If you’re in the business of selling your services to other people, the odds are you believe having a ‘can do’ attitude is one of the ways you can differentiate yourself from your competition. In this article I’ll show you the difference between ‘can do’ and ‘unrealistic’. What’s more, I’ll do it in a simple way you can use to show your prospective clients why saying “no” to them will get them a better outcome if they choose to work with you.
Ask any project manager with real world experience and they will tell you there are three key elements you need to monitor and control in order to get the delivery right for a client. They are:
- The time (hitting their deadline is important)
- The cost (hitting their budget is important)
- The quality (hitting their standards of acceptability are important)
More often than not, the project manager finds themselves in the position of having to deliver the difficult news to a client that one of these elements will have to be sacrificed in some way in order to get the project delivered.
A few years ago, I developed a way to keep myself on the right path when it comes to closing the deal and at the same time making sure it ends up a win:win for both the client and me. If I’m in a situation where my gut is telling me that I’m being asked to deliver too much for the fee I’m charging, here’s what I do.
At some point, there will be a negotiation about what you will deliver, when and how much for. If you think achieving what your client wants will be too much of a stretch in some way, use this and I guarantee you will end up with a better outcome for both you and them.
1. Take a blank piece of paper and draw three overlapping circles
2. In one circle write “Fast”
3. In the second write “Affordable”
4. In the final one write “Includes”
5. In the three shapes made where two out of the three circles overlap, write “Can Do”
6. In the middle, where all three circles overlap, write “Lose”
7. In each of the circles, write the key elements of what they want:
a) In Fast put their suggested deadline date
b) In Includes list their key deliverables (one word bullets will do)
c) In Affordable put their suggested budget
You will end up with something which looks a little like this:
When you show this diagram to your client, point out that in trying to deliver all of what they want, for the budget they have and in the time scales they need, you will be trying to hit the middle zone (labelled “Lose”). You can explain to them about previous situations where you have tried to do it, and in the end something had to give, so you don’t want to put any of your clients in this position again. You can also explain it’s because you have a ‘can do’ attitude, you know you can focus on delivering any two out of three of the circles BUT it means the other circle will need adjustment, so for example:
I ‘can do’ your (included) deliverables, and I ‘can do’ them at a great (affordable) rate. BUT it means I won’t be able to deliver (fast) to your deadline as I would need to fit it in around other work.
I ‘can do’ your (fast) deadline, and I ‘can do’ your (included) deliverables. BUT it means I won’t be able to meet your (affordable) budget because I’m going to have to buy in some resource to deliver some other work I’m already committed to and the deadlines clash.
I ‘can do’ your (affordable) budget, and I ‘can do’ your (fast) deadline. BUT it means we will need to take out one or two of your least important (included) deliverables.
Keep going round in circles (literally) until they understand in trying to get all three from you will end up as a “Lose” as you will only have to go back to them later and have a similar discussion. In my work as a professional speaker I’ve found this to be an invaluable tool that helps to keep me honest about exactly what I can deliver for the fee for the client.
This is my secret formula to remind me if a client is asking for too much and I let them have it then we will both lose. It’s a simple life lesson to remind me if I agree to do something that’s (F)ast and (A)ffordable and all (I)nclusive then one, or both of us, will (L)ose.
How do you handle negotiations?
What tips, tools and techniques do you bring out onto the table?
Have you ever been in an over committed situation and how did you deal with it?
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