ASH AMBIRGE

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Just The Tip: Four Things Never To Do When Asked, “What’s Your Rate?”

In: Just The Tip,

Selling is scary as hell, isn’t it.

You finally got the meeting. You clear your throat and punch in the phone number at 2pm sharp, shaking in your boots bathroom slippers. “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today, Mr. Client.” <—You say in your most ultra professional voice, despite the nagging chest cold that makes you sound like Marge Simpson.

And then it happens. Before the ode-to-nerves vodka shot you slugged even has a chance to hit your bloodstream, they drop the bomb:

“Before we go any further, what’s your rate for something like this?

While it doesn’t always happen that fast, sometimes it feels like it does, right? Before you had a chance to woo them with your “personality”—which is code speak for, hoping-they’d-like-you-so-much-they’d-just-shut-their-eyes-and-hire-you-so-you-didn’t-actually-have-to-do-any-selling.

Listen, I know it’s not always fun. I’ve been in sales my whole life. I’ve won national-level cold-calling competitions, for Pete’s sake, which is pretty much as un-fun as it gets. I’ve held records for getting the most deals signed on the spot—which is a completely random record to hold, but I AM HOLDING IT.

But why is it still holy grail important?

Because if you don’t have enough sales, it isn’t because of your price point. It isn’t because of your button copy. It isn’t because of your offer.

It’s because you’re bad at selling.

Sales happens as a function of selling. So we’ve got to get this selling thing right. While learning to have some fun.

Because I’m confident that if you get even a tiny bit better at selling? Without feeling like a sell out?

You’ll be able to afford to come with Jess & me to Costa Rica in March.

Kidding. (Though not really. See the announcement at the end of this post.)

ANYWAY—oftentimes, no matter how confident you go in, the mere mention of the dreaded question, “What’s your rate?” spooks you. You start stammering. Hesitating. Stalling.

Whenever a client or a customer asks your rate, s/he is trying to get a read on you. Do you believe you’re going to get what you’re asking?

If you sound like you do, then you will.
If you sound like you don’t? …Then you won’t. 

Four Things Never To Do When Asked, “What’s Your Rate?”

1. Reply, “Well, what’s your budget?” There’s no statement on earth that more clearly screams, “Bargain with me because I’m new at this and don’t know what my rates are.” Result? You don’t decide your rates. Your client does. And they’ll inevitably be below what you deserve. Worse? When that client goes on to refer you to someone else and you’re stuck honoring that same (foolish, cutely naive) low rate.

2. Sound like a sweet old lady, making a deal with her grandson for a cup of lemonade. Stop saying things like, “How would you feel about $200?” or “How does $200 sound?” You don’t sound like a sweet old lady. You sound like someone who has no idea what they really charge, and you’re looking for the client to validate you. You’re also signaling that you feel your own price is too high. And that? Is bad for business. Repeat after me: “It’s $200.”

3. Put fluffy adjectives in front of the price. No more, “My standard fee is,” or “My usual fee is,” or “My base fee is.” Ditto “average,” “normal,” “regular.” Those adjectives come out of your mouth to soften the blow. But what you might be subconsciously doing is trying to put the ball back in the prospect’s court, hoping the prospect will realize there’s room to negotiate, ask you to negotiate, and then take the pressure off of you to have to stand by your rate. Repeat after me, “It’s $200.”

4. Ditto putting nouns in front of the price. Do not say, “My fee is” or “Our fee is.” You’re implying that others might charge less of a fee. You’re inviting your customer to price shop you. Repeat after me: “It’s $200.”

Repeat after me: It’s two hundred dollars.

A good way to practice this: Think about how you respond when someone asks you the time.

“What’s the time?”

“It’s 2:00.”

Your voice is neutral. You don’t hesitate. You don’t think twice. The time is the time is the time. There’s no changing it. And you don’t feel guilty that it’s 2pm, either. It simply is.

The same goes for your rates.

“What’s your rate?”

“It’s $200.”

Neutral. You don’t hesitate. You don’t think twice. The rate is the rate is the rate. There’s no changing it. And you don’t feel guilty that it’s $200, either.

It simply is. 

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58 thoughts on "Just The Tip: Four Things Never To Do When Asked, “What’s Your Rate?”"

  1. Lisa Rothstein says:

    What about the folks who say we should never discuss money until we’ve had a chance to demonstrate value? And the fact is, I really don’t know what to quote someone until I can see what they need me to do and how much it would help their business. I don’t charge by the hour anymore because it’s not my time they are buying but my expertise. But it’s hard to put people off who ask “what do your charge to work with you?” right off the bat, and saying — “it depends” sounds like a cop-out. Thoughts??

  2. Ryan Johnson says:

    Awesome post. Thanks! I’ve been doing a lot of these do-not’s (avoiding confrontation, putting ball back in client’s court) and these tips for negotiating are very valuable.