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Getting Paid Sooner: The Art of Being Serious

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Most people who work for themselves have been there. You labor for many hours or you provide a product, and then you wait for the money.

Maybe you send a bill right away, or you try to wait a few days so that you don’t look frantic. Either way, you keep going to the mailbox looking for a check.

But that’s not what we want. Wouldn’t it be nice to be paid sooner?

Please Pay First Sign

© Flickr user Gretchen Caserotti

I’m going to tell you how. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freelancer, run a consulting firm, act as a reseller or even represent a network marketing company. But first—let me ask you a question:

How many times have you had a detailed conversation about what you do with someone who was not a serious buyer?

It’s at least once. And if you’re actively marketing your business, it’s probably happened at least once this week. Why does this happen? Why do we talk to people who don’t really want to buy from us? The answer may not be what you think…

Step 1: Don’t Be Afraid of Always Selling

Part of the reason is that it that we are afraid of seeming like we’re always selling. We like spending time with friends and family, and so we try to make business conversations more personal. We don’t want to talk nuts and bolts, prices and terms. We just want to have a friendly interaction.

But in most places where commerce happens, people are far more serious about doing business. Sure, you can be “just looking” at a department store. But it’s much harder to go into a grocery store, glance at a few prices and leave.

An even better example is a restaurant. Once you are seated at your table, you are certain to have a transaction. The prices are on the menu. The server is going to try to sell you the special. They are going to try to upsell you on drinks. They are going to try to add-on dessert. And they are going to invite you back for another visit, possibly with a coupon.

This is the first and most crucial step. You’re always selling. You aren’t necessarily selling the product yet, but you are selling the chance to have an appointment to talk about the product. So how do you to this?

Business meeting

© Flickr user Northern Ireland Executive

Step 2: Confirm They are Serious about Paying

You can go to networking meetings, call up prospects, go to fundraisers or visit with colleagues all day long. None of these activities are necessarily doing business. Instead, they are ways to have a casual conversation in a business environment.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them. It just means that the next step is to have a serious business conversation. And people who are serious about business are serious about paying.

What would happen if you were to ask a prospect if you should bring your standard contract to the first meeting?

They might say, “No, I am not ready to see your contract.” In which case, you might want to send them some marketing material instead of taking time to drive to their offices.

What if you’re a freelance writer and you structure your fees so that they include one meeting a month? If so, shouldn’t you bill the client for the first meeting? In that case, you probably want to make sure to explain this information before you meet with prospects. People who don’t like the idea of paying for your time won’t waste your time by meeting with you.

This brings me to another lesson about valuing your time and expertise…

Step 3: Confirm They are Serious about Negotiating

It might seem funny to bring up negotiation. Most people hope they won’t ever have to negotiate. But really, negotiation is something you want to happen. It gets you closer and closer to understanding the real needs of your customers.

Think of it this way. You probably know the old rule that says “never have all your eggs in one basket.” It’s important for prospects and salespeople to be able to walk away. If you absolutely have to make a deal, then you have no room to negotiate. On the other hand, if you have lots of options then you have a great deal of interest in negotiation.

It’s the people who aren’t serious that aren’t interested in negotiating or in closing a deal. That means you can find out who really wants to buy your products by making an offer. For example, you can trade delaying your work for a cheaper price. “Want to reserve our team for next month? We can offer you a discount if you pre-pay.”

You can also do what professional service providers do: expect the money to be on the table. That’s a painful lesson for anyone who has ever done work that never received payment.

What’s next? Come back next time for the second half of this post, in which I explain why seeing the money is essential in the sales process.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


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