By Andrew Neitlich

Be an equal

By Andrew Neitlich

When you talk with prospects, do you put yourself on equal footing with them? If you do, without being obnoxious or gimmicky, chances are that you earn their respect and make them more likely to hire you.

Here are examples:

– I’m sourcing out a product in China and numerous suppliers are bidding. One supplier stood out by insisting on having a prototype (others worked off of pictures). When I resisted, they thanked me for my time. I was impressed, and saw them as a vendor that would take a quality look at my needs. I sent a sample.

– An IT vendor in a bidding process told me the scope of a project was unreasonable, and that he probably couldn’t help me — while other vendors didn’t push back at all. He explained why he thought my scope was unreasonable, and how to solve that problem. He was so compelling I hired him.

– A potential client came to me asking me to help them with a problem. I told them that they weren’t getting to the root cause of their problem, and gave them my judgment about what their real problem was and how to address it. They hired me.

– I know a professional who turns down 4 projects for every one he accepts. He looks for projects with very specific criteria. As a result, he sets himself up for success, gets great clients, and terrific referrals. He is known as “the guy” in his niche as a result, and can charge premium prices.

This principle doesn’t always lead to work, and that’s not a bad thing. That’s because by being on equal footing, you are more likely to find out when prospects are serious and when they are not. That way, you can spend less time dealing with prospects without a compelling need (because you ask about that), a budget (because you probe to confirm they have budget and authority), or a timeline to move forward (because you ask).

By staying on equal footing, you get the information you need to know whether to pursue a project, and set yourself up to be respected as a colleague and trusted advisor, not a vendor begging for work.

  • drakke

    Nicely illustrated. Conversely, you don

  • aneitlich


  • Looking for projects with a specific criteria is indeed a good strategy. It’s just a question of filtering.

  • I don’t really get the point of ‘the guy’ being choosy as equal footing but I do agree on the principle of always maintaining an equal footing with clients in terms of work/relationship. :)

  • I think also that if you come across as the begging vendor, you are leaving yourself wide open to abuse by the sort of customer who will push as far as they absolutely can until you find yourself developing half the internet in a month for the price of a MacDonalds burger.

  • TheAnarchist

    The more you can mould yourself into that “trusted advisor” position with your clients, the more irreplacable you become to those clients. Therefore, repeat jobs with clients that you (hopefully) like.

  • Ivan

    Well… I totally agree with Andrew on this topic, and it works. I discovered this idea accidentally. Namely, as more and more I got into programming and design I didn’t have time to do as much marketing any more, so my dad started working with me. His knowledge about internet and computers in general is limited, but that seems to be his strength. He knows what can be done, though he has no idea how it is going to be done. So he talks with a customer and then gives me the specs for the project. It works like a charm, and he’s selling like 3 times more than I have before.

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