Recently a prospect asked me how much it would cost him to build an online storefront, populate it with products and launch it. I told him I would need to know the particulars of the project and from these findings could issue a formal proposal and number I feel confident will be fair to us both. That wasn’t good enough for him. He asked me to ballpark the figure and I said I really couldn’t do that without first knowing more about the gig. He persisted. “Oh can’t yah just give me an idea?” Again I insisted that if I were to estimate his costs sight unseen, it would be based on a completely arbitrary number and that might cost me the sale and damage his perception of my consultancy.
“But you’ve done this kind of site before, haven’t you?”
“Yes. Yes I have.” I respond.
“Then what’s the big deal?” he maintained.
Noticing that short-cutting this subject was not working, I decided to take the long way in hopes that he would gain some respect for my process and allow me reign over it. I dove into a nicely worded diatribe about how I like to complete a creative brief first, because it paints a fairly accurate picture of the forthcoming workload, the technical and creative considerations, timelines, deadlines, expectations and the rest the nuances surrounding a given project. And wouldn’t you know it? After I provided meaningful information that outlines precisely the way I do business, he again was adamant that because this is a progression I had been through before, it shouldn’t be a big deal to propose a flexible number.
That’s when I decided to do something I hadn’t done with any other prospect before him. I recommended an alternative to hiring me. I suggested that he use Amazon.com merchant services to sell his products and even went as far as to tell him of the successes I’ve heard others have had using the Amazon platform. He had previously used Yahoo.com merchant services and was thoroughly dissatisfied with the outcome. I don’t know anything about his execution while he was with Yahoo, but I know this, he didn’t seem excited at all about my services or the notion of a Web site redo. He did, however, seem preoccupied with the price. This was the tipping point for me. This is where I decided enough’s enough. And here’s why.
What’s to be excited about?
If you’re going to clamor on and on about price and not even allow me to go through my own vetting process, what sort of message do you think you’re sending me about your Web site priorities? Now let’s step back even further. If you’re yammering about cost, and you won’t let me do my job, and you’re coming from a failed venture, what are you saying about your business priorities? Hell, what are you saying about what you learned after the first failure? What are you telling me you think of my profession and the internet as a whole? I’ll tell you what I hear. I hear five key ways I can prove you don’t care about your Web site. I hear:
- Whatever your experience was with Yahoo, you haven’t assumed any responsibility for learning something from that outing.
- Qualitative Web site goals spawned from purposeful design strategy are not among your current site objectives.
- You don’t respect the internet as a sales platform and are just accounting for yourself amid the revolution in socializing the internet.
- You’re eager to prove yourself right: the internet sucks for selling stuff.
- You just want to make a quick buck and do as little as possible (including spending) to earn it, including build relationships with customers.
As I pondered his priorities – the five I mentioned above – I became offended at how little respect he was showing the internet. After all having nothing to do with business objectives, the internet has saved lives. It’s also successfully brought people together. And yes, it has fed people like me and my family for years now. It was as I reflected on how 1.0 his business model and goals were, that I recommend a solution other than my services. I looked into the future of this project and saw only myself to blame for the inevitable lost hours, wages and time. This customer, and we’ve all seen them, was set entirely too much on arbitrarily talking himself out of spending the right amount of money on his project. I have worked with customers just like this many, many times and after each messy project’s conclusion, I promised myself that I would never allow this degree of mismanagement again. And time and again I would accept a lesser fee, do more and ultimately be unhappy because I’m working with unenthusiastic internet neigh Sayers. If you’re not excited about what you’re doing, why in the hell would I ever be? My experience with this prospect marked the first time I had ever said no thank you. And though I wanted the money, more so I wanted a client and a project that we were equally excited about. This job offered neither.
I’d love to know how you handle this kind of experience. Maybe you have a suggestion for me on how I could have converted him. Maybe you have a story to relate. I would enjoy hearing your perspectives.