I was staying with family overseas recently and when we returned to the house after the cleaners had been, I noticed something strange. Bottles of shampoo and conditioner had switched position, and the hand lotion was now where the hand wash had been. “How annoying”, I first thought, after trying to wash my hands with lotion. But then a second thought lodged in my mind: “How brilliant!”
Move the shampoo
When you are working in a service industry, like cleaning, accounting or consulting, people pay you for an outcome — a clean house, a tax return or some professional advice — and placing a value on that can be tricky.
Take the oft-cited anecdote of the mechanic, for example. A guy takes his car to a mechanic because the engine is faltering. The mechanic picks up a hammer, hits the engine and it begins to run perfectly. “That will be $100”, says the mechanic. “$100? That’s outrageous – all you did was hit the engine!” the customer splutters. “It was only $1 to hit the engine”, the mechanic replies calmly. “It was $99 to know where to hit it.”
The issue is often one of perceived effort. People are more willing to pay if they feel it has cost you in sweat to deliver the service.
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That was the genius of the cleaners moving the shampoo bottle. It was their way of saying “we cleaned absolutely everything and everywhere”. They deliberately interrupted their client’s System 1, habitual thinking with a System 2 reminder.
Show me your effort
If you are in professional services and occasionally get push back on your pricing, it means your customer is not convinced of your value. Here are some tips on how to bolster your stocks:
- Talk about other projects you’ve worked on and the challenges you faced in coming to a solution. Get them to feel you have ‘rolled up your sleeves’ before so they know you have what it takes;
- Sketch out a project timeline including key milestones so they get a feel for what’s happening even when you are not with them;
- If they haven’t seen you much, send through short progress updates via email to assure them you are working on their project;
- Create artefacts of your effort. For instance, take photos of your brainstorming and share them with your client (see example below); and
- In your debrief, mention any ideas you discarded along the way — don’t just tell them the answer, take them through the permutations it took to get there. Your goal is to give them a sense of the effort you have expended (this is like moving the shampoo).
Similar lessons can be applied to products too. Talking about the provenance of the product, how many hours it takes to manufacture, the craftsmanship involved, and/or its special characteristics can enhance perceptions of value.
Don’t take your value for granted
In short, if you take your skills and expertise for granted, your customer will too. While whatever you do may come relatively easily to you, you are being employed because it doesn’t come easily to others. Show a little of what you have expended and your customer will value you for it.