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What are some polite ways to let potential clients know you don't work for free?

We write proposals to clients to do wearable technology work. During the process they ask a lot of questions, some of which are frankly not something we would want to answer as that is paid knowledge. While we are very open and friendly, we are not here to give away the farm for free. Examples are: "what LED should we use?" "How do you improve the resolution?" and "What battery should we use?" These are questions not for a beginning conversation, but for once we are hired.

We don't want to push them away, so I'd love some polite response suggestions to this type of inquiry or some sales people's suggestions on how to turn this inquiry into a sale.

21 Replies

Mitchell Portnoy
7
0
Mitchell Portnoy Entrepreneur
Healthcare Information Executive
"We have answers to all your questions and are eager to help just as soon as you become our client. When can we begin?"
David Still
4
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David Still Advisor
Founder of Start-ups, Entrepreneur, Financier and Advisor

First, I would advise you to be very clear what your value and tasks are. Einstein said: "If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself." Then, once they understand your value proposition tell them the truth about pricing without spin - straight-up truth. If you decide to provide a sample of your work for free, then tell the prospect what you are doing. If they do not recognize your value and pay you, then walk away on great terms - burn no bridges. Every prospect you talk to will talk about you to others and statistically the communication chain will move to about 64 additional people. Any prospect who wants free work is not worth having. Lastly, do not be delusional that a prospect will recognize your free work by giving you profitable work in the future. Over my 40 years of business, I (and my salespeople on their "backlog" report) wasted so much time and money trying to get new business by creating free work it's unbelievably embarrassing.

Street Wisdom for Founders of Startups, davidbstill.com

Michael Barnathan
6
0
Michael Barnathan Entrepreneur • Advisor
Co-Founder of The Mountaintop Program, Google Alum
Teasers. "Some companies use lithium ion batteries in this situation, but you'll need to consider current, inrush, charging requirements... let's sit down and discuss a consultation, where we can design something more in depth for your specific needs."
Tim Scott
6
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Tim Scott Entrepreneur • Advisor
President, Lunaverse Software
I've been on the other side of this -- trying to get free advice during the sales process -- and the typical tactic is, "It depends. I don't know enough to make a recommendation that I can stand behind."

I get the message. I may know they're dissembling, but as a business person myself I understand it's a soft wait to say, "Nice try, but you gotta pay for that," and I don't take offense.



Jessica Magoch
2
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Jessica Magoch Entrepreneur
Sales doesn't have to be a dirty word. Get more clients without being icky, sleazy, or just plain annoying.
Hey Allison,
Great question! It's all about setting proper expectations upfront. In sales, we call it a pre-close. If your client doesn't understand the boundaries before the conversation starts, they will have their own assumptions about what information should be free and what should be paid. Otherwise, the conversation can get awkward when they ask a question that requires another step in the relationship. No one likes surprises. To them, it may even feel manipulative because they expected one thing and were blind sighted by another.
For instance, before you begin discussions, explain how the consultation works, the purpose of it, what the next steps are, and what advice they can expect from the consultation vs. what advice they should expect from a paid relationship.
Typically, a consultation should resemble an interview, where you're asking them questions to see if you can help, and they're asking you questions to see if you're qualified.
You may want to consider a paid consultation model if people are looking to get information but not ready for a full relationship. Apply the cost of the consultation toward a future agreement if you want, and outline what kind of answers they can expect to get from a paid consultation and what they will get from the full program.
Again, it's all about expectations. No one likes to get on a call expecting something for free and then told they have to pay for it half way through the conversation. It's your job as the salesperson to communicate that upfront.
Hope this helps!
Jess
Jeff SKI Kinsey
0
0
Jeff SKI Kinsey Entrepreneur
Marketing Mad Man™ | Research | Lead Generation | Educator | Author
I use the retainer model. $1000 per month, only a few spots open, sign up today.

P.S. We do business with people we, "know, like and trust." Find a connection we share and ask them to vouch for you. We don't waste the clients' time and we don't allow them to waste ours. And, we use a kill fee in case they forget.{grin}

Steve Scott
0
0
Steve Scott Entrepreneur
Founder, AV Smartz

You said, "while writing the proposal." You should add the fees covering these consultation services in the proposal. When they ask a question you are not ready to answer you can simply say that will all be covered in our proposal but if you just have questions you want answered we can work something out on a fee basis.

You could say somethign like; "Those are all great questions which will be covered in our complete analysis of your current needs. If you'd like I can send over an agreement that outlines our services and we can get started right away."

Or you could simply say if you 're not ready to retain our services or partner with us immediately we can simply answer your questions on a fee basis; we charge $100.00 an hour with a 4-hour minimum. Would you like to schedule something now? Or you can flip it and say that's our standard rate but since we're still getting to know each other if you'd like to suggest what you think is fair we're certainly willing to consider anything reasonable. Just be prepared to politely say no. Like; that won't fairly compensate us for our time and so we'll have to pass, but we really appreciate your interest and the opportunity to see if there was a fit between our two companies.

You want them to know that you know what you're worth and that you have thought through and put a value on your time. You do have to be reasonable of course unless, as others have said, your objective is to kill the relationship.
Max Rosenthal
0
0
Max Rosenthal Entrepreneur
Strategic Sales Professional Harnessing Tactical Fortitude To Capture New Business

I am guessing that your staff consists of designers and creatives? That's like 1 person on a teeter totter. Sure one person can play on it but its going to be a little jerky for a while and take some practice trying to do it all yourself. Just as your background and specialty is design, how about augmenting your staff with a person(s) with a sales background that is versed in the garment industry or for that matter familiar with your target market? Just as you wouldn't dream of having a sales guy do your design work (even if the sales guy is a little creative) you are asking design people to sell (even though they may be familiar selling).
Alison Lewis
1
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Alison Lewis Entrepreneur • Advisor
CEO/Creative Director
Cute picture. Are you offering to help? Because there isn't anyone here but me to make it happen. Until there is someone else, the founder makes it happen.
Michael Barnathan
0
0
Michael Barnathan Entrepreneur • Advisor
Co-Founder of The Mountaintop Program, Google Alum
At some point you'll have to mobilize additional resources (i.e. hire people, find volunteers, or cofounders). It might be possible to do this more easily in sales than other industries, since commission based compensation is the norm (i.e. take on the close - run the numbers and figure out what can work). It is something you can do yourself in the beginning, but make sure you can diversify the team as you grow, so everyone can excel in their core competencies.
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