Hilarious result of the experiment of letting my potential client set my price tag.

The client’s development manager calls me up. We talk for a while to get a grip of the business situation, and the needs to develop collaboration between two units. I tell the development director how I work. I co-create with my clients. We are designing the development paths step by step, carrying the responsibility of success together. I don’t come as an outsider consultant, make power points and impose some external thinking on people. I don’t want to spend time writing my solutions for free for a potential customer, having the blessed situation where I can spend that time to create value for existing customers. I am happy to be using my creativity to help you take the next step if we have an ongoing collaboration. You can use any ideas out of that paid collaboration and take the next step with whomever you want. (http://www.extemporea.com/portfolio/pricing/). This seemed like such a stretch to the client. Contracts and running them through lawyers were mentioned. Well, let’s see what I can do for you, let’s just take one step at the time, ok?

It seems like I was able to interpret their situation correctly, and I am asked to meet up with the two executives of the units. Before I do, though, I want to make sure I am among the best people who can help them. I specifically tell them that if the development path includes digital business development I would like to engage professionals from my network who are highly skilled in that. I can bring that talent with me to the meeting, and we can see who should be the ones helping them.

“No, it’s just a development day now at first”. Ok, I can handle a development day between two large units myself, no digital gurus needed.

So, we meet up. Traditional meeting. Executives telling what they’d like to see. Me coaching them to a suitable objective for a one day, developing collaboration and communication between 70 people in two units. Seems like I am hearing the pain points, offering insights for possible ways forward. The next steps forward? Of course: executives going into “we are the buyer you are the seller” mode, asking for…guess what?…a suggestion on the content and delivery of the day with my pricing.

Here is where I decide not to play this game. I create an inspiring solution for them (btw, still working without a cent being paid for the work, total hours about 5 h right here). I decide to do an experiment. I ask them to set the price. I tell them I love what I work with, and really don’t care what the sum is for work I love. That they know the cost of consultants and trainers and they can define what it is worth to succeed in a 70 people workshop for their business. Pay me what you think it is worth. If we do not succeed, pay me nothing.

So, what do they have by now?

  • They want to develop collaboration between two BU’s
  • They have a great, suggested solution with a facilitator who tells them she would love to do this work with them, and tells them she knows this kind of a day will succeed pretty well.
  • They have had three discussions with me, all leading to a next step, where trust and understanding have been clearly visible. So they seem to trust my competence.
  • I have reached out a hand for building a strong sense of trust and collaboration for designing development of collaboration between two business units.
  • They have said they’d like to work with me.
  • They have a to do list from me, because we were tight on time. So I prepped the organization to succeed in this with me.

And what do they do?

They return to me with telling that “they would like to continue with me,” and with an offer way below the ballpark.

And what do I do?

I tell them, that even though I don’t mind what I earn from these facilitations, which I enjoy a lot, it is way below the ballpark and feels unfair. I suggested another rate, which is about 25% lower than the work I have done during the last year. I am transparent about the rates I have been invoicing and tell them the suggested price for a 70 ppl workshop is a reasonable price.

Their reply was just brilliant!
Literally this: “If you use that kind of disrupting tactics in pricing, you’ll get what you are asking for” and basically adding “our way of doing this is that we will try you out with a cheaper price and then negotiate prices mutually if we continue working with you”.

First, I felt like dealing with an adolescent (irritation). Then I felt unfairness, disrespect. Then my ego tried to convince me to just do the gig, and give all of the profit to charity. (Thinking: if this company had asked me to facilitate for charity purposes, I had said yes, and it would be a great story). This worked for a day, until I realized it is not a great story after all. Then the “how unfair and what a non-collaborative answer” snuck up on me again. I decided I just don’t play this game (when I don’t have to, really).

So I did what I could to help them: I told them I have been working too long in collaborative and respectful systems for “you get what you asked for” or “let’s pay a junior consultancy fee for you” would work for me at all. I really urged them to go ahead with the workshop idea, and added some 6 different great facilitator/trainer’s names as recommendations. I wrote a draft on an invitation letter to the day, because they were tight on time. I also added a link to their company’s webpage, which tells that this client company is having a record high year with profits.

The emotional clarity and “high” was something I did not expect. Such a rush of coherence. Like after the best yoga. Like in a flow state when playing handball. Everything was just clear and felt right.

If I don’t have to, I choose not to play that game.

PS. I’m wondering how collaboration development will work out in those units? Hilarious!