When It’s (Mostly) About The Money

How often have you lost a client—or a prospective one—because they considered you too expensive?

And when they started that discussion, was your instinct to hurriedly re-price to save the sale? Or did it transmit that the client might not be the best fit for you?

How much do you believe in your own worth?

I was put to the test last week.

He was a referral from one of my best clients and it was right in my sweet-spot. He was likeable and had a gravitas that he wore graciously.

He also had an unusually challenging issue that would take great finesse to work with—and a corresponding amount of time. My proposal and fees were to dramatically re-launch his brand and his business over several months. To dig him out of the deep hole he’d found himself in.

I knew proposing this way was a gamble, because he clearly agonized over every dime. He seemed in shock from a recent one-time hit to his bottom line (although he still enjoyed an exceedingly healthy cash flow).

What do you do in this scenario? Do you bid low to get the work since he’s right in your sweet-spot? Or do you shoot straight and let the chips fall?

I chose the latter.

I could have re-scoped the work to match the other proposal. But I believe he needed stronger action and I’d rather lose the work than throw his money (and our good name) down the drain.

In the end, his wallet won out. He graciously called me (he could have easily emailed) to say no—and actually lingered on the call. He was clearly worried about his choice. And I felt for him—and hope that the path he took works out. He’s a good guy.

So in the end, the decision was (mostly) about the money. To him it was his wallet. To me it was my worth.

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  • Man sits down on a plane beside a woman. He blurts out…
    MAN: Will you have sex with me for $100.
    WOMAN: No!
    MAN: How about $500?
    WOMAN. No!!! What do you think I am?!
    MAN: I know what you are, I am just trying to establish your price.

    Know what you offer. Know what it’s worth. Believe in it’s worth.

  • You deserve credit for standing for your worth. KUDOS! All the time people look for “freebees” and deals. I eschew them. When folks want to chat about a legal matter because they know me as an attorney, I always stop them in their tracks; I ask if they have an attorney, or may be looking to change their current one. I’ve not encountered that to date. I hold firm to my worth. Your post makes me recall your Halloween post on the vampires and werewolves — even though the fact pattern you offered made the non-client sympathetic. If you had reduced your fee, you would be allowing a smiling vampire to suck your time from you.

  • Great stuff, Rochelle. A topic that hits home for a lot of us. Thanks for taking the high road, and for sharing your experience.

  • Rochelle

    Thanks guys! Corey, I did want him to sound sympathetic–he’s a good guy trying to make sense of a bewildering situation he has had thrust upon him. But, as you point out–all the more reason he needed not to make it about the fees!

  • Good post, Rochelle.

    In my hard won experience…
    “The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

    However, when I have prospective clients that want, but can’t afford, what I do, I try to be creative in working out times and methods of payment, sometimes keyed to achieving key cash flow milestones or business objectives, rather than lower my price or alter my services.
    Dan 🙂

  • Rochelle

    Great add Dan–it can pay to be creative when the client is right!

  • Dan makes a lot of sense. But sometimes cost prevails over value, especially perceived value. I went the other route with a perspective client last year. I offered them the lower price. They accepted. But they wanted the time involved at the higher rate even though they understood when we made the agreement they were getting “Plan B”. The “agreement” never made it to those we worked with on a daily basis. The “arrangement” lasted five months at the cost of wearing down my staff and resources. As Edgar Allen Poe said “quote the Raven, nevermore”.

  • Thanks for your story Ed. It just proves the point that fee negotiating is an art form that also has to deal with human nature and the desire for a deal…

  • Absolutely Rochelle. And sometimes the dollars are not worth the deal.

  • This is a complete breath of fresh air. Hooray for not being commoditized!

  • Such a powerful & timely reminder! There is a need for equal exchange, and if that is altered it compromises both sides of the equation, no matter how much we may like the potential client and want to work with them.

  • Rochelle

    Hi Shana–you are preaching to the choir!

  • Mark G

    I needed to read this today. There is a certain level of professionalism in your mind and in the minds of potential clients when you stick to your guns on this. And you are spot on: what’s lost when you don’t is the value of your product/service in EVERYONE’s eyes!

    Thanks for the reminder.


  • Rochelle

    Welcome Mark–so glad it hit at the right time. I sometimes re-read this post if I feel myself wavering…

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