Are You Worth It? How to Establish the Value of Your Work Even When Times Are Tough

by | Oct 28, 2008

Why do some businesses survive in tough economic times while others fail?
One explanation is that people keep buying necessities, like groceries, but not luxuries, like diamond rings or massage. But that isn’t necessarily the case.
While grocery stores undoubtedly have a priority claim on our pocketbooks, it’s not just our stomachs that determine what we buy.
Simply put, we pay for what we value, and value is a collaboration with your just-right clients.
What Is Value?
Value is the difference between the cost of something and the benefit it confers.
The cost of groceries gets measured against the value of nourishment, and the grocer makes a sale.
The key to continuing to get business when the economy slows down is to demonstrate that the value of your work is greater than the cost.
And the best way to do that is to let your clients demonstrate it for themselves.
How Clients Establish Value
It’s easy enough to understand that the buyer or client establishes the value of putting food on the table. But what if you’re a massage therapist or an image consultant?
While it’s true that people can’t eat a massage or wardrobe consultation, both of these “non-essentials” have deep seated value for the just-right client.
My friend Tom has back pain that used to interfere with his work, Now regular therapeutic massage keeps him flexible, fit, and productive. For Tom, massage is not a luxury, it’s job security.
When Linda could afford shopping as a past-time, she thought hiring an image consultant was a frivolous indulgence. Now that she needs to dress professionally on a budget, she’s realizing how much money she’s wasted on bad choices. Working with a wardrobe consultant has become a necessity.
You see, clients know something you don’t. They know the real reason they pay for products and services like yours.
But they don’t always know that they know it.
It’s your job to get the ball rolling.
Five Keys to Conversations About Value
It’s one thing to understand the concept of value as a collaboration. It’s another thing to have the conversation that gets things going. Somehow, when we sit down to talk, a fog bank seems to move in.
These five keys will help you navigate through the fog.
1. Let go of the result.
2. Be willing to be surprised.
3. Ask questions.
4. Listen.
5. Check your conclusions with the client.
Let Go of the Result
The first and most important key to having conversations abut value is to let go of the result.
A conversation about value is not a sales pitch in disguise. The goal is not to make a sale, but to reveal the value of your work so that the client can make an informed decision about buying.
Every client that walks away from this conversation feeling heart and understood but without buying remains a prospective client and referral source.
Every client you convince to buy who doesn’t benefit from the investment becomes a mill stone.
Be Surprise-able
If you were crystal clear about the value your work provides clients from their point of view, you wouldn’t need to read this article.
Since you aren’t crystal clear, open your mind. Drop your preconceptions about value. Let the client surprise you. (And you can surprise them by really listening. But I’m getting ahead of myself.)
Ask Questions
Your job in the conversation about value is to ask questions, not to answer them.
Imagine that you are helping a friend make an important decision. Instead of giving advice, ask questions that help your friend, in this case, a prospective client, articulate what’s most important to them.
* What do they want to achieve?
* Why is that important?
* What’s in the way of achieving that?
* What can they build on?
* If they could have any kind of help they wanted, what would that look like?


If you aren’t asking a question, your mouth should be closed. And if you don’t know what to ask, silence can be okay, too. I guarantee that when you stay silent longer than it’s comfortable, your client will start talking. And the best part is that what they say will be coming from them, not from you.
Check Your Conclusions with the Client
Periodically stop and review what you’ve heard with the client. This gives them a chance to clarify or elaborate. It will show you where you may have imposed your thinking on theirs. And it will suggest new questions to ask.
That’s it. No selling. No pressure. Just an open mind, interested inquiry, and careful listening.
Value Is a Collaboration
When it comes right down to it, the value of your work emerges from a collaboration between you and your just-right clients. What’s more, this collaboration begins long before you are hired.
Start asking questions and listening to the people you’d love to work with. Watch the value emerge. And watch your client list grow.