We can’t always say “Yes!” to every offer of work. I know this only too well. And sometimes, saying “No thanks!” can be costly to you, but an educational process to someone else.
While this situation doesn’t occur that often, it’s certainly happened often enough for me to consider how expensive saying “No thanks!” can be.
Back in September, I talked about the power of saying “No” to clients, and how it’s not always automatically a bad thing. The thing is, saying “No thanks!” is slightly different and not always as straight forward as it appears to be.
I had an offer of work, all of which came in the form of a Microsoft Word file. The problem was, the file was in a terrible state and would require an inordinate amount of effort to fix the layout before it could be turned into something usable.
The ROI (Return on Investment) of giving away business knowledge
For me, at the the quoting stage, I was presented with a clear problem; how do I communicate to the prospective client the amount of work required to knock the Word file into shape?
The prospective client would want to know why it was going to be at least a day of my time just re-working the layout. So their question to me would then require at least some kind of explanation of layout and the design process. For me to say “No thanks!” could easily turn into an expensive educational process with a question return on my investment.
For a prospective client that I’m trying to say “No thanks!” to, I could easily spend an hour of my time, which isn’t going to be paid for. Now, you could argue that having explained this to the prospective client, they could make the decision to go with my advice. However, at the time, they’d made it clear the layout wasn’t a priority. But for me to even use the content of the Word file, the layout most definitely was a priority!
This is just one example, but when you sit down and think of all the times that prospective clients catch you on the phone and the conversation drifts into an exploratory, partially educational process, for them to just say “No thanks!” to you, that’s yet another avenue for lost, non-billable time.
Business education as an investment?
Now, the situation is totally different when it comes to existing clients. I think educating clients is part & parcel of what I do, since my role is more a consultancy and partner than being a mere supplier. I’m happy to invest my knowledge into my clients because I’m confident that the effort will result in additional work over the long-term, as well as increasing their value in me.
An existing client clearly has some trust in you, so they’re going to value your knowledge. And they’ll value your knowledge all the more once you’re able provide demonstrable evidence, with results.
As a legitimate business activity, earning trust should play a major role.
Of course, you need to keep things simple and not give too much away. Revealing too much about what you do can be as harmful as not saying enough. Ideally, you’re trying to minimize the amount of thinking your client needs to do.
The take-away advice here is to be aware of the time you’re spending saying “No thanks!” and how you choose to walk away from project estimates. But also be aware that giving your knowledge to existing clients could be a valuable investment.