How To Choose Clients

I was reminded recently of one of Oscar Wilde’s great quotes. “What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Generally we find people are happy to pay the fee for our service.  If they aren’t happy they probably don’t appreciate the value, which in turns means either we aren’t demonstrating the value very well – or they are a cynic.

We are always willing and eager to explain how our fees work. But a client who continually argues about fees might not be someone we want to work with.

When I was a lad, my father would allow me to raid the stationery cupboard of the regional office he ran for a pension company. I particularly liked the binders, covered in fake brown leather (this was the late 1970s, after all).

I was quickly the envy of my school mates, who asked if they too could get hold of these ‘fancy-looking’ binders (this was Somerset, after all). So I released a few more from Dad’s office stationery cupboard, took them to school and sold them for £1.50 each.

Binders from the school shop cost £3, so mine were half price. Most of my peers recognised a bargain and the binders flew out of my yellow canvas rucksack.

There were a few people who had a different view, however. My then girlfriend, for one. As I was about to make a sale to a new customer, she appeared over my shoulder and said “Don’t buy one! He got them for free!”

I never hid the fact I got the binders from my Dad’s stationery cupboard and that was I making profit on each one sold. When people asked ‘where did you get them from’, I told them. Mostly people admired my initiative and focussed on the fact that they were saving money themselves. But those rare few who couldn’t get past the fact that I was making a profit refused to buy them from me. Instead they bought the inferior and more expensive binders from the school shop, actually costing themselves money in order to stop me making money.

The lesson that I took from this was twofold. Firstly, Oscar was right. There are people in this world that will focus on the amount of money something costs and not what the product or service they purchase gives to them.

The second lesson was that you don’t actually have to deal with those people.  I didn’t bother arguing with my girlfriend and the one or two other people who found it annoying, and instead just I sold my binders to the people who wanted to buy them and who could recognise value for money.

Chris Budd’s novel was released last October. It’s had some pretty good reviews (43 in total).