Monday, May 11, 2009

Seriously. This is not a game.


Here's what I hear when a somebody tells us that they don't have a budget.

"We're buying on price."

What I don't understand is why they won't be more forthcoming and just say so. As in "We have a price figure in mind, but we're not going to tell you what it is, because we want to see how cheaply you can do the work."

I'm sorry. Not telling a prospective business partner what you intend to spend is just silly -- and is a clear indicator of your willingness to let other people spend a lot of non-billable time on guesswork. It's like we have to play this dumb little game:

"What's you're budget range?"

"Umm, I don't have one."

"Nothing? You're in business and making a big investment in this thing you want me to help you sell and you have no idea how much or little you are willing to spend to do it?"

"Umm, well no. Tell me what you'll charge."

"Tell me what you want to spend."

"You first."

"No you first."

"Noooooo. Youuuuuuu first."

Jesus, what a waste of time. Here's a news flash. In a conversation like that everybody in the freaking room knows that you have a budget figure in mind. Or at least a range. You have to. So why pretend otherwise?

Here's a better idea: "I have X-and-so to spend. What can you do for that?" Or even "I have X-and-so to spend and I need someone to do ABC. Tell me if you can do it or not. We'll go from there."

That does something critically important. It shifts the decision to the quality of the work and the value received for money spent. I mean, if money is the only thing that matters, get college kids to do it for free. Or don't even do it. That will save a lot of money.

If you're up front about it, there's nothing wrong with buying on price, although I don't think it's the smartest way to retain any sort of professional service. Buying on price is what you do when you buy a commodity. And professional services are not commodities.

"In the end, the decision came down to price . . . " needs to be something you are clear about early in the game.

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