When you’re inquiring about a professional service, let’s say taxes, computer help or marketing consulting, which is more attractive to you: a service provider who seems ultra-competent and gives the impression that the process will be easy for you, or a service provider who charges low rates and gives the impression that the process will be cheap? While few clients are completely price-insensitive, I think that it’s important to always be looking for ways to make your clients’ lives easier and avoid bogging them down in the complexity of what you do.
For example, let’s say that you need a really good small business accountant. You know that accountants charge fairly high rates; upwards of $100 an hour and maybe as much as $200 an hour, so you have a ballpark figure in mind. You call CPA #1 and explain your situation. His/her response: “Well, switching accountants at this time of year is complicated. If only you had called me in January. I need your personal and business returns for the past 3 years, don’t give me the originals, you’ll have to copy them and drop them off. I’m only here 10-4 outside of tax season so you have to come during those hours” and so on. At that point, do you even care how little this person charges? Even if this accountant’s rates were below what I expected to pay, I would be turned off. I hate accounting, I hire an accountant to make my life easier, and this person has already bogged me down with too many details and too many hoops through which I have to jump.
But how about this: you call CPA #2 and explain your situation. His/her response: “No problem at all, thanks for calling. If you’re interested in switching to us, you’ll just need to sign a release form and then I’ll call your current accountant and ask them to fax us your past returns. Our hours are shorter outside of tax season but we do everything electronically with password-protected files so you can scan and submit your documents whenever you want. Also if you’re interested we could review your previous returns for errors or missed deductions and there’s no cost to you unless we find something.” At that point, I would be willing to pay the high end of the rate range I was expecting, because this person conveys the impression that my life will be immeasurably easier and I will save time (and therefore be able to work more and earn more money) by using his/her services.
Think about applying these types of scenarios to your own business:
- When you receive an inquiry from a client, assume that the client wants you to solve their problem, not give them a deal.
- Don’t get pedantic. Think: do you really care about the minute details of your service providers’ jobs? Right. Stick to the information that your client really needs.
- Think of simple ways to streamline things for your clients. If you always translate their quarterly newsletter, can you contact them on a predetermined date to talk about the next issue? Can you set up a secure file transfer site so that your clients can access their translations whenever they want? Can you send them a short survey to ask how you can better meet their needs?
- Try to frame things positively. Not “I can’t finish it by Thursday morning unless you can get it to me by Wednesday noon,” but “If you can get that to me by Wednesday noon, I could definitely have it back to you by the time you get into the office on Thursday.”
- Don’t make translation sound easy (we know: it’s not!), make the client feel that you will make things easy for them.