire emails. It’s been such a great learning experience, so much food for thought (and blog posts).
Before I say anything else, a word about my process. I’d had a thirty-minute call with this prospect in which I listened to her description of the issue and her desired quick turn-around time, and in which I asked questions about what she hoped to gain from working together. And in which I shared the value that I bring to the work.
Her initial reaction to my proposal?
“I think we may have had a disconnect. My previous accountants were both $60 an hour. If I apply that to your proposal you've got 50 hours of time allocated. I would expect what I need done to be more in the ballpark of 10 hours. Let me know if we should jump on another call to discuss.”
She wanted the work to be free.
Or close to it. She wanted to pay the rate she had been paying someone else. She had already decided what my expertise was worth by the hour, and damn it, she was gonna do the math!
My response, “Oh dear, no: I wasn't planning on spending 50 hours on your project -- there isn't even that much time available to me between now and 3/30. ;> I think the disconnect is in the expectation that my rate would be similar to that of your prior accountants,” given that my rate is 2x-4x what you’ve been paying, depending on the work. Of course, “it could be that what I'm proposing and the price don't fit your budget and needs at the moment. If that's the case, totally fine! Just let me know.”
What she wrote me next? The thing most of us are MOST afraid of. Not just that someone will say No to our offer to assist them. But that they’ll challenge us.
And challenge me, she did. “Can you explain what's driving the cost? At this point we're two weeks in so I'd like to be able to work together to wrap up the year.”
Because she had it in her head that my cost would be $60/hour, she totally missed the rest of what I’d said to her earlier: the 20+ years experience, the rave reviews, the transformation in her relationship to her numbers. And that thing about “two weeks in”? Because it was two weeks between her initial email to me and our scheduled call. Bottom line: Because she skipped the part where I get to choose who I work with based on our conversation and the proposal and what happens next.
She wanted the work to be free.
AND she acted like she already owned me.
So many reminders in here. But mostly this: I am not for everyone. Some clients are just not my clients. They let me know it in so many little ways if I’m listening. And boy, was this one ever telling me.
Her three emails let me know, loud and clear, oh dear, No.
And I’m good with that. I know I’m not for everyone. I don’t want to be. I want to work with the right people, who understand the value I bring and will most benefit from it. That challenge? Good for me. Such an excellent set of lessons, so I can remind myself:
You are not for everyone.
Bumping into the clients you are not for is such a great way to get clear about the clients you ARE for, those clients who understand and value what you’re offering. Say No to the rest.
Even if you have to say it three times.