In order to earn your keep, you need to bring value. But what if the client doesn’t understand the value of your service?
This is a challenge many consultants face, and it stems from undervaluing what you know and making it look easy.
What you know = $$
You may have heard the story of the hydro-electric dam that was losing power. They were operating at about 60% capacity, but their best engineers couldn’t figure out why.
They hired a consultant to figure out what was wrong.
The consultant walked through the control room with his clipboard. He spent about an hour studying all the dials and doing calculations. Then, he walked over to a particular gauge and drew a big red X on it.
“Replace the mechanism that is attached to this gauge and your problem will be solved.”
Sure enough, they replaced the mechanism and the dam immediately returned to 95% capacity. Profit skyrocketed.
A few weeks later, the CEO received an invoice for the consultant’s services in the amount of $10,000.
Thinking the amount excessive, the CEO shot off an email. “Please justify your fee,” he wrote. “All you did was walk around my control room for an hour and draw a red X on one gauge!”
A few days later, he received a revised invoice:
Drawing red X on one gauge: $1
Knowing which gauge to draw the red X on: $9,999
What you know, either through intense study or years of experience, is not a value add. It has real, measurable value to your client, and you deserve to be compensated for it.
Make it look easy at your peril
Another thing consultants often struggle with is the problem of making it look easy.
We do this to ourselves. We like to look smart, so we wander off and come back a few weeks later with something brilliant.
(We don’t mention that we spent days going down the wrong road, or that we received the perfect idea six hours before the presentation).
Instead, we say, “Oh, once we laid out all the facts, the answer was quite obvious.”
On this point, I’m in favor of displaying weakness.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, graphic design is a tough gig because people don’t understand how much effort is involved. I think this is true in many consulting professions.
We often trash very early concepts that don’t work, but I’m tempted to keep them and show them to the client at the end of the project:
“Here are all the ideas we had for your project that we didn’t even show you because they were stinkers. Hey, this one went through five revisions before we threw it out!”
The same holds true for marketing strategy, and web programming, and writing, and everything else we do.
Yes, hiding all your misfires and ill-conceived half-starts from your client makes you look like a god. A very expensive god.
You know, if it’s so easy, maybe I could just get my nephew to do it…
Yeah, that’s what happens.
One of these days…
we’re going to take all of the design variations we’ve made for a particular client, and we’re going to put them in a big long video, like one of those speed paintings.
I’m going to strap all my new clients to a chair with their eyelids held open and make them watch it.
A little too A Clockwork Orange for you? Maybe.
But it’ll do the trick.