One of our Trailblazers, Chris Foster sent in the following question:
I’m interested in how we should handle those enquiries from non clients regarding matters which require say a 30-40 minute meeting and no further action is required.
How should we bill these people and when do you let them know the cost? Ideally, it should be upfront!
Would you have a minimum fee of say $300 of which the enquirer is advised at the time of making the appointment. They can then determine whether the proposed meeting will be valuable to them before the event.
I had an unpleasant experience with such a client this week which was resolved amicably but still was unpleasant enough to endure. Fortunately, I can understand their position entirely.
I would be interested in your thoughts!
This is a great question, as I’ve seen it handled many different ways.
My first thought was: do you want any more customers? Most firms do. They are more than willing to give the “first hour” consultation free. I’ve also thought this to be a mistake, as people don’t value that they get for free.
I’m a firm believer in a minimum price, quoted up-front. If you get work out of it, you can always apply that price (or a percentage of it) to that project. If they come on as a customer, you can waive it entirely.
Also, these types of consultations are great to pass to team members. Gives them experience in rainmaking, customer contact, or just handling various concerns and thinking on their feet.
So, I guess, there’s many ways to handle this, depending on your objectives. But ALWAYS, ALWAYS, quote a price up-front, period. Especially on something as easy as a consultation. We only get in trouble when we invoice in arrears!
Does that help?
Thinking about this some more, I recall a customer that called my colleague Dan Morris right before Christmas holiday and wanted to meet with him urgently. He had an enormous tax issue and wanted to see if Dan would be able to do anything to mitigate before the end of the year.
Since Dan didn’t want to sacrifice being with his family, he quoted the guy a $5,000 price simply to meet with him, with no promises he’d be able to help (If I recall right, it was a $200,000+ tax issue, maybe more).
The guy came in and paid the $5,000. Dan offered his guarantee, if they guy wasn’t happy he could tear the check up. He didn’t, Dan got his price and didn’t lose his pricing integrity.
I guess the moral is: this all requires judgment. Quoting a minimum price is essential, BEFORE the meeting. Offering a guarantee can raise that minimum quite a bit.
How do others handle these types of pricing issues?
(Dan, feel free to correct any factual errors I’ve made, my memory sucks for your ship work).