You Cost Too Much. Really? Differentiate or Die.

When working with clients, depending on who you are talking to and at what level, you can see them turn pale when you tell them your rate.

The Org Chart - similar to the food chain -
but by no means inferring someone is a snake or rat! The point
is to know where you are in the decision-making food chain! 
The story will go like this:

Customer: "So, tell me your hourly rate."
You (consultant): "I don't have an hourly rate."

Customer: "Well, how do we know how much you cost?"
You: "It depends on the project."

Customer: "Well, it will be a short project."
You: "How short?"

Customer: "Real short."
You: "My price will be probably be real low."

Customer: "How low?"
You: "About as low as the project is short."

Sound familiar?  Sounds like a little bit of Dilbert here.  Clients at the lower levels of the organization want to know your hourly rate. They also want to know how you will do it. They will dig and dig to find out the hourly rate in an attempt to save money. 

However, clients who are at the upper deck of the food chain want to know that you can solve the problem and how soon. This is how that conversation goes:

Client: "Can you solve my problem?"
You: "Yes."

Client: "How long will it take to get done?"
You: "About six weeks.  However, there are some people from your staff that need to be available. If they aren't available for information, then it could take longer."

Client: "I'll make sure everyone is available."
You: "Great."

Client: "When can you start?"
You: "As soon as I wrap up this other project, I can probably start the preliminary work next week and be full time on this the following week.  Will that work for you?"

Client: "Yes."
You: "Let me get the paperwork in order and I will send it over to you by noon tomorrow."

Client: "Great"
You: "Okay, thanks for your time."

Client: "Oh yes before I forget. What are the costs for this project?"
You: "It's a flat fee of approximately $35,000.  I will run the final numbers tonight and have that to you as part of the paperwork."

Now, life doesn't always go according to plan. And these conversations don't always go like this. But the people in the upper decks of the client's organization are more concerned with a few things:
  1. Can you get the results?
  2. How soon?
  3. When can you start?
Often, in these cases price is hardly part of the decision equation. It's about the result: can you get it done and how soon.

In the lower decks of the organization the things that matter most are these concerns:
  1. What is your hourly rate?
  2. What if my colleagues think I should be able to do this and can't?
  3. Is there anyone else who is cheaper?
  4. Should I get two or three more companies in here for quotes just to be safe?
  5. Do you have references and can I talk to them?
  6. Have you worked in the same environment with the same technologies in the same vertical industry?
One group of people is concerned with results. The other group is concerned with lower level needs: security/self-esteem, failure, and looking bad.

It pays to deal with people higher up in the food chain.


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