Re: BIZ: Dealing with price resistance?
Ashley York <a -dot- york -at- manitou-group -dot- com>
"techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Thu, 12 Oct 2017 17:16:00 -0500
I know Chris has already responded to Jeannie, but I'd like to throw an
alternative viewpoint into the mix in case it helps inform anyone's opinion
or future actions.
We can fall into a trap if we view an uninformed prospect as inherently
negative/risky/problematic. Speaking from experience with startups and
other focused companies, an uninformed prospect could actually be a
Prior to April, I spent 2 years in the private equity industry. In an
office of 6 people running 7 different companies, I was the only guy who
didn't have a finance/accounting/sales background. I was responsible for
almost all of our IT, process development, continuous improvement, software
development, marketing/branding, troubleshooting, technical sales, project
management, proposal writing, and any other technical competencies. I
enjoyed wearing many hats, and I got a unique view into companies and
organizations of all sizes and types.
You can probably guess that the executives within my company were fairly
naive when it came to matters like documentation. We worked with a number
of small companies and startups, many with leaders who had a similar lack
of understanding of technical topics. Like me, they were forced to wear
many hats, but they were rarely properly equipped for most of said headwear.
I imagine these people would respond much like Jeannie if put in her shoes,
but it's not for a lack of intelligence or understanding. They have no
frame of reference whatsoever, and they're doing their best to get by in
whatever role has been foisted upon them. With a little bit of education,
they can quickly become knowledgeable consumers and strong advocates for
That doesn't mean you waste time where it won't pay off, commit to a
project you simply don't have time for, or lower your rates and take a
loss. It means you may have a unique opportunity. Here are some
suggestions I would make:
- Be clear about what you are proposing. Make it clear that you can't
go lower because you need time for specific phases of work. Identify risks
that could arise. In short, give her the details behind the bottom line.
People in a role like this typically understand that you get what you pay
for, so tell her what she's paying for.
- Identify the benefits you can provide beyond the bottom line. Often,
people in this situation are looking for long-term partnerships, unique
billing arrangements, or other special considerations. There may be
factors that will sway her to pay you more because you fit with their
- Propose alternative solutions and additional resources. She may not
be overly set on any one deliverable or process, and you could spark
interest that wasn't already there.
- Establish the ground rules moving forward, as has been said in this
conversation. Tell her when the best timeframe to get a quote is, what
information will help you give her the best quote, how long it will take to
turn the quote around, and what range of services you provide in detail.
Let her know how cost changes if she requests a quote sooner or later. If
she was completely oblivious to technical documentation before now, she
would likely appreciate this clear approach.
- Establish yourself as a subject matter expert for her. This follows
with everything else here, but it's worth pointing out from a big-picture
perspective. She would likely be relieved to have someone knowledgeable
she could hand this stuff off to. If she comes to view you as her de facto
technical writing "department" you may get the type of sticky,
no-saleswork-required revenue that jacks up your efficiency.
These things take a little extra time, but they can pay dividends if her
company/work/industry are strategically important to you. Not only do they
increase the likelihood of securing a fresh project, they will cement your
place in her mind as the one to turn to if/when the writer she chose for
this project falls on their face.
People who don't know often make bad decisions. On the other hand,
successful entrepreneurs tend to know what they they don't know. Those
types of folks actually provide significant positive opportunity.
On Thu, Oct 12, 2017 at 8:34 AM, Chris Morton <salt -dot- morton -at- gmail -dot- com> wrote:
> *** LONG QUERY AHEAD ***
> *SCENARIO*: Jeannie is the marketing director of Blue Supply, a smallish,
> high-tech industrial supplier in the hinterland. Through a LinkedIn
> ProFinder feeler placed almost a year ago by her digital marketing guy,
> I've been courting Blue on and off ever since.
> To date, Blue has OEMed widgets from others, stuffed them in their own
> boxes, and sold the latter to global industrial concerns. Blue only ever
> shipped the destructions, er, user manuals furnished by its OEMs.
> Now Blue has developed its own widget. Jeannieânever having entered this
> realm before (and not knowing much about project management and realistic
> timelines)âbegan looking for a freelancer to magically whip up a ~50 page
> technical user manual over a two-week period.
> Yours truly has done this many times over and has the chopsâalong with a
> rock-solid portfolio and written recommendations singing my praises. Its
> apparent that Jeannie only looked at the sample manuals I provided, never
> bothering with the recommendations nor taking a few moments to look at my
> extended LinkedIn profile that tells the whole story.
> Jeannie kept me hanging for several weeksâtime I could have used to create
> her manual, which will ultimately form the basis, it appears, of others to
> come. Anyone who knows InDesign knows that it's critical to set up the
> first go-round (that will become a template) correctly. This is all Greek
> to Jeannie.
> She wanted me to give her an estimate as to the number of hours I thought
> it would take me to complete her project. I told her a reasonable number of
> hours, perhaps less, but that it's near impossible to estimate never having
> seen the widget (nor having any notion of Blue's culture, expectations,
> etc.). Much also depended on the ready availability of subject matter
> experts to assist my when I got stuck documenting the widget's
> hypergymballic mode when exposed to sulfur-induced cryptonium at 2000
> Although I offered to meet in person or speak by phone, Jeannie has always
> kept me at arms length, only communicating via email. I've only had the
> opportunity to speak by phone with AJ, the project manager; it sounded like
> he was firmly in favor of me.
> Although I kept trying to get the engagement commitment, Jeannie put me off
> for yet another week. Attempting to meet her absurd deadline now meant
> working exclusively on her assignment around 24 x 7, putting off all of my
> regular clients, not sleeping, nor having any downtime to do anything else.
> All the while, Jeannie doesn't know what Jeannie doesn't know, and her
> initial whack at a newly-designed user manual incorporating Blue's branding
> is already set to miss the mark.
> Finally Jeannie sent me the inevitable email late yesterday:
> *Thank you so much for your interest in working with us and for your
> patience as we reviewed candidates. We have decided to go with another
> writer for this particular project due to timeline and budget. It was nice
> connecting with you and I am happy to keep you in mind for future projects
> if that is of interest to you.*
> *Thank you,*
> Because of her hemming and hawing, coupled with my multi-year sales
> experience, I'd seen it coming. I wasn't surprisedâjust really POed to have
> spent so much time courting her and the company only to be treated like
> this. I know full well that Blue Supply isn't going to be well represented
> by the "other writer" (likely a chainsaw repairman) who agreed to both the
> ridiculous deadline and gave her some absurd cost estimate.
> To add to my head-spinning, after sending me this kiss-off note, she
> finally accepted my invitation to connect on LinkedIn and also viewed my
> *QUERY*: If I even elect to pursue Blue Supply, how would you go about
> standing firm with your hourly rate and, more importantly, politely and
> professionally convey the notion that, "When you finally realize you've set
> the project up for failure and also determine that the person you hired
> doesn't know Jack (if she ever wakes up to that), you'll know where to find
> Are there any good books you can think of that address this issue in a
> similar context? That is, Jeannie can have any two of the following: Cheap,
> Fast, Good. And to quote a friend:
> "She can have it fast and good, but it won't be cheap, and that's what
> you're willing to promise. If she insists on cheap and fast, you're not the
> right fit because you won't do anything that doesn't include good. Or she
> can have it cheap (relatively) and good, but there's no way in hell she's
> getting it before Thanksgiving, from you or anyone else."
> Apparently Mr. All-Too-Eager Woodrow the Woodsman has promised Jeannie all
> Chris Morton
> (click logo â for details)
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