When you’re charging, who’s in charge?

The ever-insightful Alan Weiss has written his last article for Rain Today’s newsletter, titled What It Takes To Successfully Market and Sell Services.

Let me tell you, whether you sell services or 767 jets or Habitrails, you owe it to yourself to read this article. Do like I did and print it, underline the important ones, and throw exclamation points and smiley faces next to the ones you understand all-too-well. Don’t wait a minute to read this post from a guy who saved the best for last. I’ll hang out.

Back so soon? Wow, you read fast.

Well, along with the stars and the exclamation points and the underlines and smileys, there were a few traps that I see clients falling into constantly. This gem, in particular, is said better than I ever have to a client:

Be diagnostic in your marketing, involving the client in the analysis of their conditions, but prescriptive in your implementation, not allowing the client to tell you how to consult.

I read your websites, your brochures, sometimes even your emails. For some clients I dig into telephone calls and face-to-face meetings, in your shop or in an office.

What do I run into constantly?

This ain’t no pancake house

Yet you’re waffling.

I’d like you to stop that, now and forever, because you’re driving your own sales away.

When I go to the doctor I want authority. “Yes, this is XYZ.” “Yes, I can look into that.”

See how the second one is really “No, I don’t know,” but my doc would never say that to me?

When I speak with my attorney I want the spark I’d put into it if I could fight my own battles in the alien planet of law. “This will work. This will not work. We’re not going to do it your way, Kelly, because my job is to win for you.”

Ooookay then, says I.

Her job is NOT to listen to me. Her job is not EVER to change course because I want to do things another way. Can you imagine?

What the hell do I know about Delaware law?

When you hire me to audit your website or your physical space, you want “This is good, but this is not working. This is causing these problems. These are the fixes you should implement immediately, and these are the ones you should do the minute that ‘immediately’ is over.”

You do not want, “Well, this might help…”

You do not want, “You could try that…”

You do not want, “We could look at this another way…” or “It’s not that important…”

And neither do your customers.

A short (hair) story…

For six years I’ve seen the same hairdresser. I love her dearly.

I even love my hair, for the one day every two months when she’s near it.

After that, I’m what I call “hair-lexic.” Which is to say I often want to shave it off because when I deal with it, it’s never what I intended, much less what I want.

(What I want is model-gorgeous and zero work. I put in the zero work—so is model-gorgeous too much to ask?)

Every time I go in to my appointment, she says, “What would you like today?”

I tell her I’m hair-lexic, hahaha, and I want whatever looks good on my head, in her opinion. I tell her she’s not only the hair expert, but she’s also known my particular head for 6 years now, so do the right thing and we’ll both know what I want.

Yet every. single. time, we have to go around and around, on what she did last time, what would be best now, do I have a picture in my head…

(Did I mention I really love her?)

And every single time my response is the exact same:

“I look at it as, you’re the doctor. I don’t know how to set my bone or cut my hair, doc. Do what you think is best.”

Even after six years, this frustrates me and make me consider seeing if someone else could be more sure, since I plan to remain clueless. One of us has got to know what’s going on. (But I love her dearly, y’know, so I just can’t. Plus she does a rockin’-awesome job.)

It’s true—Waffles crush sales

Now unless you are my hairdresser this might seem like kinda limited advice. Only it’s not. My own clients are losing customers this way every day.

When you’ve already got the customer, and you’re waffly, you discourage further sales and recommendations. “Hmm, I guess he doesn’t know as much as I thought he did. Not sure Joe would want to hear about him, after all. I wonder if I’m getting the quality I paid for?”

That’s plenty bad. But when you’re in the getting to know you stage, before the contract is signed and the sale is made, YOU ARE CRUSHING YOUR OWN SALES.

I’d repeat that, but I think the shouting’s enough. Unless you’re closing 100% of sales and you want to tell me that waffling works fine for you, listen up.

When a customer knows how your payment process works, and asks for a better deal and you cave, you’ve just told him you don’t value your work as much as he expects. You’ll lose sales with your waffling. You’ve introduced doubt.

When a customer knows that you allow three revisions/ four sessions/ a two-week turnaround, and asks for more, faster, cheaper, and you listen, or consider it, or come back with a How about this, ditto. You waffle, they seek other professionals to compare you to.

When a prospect emails you three times daily with what-ifs and how-abouts, and you respond three times daily, becoming their email buddy before you’ve made the sale, any sales you make are going to be haggle-filled, interruption-crazy nightmares.

You want to create Maximum Customer Experience for your prospective customers?

Treat it like my lawyer. Or heck, like your local McDonald’s. When they tell you “park your car there and wait,” how many people ever say, No, I’ll stay here… or Okay, if you’ll throw in some extras… or I’d rather you walk to my office with the food, because that parking spot’s no good for me?

C’mon. If everybody from the guy who charges $575 an hour to the folks who charge $5.75 for your meal knows this, isn’t it time for you to know it, too?

Don’t let the client tell you how to work. For Maximum Customer Experience, write a policy. Point to it as often as needed, and say,

“It’s the policy.”

When the client says, “I think it might be better like this,” remember that he does what he does for a living and he hired you to do your job. Doing your job does not mean saying, “Maybe you’re right.”

It means saying, without a touch of arrogance,


Your prospects and clients will respect you for it. And though it might be hard to make the switch from waffly wondering and self-questioning faux-collaboration to professional policies and definitive answers, what makes them happy, will make you happy.

Yes. It will. That’s what makes it Maximum.

How do your waffles weigh in?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


P.S. Maybe you’re right. Just a touch of arrogance—that’s probably okay, too.  😉