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How to avoid giving away work that you should be billing for to prospective clients is a very delicate business. In the small business field, it is an aspect of the sales cycle that everyone must experience and learn from. As a business owner, you want to demonstrate thorough knowledge and expertise in your particular field; however, from time to time this can turn into giving away work.

Your consultation will always lead the client to critically analyze you in the first meeting, because they are trying to determine what kind and level of service you provide and as to what is the potential worth of hiring you. However, it sometimes just leads to clients wanting you give and spend a lot more time with them in consultation that they do not intend to pay for.

When meeting the client for the first time always follow the “keep it short and simple” policy, or “K.I.S.S.” The first meeting should never be more than an hour or so. Remember, it should be just an introductory meeting. There should be three goals of the first meeting. The first goal is both sides familiarizing themselves with the other person. The second goal is clarifying the problem the prospect has. The third goal is detailing the kind of solution which will solve the prospects’ need.

What often happens is, during the course of the meeting, you have unwittingly provided your prospect more than a page full of ideas which would have otherwise been provided after you are hired. This happens mainly because you are afraid of losing a prospective client, they know it, and that is why clients are sometimes successful in taking advantage of business owners.

It is necessary that you give them a couple of ideas for the issue that they have right now so they understand the general or broad scope of the service you plan to provide. It is very important that you do not just sit in the answering seat and that you ask as many question as you can, so as to know and solve the problem much faster, easier, and more efficient way.

The first meeting is generally more formal than the second one and thus the comfort rate regarding probing too much becomes a bit tacky. You need to be careful and handle it wisely while simultaneously asking many open ended questions to get to know the problem better.

Never be too friendly; let the other person know that you are a thorough professional and not into “monkey business”. Do not let them take undue advantage of you being the service provider. Offer them a general idea as to the way you work and the outline of the ideas, but make sure they understand that they get the whole cake only after they buy it.

I’ve been asked numerous times, how to handle requests from friends and family. My best advice is to have your own policy to follow if the service is asked for free or a deep discount. It should be seen that all situations are handled uniquely. A very clear scope of work should be developed. Don’t be afraid to decline a request for free or heavily discounted work either. Your friends and family can be great sources of new business when they see you as the thorough professional.

Do you have any suggestions to avoid giving away free work?

© Individual Advantages, LLC. 2015
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Mary Smith

Mary has been with IA Business Advisors for 6 years. She graduated with a bachelor's in English literature with a minor in psychology, and is currently working towards her master's in organizational leadership. She enjoys writing and produces blogs for IA and several of IA's clients. Her favorite aspect of writing is the research.

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