At the end of our fourth meeting, I finally plucked up the courage to say, “we can’t keep meeting like this. I’ll need to be paid for my time.” To which the business owner responded, “but we’re finally getting somewhere!”
She didn’t appear to be embarrassed. But I was mortified.
I’ve made all the mistakes in business, many times over many years, so that you don’t have to. For years, I entertained clients who had a budget for a bicycle but first wanted quotes on the Mercedes Benz, the Chrysler and the Tesla.
Getting clients to commit is always challenging, and this is not getting any easier. There’s always been an ongoing tussle between clients – who want everything at their convenience and prefer not to commit – and business owners – who need clients’ commitment to build sustainable income and do their best work.
The convenience of anything-delivered products, always-on technology, on-demand entertainment, immediate gratification is our new normal.
In this bright-shiny world where we wave our credit card at devices to buy things (because slotting it into the little machine was too laborious), we don’t typically commit to anything unless we must. And it’s making us distractible, flakey, and stuck.
If you want to create a sustainable business, and get real results for your clients, you need to ask for commitment. You need to move away from clients casually accessing your services, towards clients who commit to a membership, a larger program, a higher-priced course.
Your prospective clients need to know that a one-off flirtation with what you do is a feel-good Band-Aid solution. If they want real, enduring change, they need to know that that cost of admission is commitment.
But getting clients to commit can seem an impossible task and the temptation is to give people what they want by breaking your services down into infinitely small (read: convenient) pieces. ‘The customer is always right’, right?
The customer is not always right
If the customer were always right, they wouldn’t need you. They’d already have solved their problems themselves. But they’ve come to you to seek your guidance. And you – well-meaning, warm-hearted, generous-spirited you – have made it far too easy for the customer to continue along with their flakey ways by being too convenient for them.
As a business owner, you cannot sell both commitment and convenience because the majority of people will choose convenience every time.
We know that a single action is unlikely to yield real, enduring change. The road to new healthy habits is littered with the discarded good intentions of people who were wedded to convenience and couldn’t commit. And ‘round it goes.
You are not McDonalds
McDonalds – and many other businesses like it – are built on scale. They are able to offer convenience on every street corner at the lowest imaginable price because they have scale.
We are not McDonalds. We are unable to compete. We do not have economies of scale. We cannot be on every street corner. And trying to compete with McDonalds will quickly send us broke.
Business owners – especially those who are new – need to build a sustainable business by charging higher prices, not attempting to compete with massive corporations.
To halt the cherry-picking of services and get commitment from clients first requires commitment from the business owner. We know that people won’t benefit much from sporadic actions with little commitment, and this, with the best of intentions, reflects poorly on our businesses.
If you, as the business owner, aren’t really committed to your process, how can the prospective client be expected to commit? You’ve mapped out the optimum experience. As the expert, you know how people can get the most out of your services. So now you need to be confident. Not just in why your services work, but in the membership, program or package you’ve created.
You need to explain why commitment is the required cost of entry and express this in the client’s best interests.
The confidence of commitment
So if you’re confident in your membership, program or package of services, and you’ve removed the option for clients to cherry pick, there’s another piece of the puzzle to be addressed.
Your self-confidence encourages their confidence and trust in you but they also need the self-confidence to believe that the future you promise is possible. Despite, perhaps, their failed attempts in the past.
If your prospective clients have invested significantly in your competitors who failed to deliver the transformation they wanted, this will reflect poorly on your business.
It doesn’t matter if you are far better, or if your competitors are shady, if your prospective clients had buyer’s remorse, they may have lost self-confidence in their ability to discern a great solution from a shoddy one. And through no fault of your own, this becomes your problem.
The antidote? Creating remarkable transformations.
Creating remarkable transformations for clients isn’t easy or everyone would be doing it. It’s hard to say no to new paying clients. It’s hard to move old, loyal clients away from your casual as-and-when services towards commitment. It’s hard to stand firm in your confidence that your process will work, and that you stand by it, without compromise.
On the road to becoming remarkable, here’s what you can do to get your clients to commit:
- Remove variations and hone in on fewer options. Ideally, you have one flagship program that gets the majority of your marketing focus.
- If your price is above $500, offer prospective clients sales calls so that they can ask any question and have their doubts addressed. (I use and recommend Acuity Scheduling for this.)
- Hone in on your process. Get geeky with measuring the efficacy of what you do, which means talking to your clients more, surveying, and getting better at asking great questions.
- Communicate value through being more generous with your marketing.
- Ask for payment up-front, or offer a payment plan for a small additional fee, to make cash flow easier for your clients. No deviations beyond this.
- Improve your sales skills, which includes getting comfortable with using and hearing no.
Commitment to a longer program, service package or membership inspires confidence in your clients – in their own abilities and potential, as well as in your business. Their commitment ensures sustainable, sometimes radical change, which facilitates a truly transformative experience. You do your best work, create sustainable income, and also build your business’s reputation through the results you help your clients to achieve.
Flakes need not apply.