Selling You

My Strange Job

Being a professional speaker is something of a strange job. By most people’s standards, anyway. Some months I make pretty good money and some months, not so much. There’s no holiday pay or sick pay, no set hours and no financial guarantees of any kind. There’s also lots of planes, cabs, hotels, airport lounges, delays and waiting around. There are certain times on the corporate calendar when I’m more likely to be busy (this month, for example) and other times when I seem to be watching way too much UFC and having way too many coffees with friends (last month).

At the moment, I am represented by ten different speaking agencies and I regularly fly interstate to do just one hour of ‘work’. Most weeks, in fact. Which is why my parents are still waiting for me to get a real job. :) There have even been times when I’ve flown to another country to deliver a single presentation. Last year I flew to Fiji and back in twenty-four hours. I spoke at a conference for forty-five minutes.

Like I said; strange job.

Buying You

As a speaker, I understand that people are essentially ‘buying’ me. Specifically, my time, my knowledge, my skills, my experience and my brand – whatever they perceive that to be. Which can all be a little daunting if you don’t have a healthy self-esteem and complete confidence in your ability to deliver what people are expecting and paying for. In many ways, I’m a product; something that people will put a price or value on. So are many of you.

Value

At a certain price, some companies will consider me to be a ‘good investment’ of their money and their team’s time. Add twenty percent to my price and they might consider me to be a bad investment. Take ten percent off my price and they might consider me a bargain. Take fifty percent off and they might believe something is ‘wrong’ with the product. Fickle creatures, consumers. When it comes to the matter of good or bad value (what people will pay vs. what they get), it largely comes down to (their) belief and perception.

For example, why would somebody pay five hundred dollars to do a one-hour workout with a trainer (happens more than you might think) when they could get the same workout (and therefore, the same physical benefit), in the same gym on the same equipment with another trainer for less than a hundred bucks? Because somewhere in that reasoning centre between their ears is a belief that says “yep, this is a good way for me to spend five hundred bucks.” And for this consumer, in this moment, that’s all that matters.

Value is largely about perception and belief. And quite often, logic doesn’t come into it.

If people believe something is worth ‘X’ and they want it enough, they will gladly hand over the cash. No matter how irrational that choice might seem to others. Somehow, the trainer in the above example has created a perception and an expectation of quality, excellence and value. Even at five hundred dollars per hour. Why else would people pay so much?

Belief

If you have the best product or service in the market place but people (1) have never heard of it (2) don’t know how good it is or (3) don’t believe in it, you’re going out of business fast. Yep, what makes people hand over their money is not so much the products and services (themselves) but rather, their personal belief in those things. For example, one of my friends uses a moisturising cream that costs more than two hundred dollars per bottle. I think she’s being totally scammed. She thinks I’m an ignorant male.

See; belief.

Of course, it ain’t about the product. It’s about the individual (her, me) and our unique perception of value.

It’s fair to say that she believes in the product. She’s like a skin-care evangelist. On the other hand, my moisturiser costs ten bucks and sometimes, I buy it in a one-litre dispenser. It’s a man thing. Or, maybe it’s a Craig thing? Nonetheless, we have different beliefs about skin care and what constitutes an intelligent purchase. Her expensive product may well be twenty times superior to mine but (1) I don’t know that (2) I don’t believe that and therefore (3) I ain’t buying it.

Belief.

Money in Mowing

I have (yet) another friend who operates a lawn-mowing business and charges about double what most people in his industry charge. Despite his steep fees, he has a waiting list and is always in demand. Why? Because he’s built an amazing brand for himself. People believe he’s the best and therefore, they’ll happily pay. He’s reliable, ultra-professional, clean, efficient, polite and has great people skills. I know some of his customers and they all love him. In reality, his grass-cutting skills are almost irrelevant. If you think people choose a lawn guy just because he has a mower and a business card, you don’t understand how or why the majority of people spend money.

Woof, Woof

One of my (wealthy but slightly irrational) friends pays over a thousand dollars a week for a woman to stay in her house and look after her dogs when she’s away. The woman’s ‘job’ is to walk the dogs twice a day and feed them once. Despite the fact that there are much cheaper dog-minders around, my friend considers this to be a very worthwhile investment because this particular woman is “incredible with dogs”. Apparently.

Good grief. For that kind of money, I’d want her to be magic.

Which Brings Me to You…

  • What are you selling?
  • What is your core product or service?
  • Do people know about it? You?
  • Why would somebody buy what you’re selling?
  • What separates you in the market place?
  • Why would somebody recommend you?
  • How do people perceive your products, services, skills?
  • What is their impression of you?

The above questions are relevant for everyone from the guy with the fledgling home-handyman business and the girl trying to break into the entertainment industry to the world-renowned architect and the fashion designer who charges (and gets) twenty thousand dollars for a single dress. Yep, we’re all selling something.

Once upon a time, being good at what we did was enough to ensure a thriving career and/or business.

Those days are gone.

When it comes to the matter of professional success, sometimes, what we’re selling is not nearly as important as what people believe they’re getting.

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Dragon March 5, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Great article. Would have been a great intro lecture to uni marketing. Instead they start without something crappy like an assignment…

So much of what we do today is about the “experience”. I was this morning thinking a lot about features and benefits. Don’t really know why – probably one of those annoying radio ads – you know the one on 3AW (melbourne folk) with that radio guy that sells radio advertising…which is a coincidence since that is essentially what we are talking about here….not radio advertising…features vs. benefits.

The key is to work out exactly what business you are in….

Feature – nice mower, good job of cutting lawn, on time, polite, always smiling
Benefit – tidy yard, more time to do other things, great conversation, always feel better when the mower guy is here…happy to hand over the folding.
…so is he really just in the grass cutting business…

It’s about creating value in the mind of the customer/consumer. Move them up the curve from generic, to expected, to augmented, to potential value. It’s that little bit of unexpected surprise that gives you the wow factor and keeps you coming back for more. It’s being more than the “norm” for whatever business you are in, looking for an opportunity to “lock in” your customer and “lock out” your opposition – call it differentiation, competitive advantage or whatever you like but if you are same same you better be cheap cheap.

“Hey hun, the mower guy planted a couple of nice flowers in that space out the front. They look great and no extra charge”

…and then there is the angle about how you want to be perceived. Some people get value by saying they pay $500 an hour for PT. That’s their paradigm… just be happy if you are the PT that ends up with that one :) Others get value by telling everyone about their new suit just picked up from the Salvo’s…. horses for courses as they say.

Just like almost every other part of life there is a relationship of varying degrees between every pair of variables. In this case the point is to find your niche and define what makes you different (order winners) or what makes you the same (points of parity) and price yourself accordingly for the product or service you offer to each audience. If someone pushes for the discount simply ask them which part of the product / service they don’t want to offset the discount. Get it right and the financial rewards are there for the taking, get it wrong….just try again!

It’s called the enterprise of self.

oh and I won an award for a university paper on value years ago. Happy to share it if I can find it. Just sayin :)

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Craig March 6, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Nice addition to the chat Dragon… :)

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chebbieanne March 5, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Surely you are not suggesting that expensive face cream is not worthwhile! OMG – or that paying to have dogs cared for at home giving the owner peace of mind for her beloved pets whilst she is away is wasting money? A $20k frock indulgence! You probably think Jimmy Choo shoes are just expensive footwear too!

Oh dear you really dont get girls do you!

At the end of the day we pay for what we perceive are goods or services that we value and trust but if they fail to deliver we dont buy them again.

Simple really.

We look for reputation,reliabilty and expertise. Yes advertising helps but often the best advertisment for our business is word of mouth from happy clients. Doing what you do really really well and believing that you are giving a great service matters. If you are passionate and committed and give a great service chances are your clients will be coming back for more no matter what you charge.

I bet you think a cubic zirconia looks as good as a Tiffany diamond dont you? LOL

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PG March 6, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Hehehehehe chebbieanne…..your response gave me a giggle – you’re always thoughtful in your comments on this blog…and funny too! :)

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Dee Dee March 6, 2012 at 1:25 am

Perfect timing again Craig. I was just setting prices for my personal training services with a client and wondering if my prices were too steep or in your example, definitely too cheap! They want to pay and I want to go part time and fairly exclusive. This is good info to reset my perception of my worth in the market place.

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Craig March 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Dee Dee, putting your prices up is one thing. Giving people a reason or reasons to believe you’re good value at that price is the challenge. :)

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C1 March 6, 2012 at 1:33 am

Well put C2, having personally experienced much of what you mentioned, I can comfortably say that people don’t value you, they value their perception of you.

I more than doubled my fees a few years back and received more bookings than ever before. This allowed me to take on less small time-consuming jobs, giving me more time to do a better job and provide better value. It became a self fulfilling prophecy that I continue to benefit from to this day.

Selling yourself as a brand is a tricky proposition in Australia as culturally we tend to dislike self promoters but will happily be referred to someone that has been tried and tested (social proof). It’s a tightrope that you walk with every article you publish and your balance seems OK so far!

I’ll happily re-send this blog article out to my network as it addresses a sales weakness that many sales people need to confront – the importance of selling themselves first and their product or service second. Thanks – keep ‘em coming!

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Craig March 6, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Nice to hear from you C1 and thanks for the thumbs up. I’m in Brisbane soon – coffee?

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Anonymous March 6, 2012 at 2:57 am

Around 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated his new device, the telephone, to Western Union, they wrote to him, “after careful consideration of your invention, while it is a very interesting novelty, we have come to the conclusion that it has no commercial possibilities”, adding that they saw no future for “an electrical toy”.

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Helen March 6, 2012 at 5:40 am

Freaky – I’m up earlyish this morning to make a brag sheet
for my painting work. Painting my last mural(you get a fair bit of time for reflection up there on the wall) I realized that this is the thing.. that I want to do when I grow up… so your comments are on the money. thanks Craig.

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Craig March 6, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Welcome :)

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Brian Madigan March 6, 2012 at 8:40 am

Thanks Craig. That was really great and timely. I’m just starting to look at the way I can get my business to boom and considering many of these points.

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Craig March 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Giddyup Brian! :)

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Rob March 6, 2012 at 9:39 am

This article rings very true with me because i train people in groups. My price is higher than a gym but lower than a one on one PT so it is often difficult to bring people over from either of those two methods. Gym people think it costs too much, PT people think it musn’t be good because it doesn’t cost as much. I know i offer a good product at the right (or maybe slightly low) price. Interstingly enough, people who come to me having never done the other two think that PT is a waste of money and gyms are cheap and nasty. Different strokes for different folks!

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Craig March 6, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Your brand-builders are your clients Rob – get them in shape and they’ll get your business in shape. Your best marketing is fit, lean, happy clients talking about you. :)

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Sandy Fishwick March 6, 2012 at 9:47 am

Years ago I was a colour consultant for Colour Me Beautiful where we did makeovers on people. What I have learnt is first impressions are lasting impressions. You are a walking billboard so presentation is very important, how you talk, walk, present yourself or fake it until you make it.

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Self Employed March 6, 2012 at 10:38 am

A very timely post Craig which resonates clearly with some of my recent learnings in regard to running my business. While my work is exceptional (yes, I can actually say that now), I have struggled immensely with self-esteem and consequently pricing of my services has been fraught.

After accidentally consulting a coach a few weeks back [we did a barter thing with our services] it hit me that I’ve been charging clients solely for my time which totally negates my two decades’ work experience, my two university qualifications, and the quality outcomes clients consistently receive. No wonder I was feeling ripped off — I was ripping myself off!

Similar to your post, I’ve realised lately that so much of running a business is about perceptions: the perception that you’re an expert, the perception that you’re capable, the perception that you will deliver, the perception that they (the client) has hired the best possible person for the task. Delivering this perception is now part of my brand. Believing this perception implicitly is about changing my beliefs and self talk (and it’s working).

There’s an old saying, ‘fake it until you make it’. To me this is in no way about being deceptive or deceitful but about stepping up a notch, challenging yourself to go to the next level, so that you’re constantly evolving, developing and growing. And once you’ve ‘faked’ it enough times [and learnt from your mistakes and acknowledged your strengths] you suddenly realise you’re playing in the big league and that you’ve actually earned the right to be there. Amazing!

And for anyone interested in fast tracking their self development … open a business! It’s exciting, exhilarating, challenging, confronting — but totally liberating regardless of all the errors you’ll make along the way.

Disclaimer: this email in no way constitutes business advice and the author takes no responsibility for actions or choices made on the part of, or by, third parties. Copyright 2012 ‘Self Employed’. All rights reserved.

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Craig March 6, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Thanks Self Employed.. :)

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Katy March 6, 2012 at 11:51 am

Yes get what you’re saying. I read an incredible article about a guy who promoted himself as “the most expensive plumber in town” and tripled his business over the course of a month. However, there is no getting over the fact that some people are just bogan tight wads stuck in a freakin’ time warp.

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Evan March 6, 2012 at 11:55 am

The best summary I know is that people buy from those they know, like and trust. Closely followed by: people like to buy but hate being sold too.

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Craig March 6, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Nice. :)

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PG March 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Oh Craig, I just love how you seemingly KNOW what I need to hear when I need to hear it! You’re amazing!!! And from the comments, I’m not alone! I loved this article – and I’m also contemplating setting prices for my business and the valuing of my work and my services and product is a really good point. I loved what you had to say and will be meditating some more on it. It’s excellent guidance! And something excellent other than the excellent weight loss/head space stuff you do too….which I came here for in the first place! :) You’re so interesting!! Do you do business mentoring too??!!!

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Craig March 6, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Hi PG – KInd of.

I’m more about personal mentoring because when you function better (physically, mentally, emotionally, creatively, intuitively), the positive impact and benefits spill in to all areas of your life – business included.

So there. :)

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JP March 6, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Craig, great blog. I am at a crossroads in my working life where I am thinking of changing professions. I am now in a neat secure job that pays well and has some interesting parts to it however on the whole does not provide the stimulation I need to live life the way I want to. On the other hand I have started working part time in a bakery baking bread. I love it!! The boss is an old school baker from Austria who loves his job. Baking the bread makes me work hard and sweat, requires a bit of love to get it right and provides people with something they appreciate.
Problem is money is well below what I get now and with a wife and two kids its hard to give up the cash.
But there may be the option to take over the business in a year or two and one I am strongly considering.
Funny thing I have found over the years that if you dont make it about the money more the passion and interest things seem to work out?

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Jas March 6, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Brilliant Article, absolutely love it! – THANK YOU :)

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Suu March 6, 2012 at 6:37 pm

■What are you selling? — Nothing
■What is your core product or service? — My great personality
■Do people know about it? You? — I reckon they do by now
■Why would somebody buy what you’re selling? — It’s free, want some?
■What separates you in the market place? — If I could bottle a laugh I’d be worth millions but seeing I’m free, that’s what separates me in the market place.
■Why would somebody recommend you? — I’ve been told quite often… If you’re feeling down, call Suu. No, not a doormat but a welcome mat.
■How do people perceive your products, services, skills? — as a way of relieving some of their everyday tensions.
■What is their impression of you? — Gosh! Do you have to ask? I’m great to hand your kids off to, happy to sit and listen, mega happy to share a few stories, and glad I’m alive to share it with others.
I may not have a day to day job but I have a day to day smile. Thanks for this one. :)

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NIkki March 6, 2012 at 11:35 pm

I bet you are worth every cent Craig. Thank goodness you provide free interesting and sometimes funny blogs for people of all walks of life.

I found it very difficult to sell myself when trying to renter the workforce. Couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t even getting interviews until I found out that even styles of resumes had changed. Once I marketed my ‘achievements’ better the calls started coming….. And then there’s the interview – a whole new chapter on selling myself.

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Suu March 7, 2012 at 10:11 am

Hi Nikki
Did you end up securing a job?

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Nikki March 7, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Hi Suu,
Yep. I sure did. I started yesterday and the first two days have been really good.
The office I’m in has a small team of staff who have all been there for at least 7 years. Some have had the opportunity to transfer to other interstate locations for 1 to 2 year periods.
It is so refreshing to be learning from people who really do know and understand the job. The last contract I had was like the blind leading the blind.
Thanks fo asking Suu.
Take Care,
Nikki

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Diana March 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Oops… Anyway I changed jobs and ping penny dropped. I set goals , realistic goals and plod along at MY pace to achieve them and guess what… I’m in remission no drugs just vitamins and a diligent fitness regime !!!
So yes my wealth is my health!!!!

Keep up the great work Craig! Yay!!!

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Anonymous February 4, 2013 at 4:10 pm

It seems that is all comes down to one issue…loving yourself which brings self confidence and a search for the things that you are passionate about. We are taught at a young age to be untruthful about who we are or how we feel about things by our parents, etc. I believe that feelings shouldn’t be ignored because they act as flags for self-growth. Feelings show us who we are and our actions should reflect who we are inside

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