Have you ever asked a cop, some version of “at what speed will you really write me a ticket?”
You know when talking to a cop about this, we paint our police officer type friends into an uncomfortable corner.
For each cop knows that if the speed limit is say 45, they do not mean that if you are unlawfully driving at 46 that they will cite you for your egregious criminality. Dave Barry, the syndicated humor columnist once famously stated that the United States is the only country in the civilized world that the real speed limit …. is a secret.
They don’t want to go there. Committing to any answer places them in uncomfortable territory, for they know that the enforcement will be inconsistent, and has all kinds of variables that affects their onsite decisions, and that one blanket answer can not possibly cover. Stuff like weather, traffic and pedestrian load, road conditions, your irrational behavior and belligerence.
Consider then how does a technology integration firm establishes a general budget conversation with first time clients?
We dance between not wanting to leave much on the table, getting fair compensation, and not scare the shit out of the prospect with numbers so large that they make the aggregate NASA, DARPA, and US Military budget seem reasonable.
At the same time not giving things away and defiantly don’t want to begin the gig feeling like you are already under-water.
How could one do this and not let things get weird?
When you just ask for the client budget, without some reference or perspective, for the most part the buyer has no idea what this stuff costs much less the real cost and talent to integrate even the most modest of modern systems.
So, when asked for a budget, buyers will take one of two paths 1) They will feign or plead ignorance, like “I have no idea, that is why we are talking with you” or 2) In their ignorance they will low-ball you, to see what they can get away with. Neither are in your nor your buyers best interest.
Many will meet with the client for coffee, take a set or prints, or do a site survey, sometimes taking the lowest path possible just saying something along the lines of “I’ll work this out, draft up a proposal and email it to you”.
The reality and scary news: this tactic has been working for decades. When we, here at Weld, look at industry data over time, the facts show that dealers score about 85%+ of the proposals generated.
There is always “that moment”. You know the one, where we have to broach the dark subject of pricing. At times, this seems like some National Security secret, on a need to know basis, if I tell you - I have to kill you, kind of arena.
Why? Well, when talking price with a potential client, one can feel we’re like of out on a ledge of a cliff, quote too little, and we lose our shirt, or at a minimum leave some on the table. On the other hand, quote to high and all the work to score a referral, the advertising budget, social media, van wrapping, and newsletter stuff, could start dissolving like the vapor coming off that triple shot Americano. Just simply Gone.
Are these feelings valid? “OF COURSE THEY ARE!” One could scream.
Case Study: Hiring Practices From Recruiters on LinkedIn:
For those that hang out for just a few moments on the LinkedIn site, often read lamentations from perspective employee’s - messaging their frustrations when recruiters require earning histories and salary expectations. All before the ass-wad recruiter discloses the actual pay range for the position the applicant is shooting for.
On a side note, from your Weld/NAPCO team, we also agree that it is a deplorable ploy: just to game potential employees.
We can’t EVER imagine that the possible employer would want the prospect to act in that same manner once hired – toward upper management, to clients, other staff, to suppliers, to any of those that report to the new hire…DEPLORABLE.
Many states are now passing laws against this practice.
They could just disclose what the job is worth to them … but no; instead they transmit strongly “We’re gunna work you, grind you, and game you, all to score you at the lowest possible cost.”
We really do have a point here, honest. When proposing to a client, what we are really doing is applying for a job. Often times, our clients are taking multiple bids, even some of your best referrals. One can really feel like they need to be talked off the ledge.
Let’s take a bit of the drama off the table.
You most likely have a general idea about how much the system that the client has inquired about will cost. You know the basic gear and interconnect topography, a rough idea of the engineering, programming, labor, and logistical management requirements. And you know the client time expectations, and how that could fit into the other commitments on your schedule.
So be transparent with the client and ask that they be open with you.
We have looked at this conversation from every angle for over two decades, and feel that you will do better overall and shorten your business acquisition cycle substantially if you have some trial close statement.
We have preached for a years about using some version of:
“ Well Ms./Mr./Dr. my quick estimate for a system like this, using the brands we discussed, in this kind of construction and having the system in by the Super Bowl could run in the $38 thousand range, is that what you were expecting?”
From the 2017 CEDIA Lifetime Achievement awardt recipient, Eric Bodley who has about 35 years of custom experience, his version of this goes a bit deeper.
First use some kind of interview worksheet, this way the target client will have confidence that you are accurately capturing their system. After the project discussion and quoting the $38 GRAND FIGURE then ask them:
“Are you comfortable with this?” now shut up and the client will ask questions or make statements in the above manner.
There only 6 ways the buyer can respond to either of these after their questions are answered:
- “When can you start” (I know, I know, we never get this one)
- “Holy Crap” this is the sticker shocked client…. when getting this you respond with some variation of: “We know that this project might not have that kind of priority to you, about how much were you thinking?” And then work out which subsystems can be postponed
- No, we’re going to buy a boat instead (sorry, you are not going to fix this one).
- Oh, wow, we’ll think about it.
- You are the first one we’ve talked with
Both 4 & 5 are the toughest ones to deal with and are basically the response we get when the client does not fully trust us, and have not really defined how deep their commitment is to having the systems in their home or facility.
Once you score agreement then follow up with your usual paperwork and agreement, but start the page with a statement like, “This proposal and agreement is based upon our mutual understanding and agreement of the following….”
At the end of all of this, if you become effective with the trial close, you will gain the gig quicker and at lower overall cost and emotion.
Now, at what speed did you get written up for the last time you got ticketed.