The story I have for you this week is about what happens when your client starts to get cagey about MONEY.
It's on the longer side, but if you are responsible for selling your services, dream of being in business for yourself, or just want to grow your money consciousness, it's worth the read:
"So, let's talk about your goals for this round," I say to the screen, opening a new Drive document.
The client on the other side of this video chat has been with me for years; I came in right about the time her startup was pivoting to a new business model, and helped her re-build the company story and pitch to get new partners on board.
Since then we've worked on everything from her inception story, to big speeches and panels, to tough FAQ's from partners and investors.
Toward the end of 2018 she was acquired by a huge parent company, whose bosses she now has to answer to while she stays on as the face of the company.
Months ago, she gave me a virtual high five when her new bosses said YES to our continued work together -- and we fleshed out an arrangement for the new year (with a bigger dollar amount attached) which she'd assured me the parent company had the "deep pockets" to afford.
Now, though, she starts to visibly squirm in her chair.
"Yeah, you know," she begins, talking in vague circles, finally ending with: "I was wondering if we could maybe cut the work in half, meet once a month instead."
"Oh," I say. "You want to re-visit our agreement."
"I know, I know, we shook on it," she says. "It's just..."
And she proceeds to look up, down, and all around as she comes up with excuse after excuse for why she can't commit to what she's already committed to.
First, she's not sure that meeting twice a month is "realistic."
I ask: Is it the time commitment of the sessions, or is it the pace of work she feels she has to keep up with between sessions?
The latter, she says.
At this point in our work together, I assure her, she can show up and do all of the work right there in session, no homework required beyond practice. Will that work for her?
Yes, she agrees, that works for her.
Then, she's suddenly unsure that her parent company will approve of such a "big expense."
"Huh," I say, and remind her that we already had this conversation; that they gave their approval, that she walked out of that meeting victorious.
"I know, I know," she says. "It's just, my finance guy, he's on their side now, and he's stressing. But you're right, you're right, they did say yes."
Then, she asks me to remind her how much it will cost.
(This, despite the fact that the invoice has been in her possession for months, and despite her promise to pay it the week before we got started.)
Patiently, I refresh her memory.
Finally, she claims she "wasn't aware" that it would cost so much.
Now, let's hit pause here for a second.
The truth about money is, people get FUNNY talking about money.
And too often, we let our emotions get in the way of having a reasonable conversation that might help us understand what's really getting in the way.
Interpreting their money objection to mean "you're not as valuable as you think you are," we stumble, apologize, hem, haw, and otherwise try to justify the value of our services.
This is what everyone does at first, and it's what I would have done just a few short years ago.
But particularly in this case, I KNOW that she knows how valuable it is.
Which makes it easier to remember to breathe, and get curious instead:
"Forgive me, Client," I say, "but I'm confused. We've had this conversation before, and you were clear on what the investment was at that time. So, I don't see how it's possible for you to tell me, at this point, that you didn't know."
"I know, I know," she says, looking off to the side with her hand over her mouth. She's clearly thinking very hard about something.
"Is it really about the money?" I ask, "or is something else coming up for you?"
Then, I wait. (A while.)
Finally, she looks back and says: "You're SURE we can get this done in 6 months?"
I say: "There's no doubt in my mind we can get it done in 6 months."
"Alright then," she says. "Let's do it."
"You're sure?" I ask.
"I want you to be excited about it."
She laughs. "I am, I'm ready, let's do it."
"Ok," I say, "In that case, when can I expect you to make payment?"
"Let's do it right now," she says.
And she whips out a credit card to pay me, right there on the video call.
So -- what can we take away from this?
When a client or prospect voices an objection about money, what usually happens?
Hearing their objection as an assessment or dismissal of our value, all we want is the RELIEF of not having to talk about it anymore.
Which makes us look for the quickest escape route possible.
They say, "I can't afford it," and we immediately discount our services; then later feel resentment for under-valuing ourselves.
Or they say, "I'm sorry, I want to do it; it's just too expensive."
And we rush them off the phone, saying: "I understand! Thanks for your time! Keep me in mind for the future!"
But when you do this -- it's not only a disservice to yourself.
It's ALSO a disservice to your client.
Because while money is sometimes the issue?
Money is also a convenient catch-all for other issues.
Issues that may have nothing at all to do with YOU.
In this example, I'm willing to bet that I'm not the only person who's witnessed this client's brand of "commit/un-commit" behavior.
I guarantee you that it shows up elsewhere, both at work and at home.
And that it unconsciously holds her back, from becoming the kind of leader she wants to be.
Which is what I would have inadvertently allowed to happen, if I had let my insecurities get in the way of having the conversation we needed to have -- so that SHE could move forward with what she wanted most.
A conversation that she pretended was about money, when deep down?
It was about the fear that she wouldn't make the progress she wanted to make.
Progress that she DEFINITELY wouldn't be making now, if I'd simply said "I understand" -- and let her off the hook.