Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday Training

Here we are in the middle of the first month of the final quarter for 2008 and it's now or never for hitting your budget for the year.

Here's some advice on how to get top dollar for your work from

Take Courage: Demand Full Price (And Seven Steps to Get You There)

By John Doehring

Editor's Note: This article is one of twelve belonging to the free, 39-page special report, The One Piece of Advice You Need to Get the Fees You Deserve. Click here to download your copy.

One piece of advice I often offer to professional services providers (in my case mostly architects, engineers, and planners) to help them get the fees they deserve is simply to take courage. Specifically, I mean to translate their technical (sometimes towering) competency into confidence, their confidence into conviction, and their conviction into courage. To paraphrase the well worn concept—we have seen the enemy, and it is (quite often) us.

Many external factors influence fee levels and pricing of projects. The competitive landscape and its intensity, power and sophistication of buyers, cost of labor, and state of the economy come to mind. Internal factors, such as the firm's brand power, focus and expertise of the project team, and depth and quality of client relationships also affect prices. And indeed the combination of these factors, inside and outside the firm, certainly can constrain what is possible for the firm. True enough.

Still, in my experience the ingredient most often missing in professional services business development (both for individuals and firms) is the explicit acknowledgement, self conviction, and (dare I suggest) evangelical zeal for the value that is actually delivered to clients that bolsters the courage necessary to demand full price. I'm envisioning a take it or leave it business approach—not arrogance, but attitude.

Too idealistic? Not in my book. Too simplistic? I don't think so. Because I'm not suggesting that it's easy. Indeed I know from lots of experience that it is, in fact, extremely difficult. But it isn't all that complex, and there is elegance in the simple approach. So if I might (courageously?) offer a straightforward recipe for success, in achieving the fee level desired, here it is:

  1. Wanna: As in all areas of business and personal improvement, the first and most important step is deciding to act. It's what I call, "wanna." You simply must have the intrinsic motivation to change—doing so because someone told you to "take your medicine" is not sustainable, and will doom you to average. So, do you want the higher fees or what?

  2. Rearview: Look at the last ten projects you've completed. Take yourself back to the moment when you were there, helping your clients with their biggest challenges. Can you see it? That's you: leading, guiding, and supporting their success. Could they have done it as well without you? Probably not, because they do not have your talent, experience, vigor, or passion. You're doing what you love to do. My question is this: don't you really deserve to be compensated for your professionalism? I'd say you've earned it.

  3. Vision: Future success, out on the horizon, will require a new level of game changing expertise, experience, and connection with clients and markets. Today you must get more focused on becoming a recognized name, thought leader, and go-to market expert. Not just different, but truly distinctive. Focusing on what you do, who you do it for, and how clients experience their relationship with you will all help you to elevate your value and fee levels.

  4. Message: Look, marketing success does not happen without a well-crafted message that positions your firm effectively in target markets. Remember that the primary question "the world" has for you is always going to be "so what?" You must answer this question consistently, and in a clear, creative, and compelling way. In marketing speak, it's the value proposition, core branding message, and elevator speech. To me it's the "so what?" and it's really important.

  5. Practice: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Take a page from the actors, who get this right. The trick is to do it repeatedly until it seems extemporaneous and improvised, though in truth it's completely scripted. This does takes effort, but note that there are two types of practice: rehearsal and performance. With business development success I'd argue that while some rehearsal is appropriate, what really counts is performance. Specifically, I'm suggesting you practice in the real world, in front of clients. As often as you can. Just get out of your cozy office and start doing it.

  6. Pipeline: Fear of failure stands in the way of your success. I offer two points. First let's redefine the problem—as marketing and not sales—fishing, not catching fish. It's not a failure that you don't get an order, unless all you are is an order taker. You must be about building relationships rather than transactions. So you can't build a productive relationship with this obstinate fellow? That's not a failure, it's a success. You needn't spend any more time with him!

    Second point (and this is key), you just need more opportunities. Because if you really (really) need to win a job (say to survive), you are not going to get your highest fee. Without an alternative you simply don't have the leverage. So gather some additional opportunities now, ideally many more than you can handle. This choice will help you (perhaps more than anything) to demand the terms you really want.

  7. No: I bet you've heard this before, but you still don't believe it. Saying no is the secret weapon. I know your instincts tell you that you're in business to solve the client's problems, and if they come forward then it's your mission to help. Or perhaps you think scarcity "we'll never get them back" or "remember last time we had to lay off staff?" Instead I suggest you match these poor fitting clients with another (better-suited) provider. If they won't pay for your value then, by all means, make sure your competition gets the job. Or, try this gem of a response, "Yes we could do this for you, but I'm afraid we'd be too expensive..."

So there, seven suggested steps to improve your business development approach, to get the fees you want and deserve. Position yourself and your firm for success. Move up the curve from competency to confidence, confidence to conviction, and conviction to courage. If you believe, then your clients will believe. If your clients believe the marketplace will join in too.

And don't forget the Wizard of Oz lesson, you cowardly lion. The courage I summon, that you must have for growth and success, is already within you. So go now—I beseech you. Begin your journey today, as a business development doer.

Happy hunting!

Editor's Note: This article is one of twelve belonging to the free, 39-page special report, The One Piece of Advice You Need to Get the Fees You Deserve. Click here to download your copy.

John Doehring is Senior Vice President at ZweigWhite, a management consulting and business information services provider focused in the A/E, planning, and environmental consulting industry. He is Managing Director of the firm’s strategic and financial services consulting group, and advises firm leaders on strategies for improving business and creating sustainable success. He can be reached at 508.652.6211, or at

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