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Andy
Community Manager

Changing client perceptions.

Have you ever been pigeonholed by your customers?

 

Say they expect you to come in at a certain price point ("dirt cheap"), or way of doing things ("answering emails on weekends within ten minutes"). Maybe they think that all you do is WordPress websites, when you've actually capable of doing standalone design work as well. Maybe you've been niche'd into small business websites and want to take on larger clients.

 

How do you get around that?

 

How do you change those perceptions?

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10 REPLIES 10
justingodfrey
Rockstar II

Don't undervalue your worth. I own thousands of domains and also manage several thousand more domains for a few clients. A few of them have come across this way to me at times but I realized that my time is much more valuable to me and I charge them as such. If they don't like it, they can do it.

rd
Super User I Super User I
Super User I

I think that the general thought is "A client has come to me, let me see how I can help them." and I tend to take the "A client has come to me, let me see if I will help them."

I'm not the type of person that will attempt to change minds and adjust my work based on a client's whim. If a client comes to me saying "I saw that I can get a custom website for $9.95 per month." (or whatever they saw on television or the internet) I say "That sounds like a deal, if that is what you want then go for it." and know that is perhaps not a client for me. I think that every client should get what they want and in my mind the customer is ALWAYS right, although not always right for me.

Just like a client is interviewing you to see if you would be a good fit as a designer you should also be interviewing them to see if they would be a good fit as a client. If you don't have the ability to say "No." to a client then you're not running a business, you are working. Not that there is anything wrong with working but I left my corporate job and went out of my own so that I could have the freedom that my own business affords. I also understand that turning down clients is a luxury and rejecting clients is not always feasible.

I have often been pigeonholed by clients and I overcome it by being keeping true to who I am, what my company is and letting it be known what is possible. Setting up and managing expectations is key. We keep to what we do and how we do it. We are the experts we don't let clients dictate what we do, timing, price or how we do it.

Our goal is not to change perceptions or even to challenge them. We are perfectly satisfied leaving a client with the same thoughts as when they came to us. If they come in thinking they can get a complete web design dirt cheap then they can leave with that same perception. The best thing that I ask (usually the first thing) when interviewing a client is "Do you have an idea of what your budget will be?" and that typically drives the rest of the interview and also can end it. I don't typically say anything more than "We don't have the resources to allocate to a project of that size." and thank them for considering us.

...turns out that my two cents is worth less or more depending on the current exchange rate.

roy darling *my posts seem a lot shorter in my head

D3
Advocate V Advocate V
Advocate V

I find much to agree with in @rd's excellent post.  I would add that the best tool for changing perceptions is dialog and involves a lot of questions to see where their head is at and what their ultimate goal is.  Then, a frank discussion of the upside and the downside to what they want to do and finally some options and the benefits of doing it another way.  It doesn't really matter if they take your suggestions or you change their mind.  The fact that you can speak intelligently, on point and in an informed way for 15 minutes will change your status in their mind from hired gun to gunslinger.

Never be afraid to disagree but not in a belligerent or arrogant way.  Use phrases like "It has been my experience" (translated: This ain't my first rodeo) or "The last time I tried this" (translated: I've been down this road) or "contemporary thought is" (translated: this solution is old school and I've kept up with the changes).

One of my favorites that I've used successfully when a customer is resistant to reason is "I'm happy to do it this way but I'm going to tell you in advance part of the reason is because I suspect in a month you'll ask me to redo it this other way".

Development is fun and I wish it was all there was to making a career out of what we do but among the many books I've studied related to this field, I've had to include "How to win friends and influence people".  Not to mention the collected works of Lee Milteer, Kenneth Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale.

Keep on Coding!
Mark Cicchetti - There are 10 kinds of people... those who understand binary and those who don't.
TheJason
Helper I

This happens by accident and by the business owner not realizing or fully taking on the idea that they, too, are a salesperson. Therefore they believe the customer can walk all over them and that they themselves have no rights.

 

It is not your job to impress the prospect.

 

It is not your job to please the prospect.


It is your job as the salesperson to negotiate terms, protect yourself, and offer a solution to the prospect's problem.

 

 

Here's a question to think about: "If you don't tell someone they can't do something, can you get mad at them for doing it?"

 

It is completely your right to lay out terms under which you operate. Example: "I check my emails twice a day, at 10AM and 4PM. Do not expect an instant reply from me. I need to concentrate to do my best work, and I will get back to you as soon as I can--within 24 hours."

 

Price point is a qualification step.

 

You need to know what you will accept and what you won't. Where's the line? An easy way to figure this out is this: take your total of the money you need to operate for the month--including bills, an amount for unexpected expenses, taxes, and profit (yes, profit: build it in! don't wait for it to appear). Now divide it by the number of projects you can realistically take on...and don't over-estimate your capacity. Realize it's going to take time to make these sales, so if you figure you need 20 sales that means you have to make one every single working day of the month...and that's very difficult as far as I'm concerned. Maybe 1 to 4.

 

Now you know what each project needs to be priced at, minimum, to make it worth your while. Otherwise, you'll take on projects at too-low budgets, and you will automatically fail to meet your money target. You'll be beaten before you begin.

 

Once this perception is set in, it's not impossible to change, but you must reposition. There has to be a reason for this change. But the key is to stop talking to your old target market, and exclusively speak with your new target market going forward. Regardless of the fear. Regardless of how long it takes to get an order from that new segment--typically 2 to 4 weeks. Commitment. If you freak out and jump back to the old comfort zone, you'll never make the shift.

I liked the points that were used for your post, but I can say it with a few less words. Perception is always going to be our reality. Reality becomes monthly expenses and method is genious, plus likely to cross into various business industries. I must give a #ShoutOutWithLove for originality. #SOWL 💚
Andy
Community Manager


@1cryingeye wrote:
I liked the points that were used for your post, but I can say it with a few less words. Perception is always going to be our reality. Reality becomes monthly expenses and method is genious, plus likely to cross into various business industries. I must give a #ShoutOutWithLove for originality. #SOWL 💚

I hear you on the "perception is our reality" bit. We don't get to choose how we're identified; we can just put effort into doing things that, we hope, will get others to perceive us a certain way.

 

@TheJason: Digging your method of breaking down your requirements to define a project minimum. I have some friends here in Toronto that started doing that with their quotes. It was nerve-wracking at first, but they saw the project quality go up, revenue go up, and profit go up. They've nearly tripled in size since then.

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@Andy

Thanks for the mention & the feedback.

"If we're going to fight, let's fight up front" ... before any money has changed hands.

The #1 issue I see in sales is people being afraid to "lose the order." You never had it in the first place! And a terrible client is much worse than no client at all! They can wreck your business very quickly.

Yes, if you qualify up front you are going to turn a lot of business away. And that's fine. What you do let in will be a great fit for what you offer, and you will be giving the client amazing value. For that, you can charge more.

 

Every business needs a minimum price that they won't bring the tanks out of the barn until that figure is reached. And it's simple to calculate: Total revenue per month / average # of billable clients per month. $10K / 4 clients = $2500 per client. Project isn't worth that? Keep looking. Because, otherwise, you'll be tying up your resources on a project that doesn't get you to your money target. You'll probably even be losing money, even though you think you're making some because revenue came in. But it's not enough and there's a huge opportunity cost (imagine a $500 project in this situation. If you can't finish that project within a few days, it's killing you.)

 

People forget, especially small business owners who must Do as well as Sell, that it takes time to find, qualify, and sell. And when you're selling you can't be implementing. So all that time marketing & selling is time you cannot use to Do the client work.

 

Uh oh, right?

 

This is how solopreneurs and small business owners screw themselves up. Happens all the time. They spend 3 weeks just getting the work, and then they can't Do the work within the final week remaining in the month...so now it leaks over into the following month, screwing their timetable up even more. They simply can never catch up with the variables stuck as they are. (The solution: raise prices/lower implementation times/hire a salesperson/hire a tech/increase passive and paid marketing efforts, and so on).

Make sure the sales time plus the implementation time totaled together fits within your timeframe. If you don't, you'll always be losing money and be behind, and not understand why.

Andy
Community Manager

@TheJason

 

"This is how solopreneurs and small business owners screw themselves up."

 

Yup! Been there, done that. We get so obsessed with chasing the deal that we wind up wearing blinders about whether the deal is good for us.

 

There's a book I read a while back -- E-Myth Revisited, if anyone's curious -- that put it succinctly. Work on your business, not for your business. If you work on your business you'll have greater clarity about what needs to be done, and why. If you're working for your business you'll lose sight of the big picture.

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The E-Myth is very interesting. I've only been following Gerber for a year or so, and have been doing a lot of thinking and trying things out concerning systemizing a service business.

 

That's the big issue with E-Myth. It's easier to systemize flower shops and restaurants and so on. When you're doing operations improvement, or branding consulting, it's a bit tougher. What's the "special sauce" that you bring to your clients, what they hire you for? How do you package that? How do you get it so that employees can bring that to their solutions as well, so that you are not always needed for every project?


His approach is definitely a valuable one.

Andy
Community Manager


@TheJason wrote:

That's the big issue with E-Myth. It's easier to systemize flower shops and restaurants and so on. When you're doing operations improvement, or branding consulting, it's a bit tougher. What's the "special sauce" that you bring to your clients, what they hire you for? How do you package that? How do you get it so that employees can bring that to their solutions as well, so that you are not always needed for every project?


@TheJason: Agree 100%. Much of what he describes is focused on process, but there are some processes -- like brand consulting, as you mentioned -- that can't be systemized like that. They way I interpret it: streamline all the processes that take your time away from doing the "special sauce" work. Offload the administrative duties, and anything else that keeps you from your craft.

Senior Community Manager, GoDaddy
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