In the normal course of events, there’s nothing wrong with giving stuff away. Quite the reverse. Being generous is extremely good for winning new business, but it needs to be part of a strategy. Knee-jerk giving is not a strategy.
In business, the giving trap can manifest in a number of ways, many of them seemingly harmless.
Time generosity is the most common giving trap for independent professionals. If you charge for your expertise by the hour, it follows that every hour has a value. Your potential client or customer needs to be under no illusion that this is how you work.
Dedicating time to the pursuit of winning new business is, of course, fine and often very necessary. But you need to keep a handle on it. Your clients must know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how far you’ll go.
From time to time you’ll be pushed or gently nudged to go further and it’s your response to this that can see you enter the trap. The moment you go further – without at least clearly flagging it – you risk devaluing your services.
Good, strategic giving is when you add value without being asked. The giving trap is when you discount your services or weaken the perception of your value by going too far.
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Here are two scenarios to consider:
You give a free one-hour consultation as part of your new business development strategy. You’re so keen to hook a client that you let one-hour turn into 90 minutes. You say nothing.
You give a free one-hour consultation as part of your new business development strategy. At around 50 minutes you realise it’s likely to run over the hour. Assuming you’ve decided it’s beneficial to continue, you pause, make clear you are about to complete the hour and then offer your client an extension of 30 minutes. You take the opportunity to fully explain your motivation for this action.
Spot the difference? In the first scenario you’re signaling a lack of respect for your time AND creating a potentially damaging precedent in the eyes of a potential client.
In the second scenario, you’re highlighting the value of your time AND adding value by giving more of it.
From which position would you most like to begin a new business relationship?