We’ve all been there. A potential client calls to book you for a speaking engagement. Then, the inevitable “fee question” arises. Does this question make you uncomfortable? It probably does…but it shouldn’t.
You are building a business. You need to be compensated fairly for the expertise you offer and the work you do for clients. Never apologize for being in business!
When working in the academic world, I often spoke and the only compensation was for my travel expenses. It was part of the faculty role to speak, so fees were not customary to expect.
So, unless you work for a school … stop apologizing for asking for a fee!
Here are 3 strategies that will help you overcome the fear and apprehension about having the often-difficult fee conversation with a prospect.
Let’s call them the 3 Rs – Realize, Recognize, and Respond.
Strategy #1: Realize What The Fee Conversation Is Really About
When the topic of compensation comes up, it is important to realize the conversation is almost never about the fee. And, equally important, the decision to hire you is seldom based on the fee.
And, keep in mind…the fee conversation is as difficult for the prospect as it is for you. It’s just part of the process.
The prospect has many questions swirling around their head. Here’s what your prospect is wondering:
- What am I going to get from hiring this speaker?
- Does this speaker have enough testimonial evidence to earn my respect?
- How are things going to be different because of this speaker being there?
- Am I confident this speaker can solve the problem?
- Is this the right person to help them solve this problem?
These questions have nothing to do with the fee. They have everything to do about the value you bring.
It’s always value first, budget second.
If you focus the conversation on the value, an interesting thing will happen. The fee will not get discussed early in the conversation, which allows you the opportunity to build trust and sell on value, not on price.
At times, you will speak with a prospect with a pre-defined (non-negotiable) budget, and sometimes those budgets are just plain odd. They often separate speaking fees from travel expenses. You may have to adjust your pitch to the format of their budget to maximize your return on the engagement.
What’s the good part of this? If the prospect has a budget and it matters, they’ll tell you. And they’ll tell you sooner rather than later. You won’t have to wait. I don’t want to encourage you to ask the question…let them bring up the fee. Keep your focus on their problem and how you can solve it.
Strategy #2: Recognize You Are Adding Value
As an expert, you must recognize you’re adding value and you deserve to be compensated for it. Now, it is your job to show the prospect what the value is. But, chances are you’re in your own way.
You may not be comfortable stating the number you want. You may say to yourself, “I’d like to be paid X,” but every time you try to say X out of your mouth, your brain stops you and says, “No, you’re not worth X.”
You must get crystal clear in your own mind on the value you provide and how it can impact the people you’re working with. You are not trading your time for dollars. You are adding value to the prospect’s organization.
If you ever have a doubt about the fact you’re adding value, think about this analogy. If you have 10 people in the room and they each make $50,000 a year and they take two weeks of vacation, then they’re being paid $1,000 a week. If you come in and do a one-day program, the weekly wage of $1,000 boils down to $200 a day. If the client has 10 people in the room, they’ve got an investment in those 10 people of $2,000.
If you give them something that helps them find an extra week in their year, what’s that worth? It’s worth $1,000 for each one of them, times the 10 people in the room, or $10,000. Maybe you can’t charge $10,000, but you need to teach people the value they can realize from working with you to solve their problem.
Thinking of it in reverse, you must get them to consider what it is costing them to NOT solve the problem. This will move them past emotion-driven thinking to a more practical “dollars and cents” thinking.
Strategy #3: Let The Prospect Respond
During your conversation with the prospect, keep the focus on how you can serve them. Before you even consider discussing the fee, talk about the problem they need to solve and the outcome they want to achieve. And, if there is a fit, talk about why you are the best person to deliver what they need.
Keep your mind on serving them, not on getting to the money. Wait for them to bring up the fee. They’ll usually bring it up at some point. And, if they don’t, then fee is not an issue for them.
SPOILER ALERT: if they are in a hurry to get rid of you, the prospect will usually talk about the fee sooner, rather than later, in the conversation than you may want.
When the fee question does comes up, state your price confidently and then wait for them to respond. Let them do the heavy lifting of telling you what they think of your fee. Don’t make presumptions about what they will think.
As the owner of a speakers bureau once told me: “Don’t undermine your credibility by saying your fee for that is X, but I realize you may not have that in your budget, so we can certainly adjust and I can work with you on that.”
Don’t do it. You will short-change yourself every time.
Bonus Tip: Position Your Fee, Even If You Agree To Work For Less
Request your fee with confidence, knowing you can deliver what the prospect needs. However, there are times when you can consider offering a discount on your fee.
But always be sure to position your fee first, even if you later agree to work for less than the full fee.
Let’s say you are contacted by a nonprofit organization looking for an expert to help them become more effective and productive. Perhaps you’ve made the judgement call to give the presentation for the positive exposure…or maybe you care deeply about the cause.
That’s a great time to give the client a “courtesy invoice” that shows your fee with a 100% discount. It helps drive home the value of your fee, emphasizing that you don’t work for free. If they end up referring you to someone, you’ve given them a frame of reference through the courtesy invoice.
A gift for you
Thanks for reading. To express my appreciation, I’d like to offer you a free tool — the 6-Figure Speaking Roadmap Checklist.