Scott is an accomplished real estate professional. He has closed individual deals that have put millions of dollars into his own pocket. He brings a tremendous amount of experience, expertise, and advice to his clients. He knows more about the inner workings of a real estate transaction than just about anyone on the planet. He has been courting a large client for the past eighteen months.
Scott thought about his strategy. His plan was to demonstrate all of his prowess to his client. He would offer advice, share the latest trends, and reach out to them to assist their business beyond the real estate transaction. Scott was convinced that he would establish himself as a trusted advisor, valued resource, and business and real estate expert. After a few months, everything appeared to be working when the client starting calling Scott for advice. They valued his input. After dozens of interactions, a half-dozen introductions, and eighteen months of free advice, the client finally made a real estate transaction. They signed a lease where the broker fee is $250,000. Not a bad day, huh? There is one problem, though. They did not use Scott for the transaction. What happened?
Scott entered into this business relationship under a false pretense. Scott assumed that the client would be so enamored with and appreciative of his support and counsel, that they would naturally do business with him. He introduced them to key strategic partners, referred them to companies that became paying customers, and provided sound guidance in their real estate pursuits. When the client executed the real estate transaction without him, Scott was annoyed and felt betrayed. But, did he have a right to feel that way?
You cannot be angry at your clients for doing something that you didn’t tell them wasn’t OK. Never assume anything. In the above example, Scott assumed several things: 1) The client needed to see his work before making a decision; 2) If he gave a bunch of free advice, they would select his firm; and 3) Giving free advice and making introductions would strengthen his position with the client. There is a difference between demonstrating your expertise and giving away free consulting.
If you go to a surgeon seeking her credentials, she might show you her degree, and perhaps even share with you a patient testimonial. However, when you go to her office considering cosmetic surgery, she is unlikely to polish your nails or perform a small procedure for free to demonstrate her abilities. If she did, would you feel more of less confident in her other services?
This is almost what Scott was doing. It is possible that in working so hard to convince his prospect of his expertise, he might have gotten them to think “why is this guy chasing us so tirelessly? He must really need the business.” So, they probably like Scott, and may even want to send him some business. But, by giving everything away, he may have actually undermined his own agenda. Scott was thinking that by giving them valuable advice, he would earn their respect and business. Regrettably, not so much.
So, what can you do about it?
Manage Expectations: Early in the relationship, Scott could say “I’m happy to offer some services on my nickel so you can get a sense of how we might work together. In short order, we’ll know whether or not I might be able to help you. Within the next sixty days, would you feel comfortable telling me if you don’t think we have a good fit?
Be Direct: Scott could also say “I want to demonstrate how I can add value so that you would be comfortable doing business with me and my firm for your real estate needs. I’m open to working with you for the next 60 days so you can get a sense of where I add value for my clients. After that period, do you feel you’d have enough information to be able to make a decision about working together on a formal basis?
Discover Their Needs for Decisions: Giving free services is something Scott feels would matter to the client. How does he know? Scott could ask the client “What is the best way to help you learn enough about me and my firm to be comfortable making a “yes” or “no” decision about working together? Scott might have gotten input that could have better positioned himself for the sale.
Giving away free consulting and hoping for a contract rarely works out the way you hope it would. Instead, have direct communications to manage expectations, and be sure that you understand how they make decisions. These might help you become outrageously successful targeting and winning business.