I spoke to a woman back in December who asked me to speak at an event for the company she works for this coming August. We came to a verbal agreement in principle, and I offered to send her documentation (a contract). She insisted that we use her company’s contract instead, and that we could get all the paperwork (contract + money) done after the first of the year. We could reconnect in January.
We talked again in January. She told me we would need to push the paperwork date back by a month — this happens sometimes, so no big deal. After I tried contacting her for a month after this new let’s-reconnect date, she finally emailed me back.
The message was, essentially, that they (her company) needed to make better sense of their investment in me, and proposed that I present twice instead of once (the original plan) — on Tuesday and Wednesday.
While I would normally be excited to present twice — more people will see me, two presentation videos, and twice the money for twice the work — there was a catch: They didn’t want to pay anything more than what we’d originally agreed to. She was proposing that I do twice the work, and invest twice the time, for the same amount of money.
You don’t need to know anything about the professional speaking or event business to know that doesn’t make sense.
I spoke to her and went over the top of the proposed problem, which was her company’s (alleged) lack of funds: You’re not hiring me as a speaker because of my price, but because of my value. You want Dre Baldwin on stage, do you not? If it’s just about money, I reasoned, her and her company could easily find some local guy or girl who would come give a speech for free (no speaking fee, and local = no flight + hotel costs). Why even talk to me if it’s not me you want?
The woman agreed with my reasoning, but cautioned that she had to speak to her supervisor before any official agreement could be consummated, and it would be a month before she would get back to me about it (why it would take a money to get a yes/no from your boss, is anyone’s guess; my assumption is this was a negotiating ploy).
Cool, I said.
She emailed back 3 days later (surprise). This time her offer was that I do both sessions, plus she’d have her in-house video team film my presentations. She even shared what the “retail value” of her video team’s work was; the number was ridiculous enough to be funny.
I replied that the offer was unacceptable, and reiterated that she could easily find a no-fee speaker if her main goal was saving money. In my mind, I was done with even considering doing the event.
She replied though, stating that we should just stick to our original agreement. She even included a contract with all the details, that just needed my signature. She’d need my bio and headshot for the conference program, too. She was assuming the sale.
Ok, let’s stop here and review the situation.
- We had a verbal agreement.
- She changed her mind and made me a lesser offer.
- I declined the lesser offer.
- She came back, offering to stick with the original agreement.
What would you do at this point?
I’ll tell you what I was thinking.
To me, the “renegotiation” offer she’d made was her guessing that I’d be happy just to be there and would accept anything she threw at me. Maybe three years ago, I would’ve said yes to it. But now? Hell to the No.
I replied with an offer of my own: Double the original agreement’s price, plus the video team. I would accepting nothing less.
They may turn down my offer and maybe I will never appear at any of their events. And here’s the thing: that’s perfectly OK.
For Your Game
- Have a value standard: Whomever cannot meet it, we cannot work together, period. Charity is charity, and business is business. If you let people water down your value, trust me, they will — all the way down to $0. Know what your value is, why your value is what it is, and be ready to justify that value (covered in The Seller’s Mindset). There must come a point for you, that an entity who cannot pay your price, simply will have to do without your product. Can’t chase every customer for fear of losing one. Sometimes it’s good to lose the wrong ones so you can get the right ones.
- Business people — owners, managers, accountants, whomever else — all have the habit of crying broke, i.e., claiming they don’t have the money when they very well do have the money. Why do they do it, then, you ask? To save money (they’re human, and many humans have a hard time parting with money — even when it’s not even their money to begin with) and because it works: Crying broke often works to get people to lower their prices. You will either sell your own value, or be sold by this lie. And the results will show on your business’s’ bottom line.
- Don’t talk money with people who don’t even have the power to cut a check. This is the mistake I made in this situation. This woman was/is a middleman: She can talk about money, and do her best to conserve it, but has zero authority to spend it. If you want to make money, talk to a person who’s capable and authorized to spend it.
When were you last challenged on your value, and how did you handle it? What would you have done differently? Reply and let me know.