Just Say It

Everything has a price. No, I’m not being dramatic, cynical, or salty after paying too much for my vanilla latte. I’m stating a fact about professional services. They cost. And because most people who provide them have worked very hard to get where they are and care about excellence — instead of being just good enough — I’m quite OK with the cost structure.

Except when people seem embarrassed by it.

I’ve recently had to shop for some professional business services. It’s sensitive stuff, so it’s important that I find an attorney who is not just excellent, but in my comfort zone. I don’t expect to ‘click’ with everyone I meet.

But as a professional who knows her worth, and who knows about selling, it’s hard not to notice when another pro clearly hasn’t thought through the implications of sales in their practice.

Two lawyers I met recently had two things in common:

  1. Neither quoted their fee. They coughed it up when I asked, and attached a roundabout, and drawn out, explanation of why they charge it.
  2. Gender. Sadly, but not surprisingly, they both were women.

As you might guess, I sense a connection between these facts. Many female professionals — too many, I’d argue — engage prospective clients as if they’re hoping money just won’t get talked about.

Argh. Ladies (and gents), just say it: ‘I charge XX per hour/project/session’. Fill in the blanks and lay it out there. Practice in the mirror if that helps. But before the client leaves the first session, say it. It’s your job.

I’d argue that there is one imperative each for the professional and the prospective client regarding The Number. It’s the professional’s responsibility to quote the price without being asked.

The prospective client, if so inclined, can ask for a cost breakdown. The professional has the office, license, practice and status, all earned. When asked, they should respectfully explain the breakdown. But there is no need to justify the price.

And there certainly is no cause for embarrassment. The evasiveness of those two attorneys would not be enough for me to disqualify them on its own. But the professional relationship is based in part on trust. I’m inclined to believe that both women are still fighting with old messaging that drones about the inappropriateness of asking for things, being too focused on money, yada yada. But other prospects might pick up on the money discomfort and interpret it as something more insidious; this undermines trust, which carries far more serious implications that plain old discomfort.

I’m still shopping. I might even choose one of these lawyers after all. But please, folks, don’t give me a five minute explanation (justification) of your prices. Just quote the fee already and leave it at that. If you’re really as good at your work as you say you are, the numbers can speak for themselves.

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