If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve probably done this at least once. As business owners and consultants, we all want to give the proper complementary consultations. The key to these sessions is learning enough about the potential client and their business, while sharing enough about your expertise, and deciding together how you may be able to help them. These consultations can be a great way to get to know if a potential client and your services are a good fit. They can also be a great exchange of information.
However, there is a fine line between giving enough information to show your value and giving them all of the answers. Someone recently described it to me as “giving the ‘what’, but not the ‘how’”. Of course, when you’re passionate about your business it can be very easy to give away too much information for free, especially when trying to sign new clients who have significant opportunities for your assistance.
Recently, I had this experience. After being in business for over three years, it was the first time I could honestly say, “I gave away the house”. I spent two and a half hours on a phone call that should have been less than sixty minutes. After doing a brief overview of my business and my experience, the customer did the same –a typical exchange of information, nothing abnormal. We then proceeded to chat for another hour and a half about the specifics of what this customer needed; how to accomplish tasks, timelines, partners, resources, software, etc…and there was my mistake. Because I care about seeing businesses succeed and get really excited about planning and strategizing, it’s easy for me to get carried away with solving problems.
After the conversation, the potential client sounded very happy and interested in working with me. I proceeded by sending my standard initial contract. The potential client then responded by finding what she perceived as ‘mistakes’, and used them to come to the conclusion that she should keep searching.
Based on this interaction and her continuous reference to cost, I feel that this potential client would have found some reason to stop using my services in the near future regardless. So, this may have been a blessing in disguise. I’ll take a non-client over an upset client any day. Of course, it’s always frustrating to feel that I might have been taken advantage of. As a business owner that cares deeply about my client relationships and reputation, I have to learn to let this one go and move on. It will remain a learning lesson, and now I know what not to do.
Hopefully my story made for an interesting blog, and my experience will help prevent you from making the same mistake.
Do you have any stories to share about being taken advantage of, giving away the house, or making any other crucial mistake in your business? If so, please post a comment and let us know about the experience and what you learned from it.