Why working on the cheap for me . . . is good for you.

I don’t know where the words came from. 
Unrehearsed, they just tumbled out.   

“I’m wondering if you’d be willing to reduce your rates for a couple reasons: 1) I’ll be hiring a lot of design work in the coming years, and 2), I’ve got three friends starting businesses soon. It’ll be good exposure for you.”

Eight years later, I cringe to think I said these words to someone I admired. (Writing them is even worse.) In analyzing my pitch, I realized there were two promises made: Volume and Exposure.  

One is a ruse—an attempt to trick someone.  

The other is . . . how shall I phrase this?
Oh, I know.
Bullshit. 


(Harsh language, but there really isn't an effective synonym for that term. I'm open to suggestions though.)   
 

If you can commit to a specific volume purchase, requesting a specific discounted price is reasonable. As an economic incentive, it makes sense for both parties. Promising unspecified volume in the future, however, for a very specific discount in the present is a ruse.

As for Exposure? 
Well, unless you’re Oprah, you’ve got none.

Karma.
Payback. 
You reap what you sow.

The Volume & Exposure card has been played on me dozens of times since I laid it on this particular graphic designer. Luckily I learned a wonderful sales lesson from the designer’s response:

“I appreciate you being candid with me regarding my pricing. It’s flattering when someone sees my work and reaches out to me about a collaboration. My clients value my ability to get their creative work done right the first time with a level of craftsmanship that would cost three times as much through an agency. I do offer reduced rates for volume bookings, reducing my rate by 10% for a block of 100 hours purchased—and paid for—up front.” 

And then he said . . . nothing.

I later dissected his response.
Each segment served a purpose. 

“I appreciate you being candid with me regarding my pricing. It’s flattering when someone sees my work and reaches out to me about a collaboration.”  Don’t get emotional when prospects and clients challenge your prices. Professionals are not afraid to discuss price, because it is rooted in value—the focus of any sales pro. The designer then reminded me that I contacted him, an important element in any sales dialogue.

“My clients value my ability to get their creative work done right the first time with a level of craftsmanship that would cost three times as much through an agency.” Here he changed the conversation from price to value, knowing I recently paid a tidy sum for a hideous, unusable website that took 6 months to create. 

“I do offer reduced rates for volume bookings, where I reduce my rate by 10% for a block of 100 hours purchased—and paid for—up front.” Addressing my request for a price decrease, he specified the volume and terms for which he would lower his prices.

An executive called me recently after reading my book, Behind Your Back. He asked if I was interested in being the keynote speaker at his annual sales meeting in Houston. 

I was. 

Despite annual earnings of several hundred million dollars, I was told, “Oh, we don’t have the budget to pay you. I thought the exposure you’d get within our organization would be worth more than your typical fee. And you live in Dallas, so it’s an easy trip.”

I recognized the structure of the pitch. 
Volume & Exposure.

He included Geographic Proximity as a third dimension. Because from the moon, Dallas and Houston are right next to each other . . . 

The Volume & Exposure pricing play is intuitive, if not instinctual. That can only explain its widespread usage. Mine included. When presented with it, deliver your script just like the graphic designer did. 

 

Focus on value vs. price. 

Articulate your differentiation and reasoning for the given price.

And then say nothing.

 

As for the designer and me?

We have been working together since that call. 
None of my three entrepreneurial friends did hire him.

And no, I’m not going to Houston.