If you’re like me, you get requests to barter, negotiate or customize your offerings a lot.
Just this week, two of my clients were asked to reduce their rates and create custom coaching packages.
When your list is massive, your client roster is full, and so is your calendar, declining these types of requests is no-brainer. But what about when you could really use the cash or you’re just hungry for more work?
So how does a coach respond?
Step One: Get very clear about your non-negotiables BEFORE you’re faced with negotiation requests.
For me, one of my non-negotiables is that I DO NOT BARTER. Ever.
Well…unless you’re a designer of fine jewelry, then we can talk. (That has happened two times and I have some of the best, most beautiful jewelry because of it. True story.)
But I have reduced my rates on occasion or customized a client package when it felt right. But bartering (for non-jewelry) is a clear non-negotiable.
To determine your non-negotiables, consider this…
1. When it comes to your pricing, what discount won’t you go below?
2. Are you even willing to discount? (And if the answer is “no,” that’s a-okay.)
3. What’s the maximum amount of time you’re willing to spend for the minimum amount of money you want to make?
4. How much access are you willing to allow the client to have?
5. If you do want to barter, what does that look like?
6. What does your practice need to look like before you stop making exceptions on price and structure?
By getting an idea of what your boundaries are, you can navigate the circumstances easier when they arise.
And they will arise.
As coaches, because we want to help people (and because the income would be nice), we often negotiate against ourselves.
Why? Because we approach special requests with the thought “how can I make it work for them” versus “how can I make this work for me?”
That brings me to…
Step Two: “How can I make this work for BOTH of us?”
One of my coaching clients, I’ll call her Tracy, has a client she’s been working with for several months. Though she enjoys working with them, their demand of Tracy’s time and energy doesn’t leave a lot of flexibility in her schedule.
And time has become a non-negotiable for our friend, Tracy.
When Tracy tried to fire her client, they would not take no for an answer. They love her work so much, that saying goodbye wan a non-negotiable.
Immediately, Tracy began to custom build a package that she felt the client could afford and wouldn’t eat up her every waking hour. But doing this overwhelmed Tracy as she realized that she was honoring her relationship with the client more than her relationship with herself.
My response to Tracy’s conundrum was this: “You already have custom packages! Why not make those their options and take the responsibility of custom building yet another package off your plate? Your packages are already pre-built to work for you, so let your client choose which one works for them. If none of them do, it’s time to move on.”
Tracy was bending over backwards for the client, instead of considering how they could meet in the middle.
Another client, who I’ll call Byron, was getting ready to sign a lucrative, long term contract with a brand new client.
He was very excited.
When it came down to brass tacks and all the paperwork, his client came to him saying, “I don’t know if I’m comfortable with this timeline anymore. Can we shift to a month to month agreement?”
Byron’s immediate thought was to question this client’s level of commitment. He wanted to challenge this client and even question her commitment to her growth.
From my perspective, it makes perfect sense that Byron’s client would feel trepidation about diving into a year long contract before their work had even begun.
In fact, it would actually serve both of them to start with a shorter time frame. Byron and I already knew this client would never want to leave once she was in the coaching process with him. So, all he had to do was remove the thing preventing this client from getting started, which was the mandatory year-long contract.
Perhaps this long-term contract, which Byron had thought was a non-negotiable, IS actually very negotiable…
You don’t have to dig your heels in to do what you think works for you. But you also don’t have to bend over backwards to please every prospect.
You can meet somewhere in the middle, especially when you know what your bottom line looks like.
Step Three: What feels good?
I may seem like someone who has a lot of policies and procedures in place — but, I’ll give you a secret: I wing it every day.
Case and point right here: I hosted a live seminar last week. At the end of my talk, I presented an invitation for a large group program.
My schedule is very demanding and my hourly rate is quite high. I don’t do complimentary sessions or conversations because I just don’t have the bandwidth for it.
That is a non-negotiable for me.
And yet, at the end of my talk, one of the students who signed up for the program said he would really like to schedule a half hour conversation with me because he has a unique situation that he’d like to discuss before he starts the program.
And guess what? I threw my non-negotiable out the window without even thinking about it and said, “Sure!”
Why? I have no idea.
But what I can tell you is, in the moment, that’s what felt good. And though this could be the worst business advice you ever receive, it has always worked for me.
You have to make decisions that feel good. Let your heart lead. That is the place to stand when it comes to navigating prices or building packages with clients present, past, and future.
Your turn. What are your non-negotiables? Let me know below…
Thanks Dallas. I’m not a fan of bartering – it doesn’t “feel right” to me, and I can’t account for it as my business income. Also, my clients have been corporate clients, so I don’t hear about it as much. I shared your article with the iPEC Facebook community. Thanks!
Dallas Travers says
I hear you, Morgan! And thank you for sharing with the iPEC FB community 🙂
Jaime Kalman says
Once again, Dallas, I love your post! Bartering was something that I chose to stop doing a few years into my healing & coaching practice because of 2 reasons: 1. I have a natural tendency to over-deliver anyway, and bartering opened up the possibility of feeling resentful or unbalanced by the end of the transaction period due to boundaries not being as clear and 2. I really value my services that I provide, and I find that my clients who invest in themselves financially are not only more committed, but they are energized and activated by making that financial investment in themselves in a way that helps catapult their results – and what I want more than anything in my business is to see my clients get a return on their investment and really experience profound transformation. SO – because I want my practice to be both peaceful, integrity-based and to create results for my clients, I chose to stop bartering due to the energy that gets activated when a person actually pays for my services. However, all that being said, I am 100% with you on the “go with your good feelings” approach when it comes to making exceptions to my “no bartering” rule. There have been a couple of times where it definitely made sense for me to do a barter because it was mutually beneficial, and I made sure to create a written agreement between myself and the client that detailed the value of the services we were trading and it was all very clear and simple. A great example of this was when I did a barter with the publisher of a holistic magazine who wanted to do a program with me (4 sessions of hypnotherapy & EFT along with coaching) in exchange for a spotlight article in his publication, free ads for 4 months and free listing of my recurring and special events for 4 months. We put it in writing and we both benefited hugely! It was super peaceful and really smooth. Communication was key. When it comes to a client who simply cannot afford my programs, I used to offer a scholarship program (I cannot offer that anymore due to limited availability now that I have a family, so things change in business as our conditions change), or I offered payment plans, or I had lower cost “self-help” options that didn’t require me to trade as much time, such as pre-recorded seminars/workshops with worksheets, or they could join a group tele seminar series that was far more affordable than a private program. And of course there are times when the appropriate thing for me to do was to charge nothing for the service because it was meant to be a love offering – just a gift. That was usually for a client who was in true crisis or emergency state and it had to be under the condition that I was not throwing myself under the bus in order to provide for them. It has to work for both parties because suffering is not required when it comes to exchanging energy and being of service. But when it comes to bartering, you are so right – you just have to check in with your Higher Self and make that call on a case by case basis, but it is such a boost of confidence to be able to have your normal response ready to go when asked to barter.