I built analytical applications, dashboards, and reports for Fortune 500 companies that run on the SAP Platform.
Why does it seem like job offers only come when you’re busy on a project? Alex Jones, Managing Director of Mindset Consulting, shares his experience as a hiring manager along with his surprisingly effective prospecting tips.[Read more…] about 010: Overcoming the Resource Challenge w/ Alex Jones
Over the past year, I’ve connected to more freelancers that ever before and one thing that’s common among the people that I’ve spoken to is this we are all struggling with some aspect of our business.
And it doesn’t matter where your expertise may be. I’ve spoken to programmers, data migration specialists, owner of web agencies, and they are all working to climb up onto that next platform in the ladder of success.
One friend, in particular, has had phenomenal growth in this transition from a technical worker to one who is moving onto a higher level of consulting where he is helping large companies think more strategically about their ERP systems.
In this podcast, Anthony flips the question on it’s head and asks “Is the fear of success that’s holding back your business”? So expand that idea some and what you can do about it.
Here’s my conversation with Anthony English.
Connect with Anthony
How do work with clients who are afraid to upgrade their systems and how do you break through that inertia barrier?
In this episode of Experts and Influencers, Tristan Bailey, Anthony English, and I share our ideas on how to have that conversation to get the stakeholders on board.
It’s important to articulate what are the fears around making some technical change and address their concerns around the risk of making changes to a website, the infrastructure, or a business process.
As technical people, we may be very comfortable speaking from the technical angle, but the more deeply we understand the business and personal motives of the decision makers, the more likely it is that we can create a result that will be better suited for them.
Here’s my conversation with Tristan Bailey and Anthony English
Connect with Anthony & Tristan
This a challenge that I’ve seen my colleagues struggle as they consider moving from full-time employment to freelance work and one that I’ve faced myself as I transition from project implementation to selling.
In this episode of “Experts and Influencers“, I welcome back my good friends Anthony English, an Enterprise Installation and Data Migration Expert from Sydney, Australia, and Tristan Bailey, owner of a Web Development Agency from Brighton in the United Kingdom to share their thoughts on …
- Their Transition from Implemention to Selling
- Networking tips to understand business challenges
- How to overcome the Imposter Syndrome
- How to convince yourself to charge more
Here’s my discussion with Anthony and Tristan …
How do you convince yourself to charge more?
Brennan Dunn on How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Connect with Anthony & Tristan
|Hau:||Welcome back to our podcast. Today we have Anthony English and Tristan Bailey. This podcast will be more introspective. We’re going to look at how we deal as consultants, as freelancers, as we transition from hands-on keyboards, developers and technology strategists to a bit more of the marketing and selling side of the house. Anthony, I think you had a recent win that I think is very interesting. Would you mind sharing that with us?|
|Anthony:||I did, yeah. Hau and Tristan, welcome. Yeah, look, pricing, and value, and fear, and confidence, it seems to be the flavor of the month. Because we all are aware that we’re probably underpricing, and it’s really difficult to break through the barrier, isn’t it?|
|Tristan:||Indeed. Trying to fill that number, trying to find the right number is always a wonder when you move into a new client’s work.|
|Anthony:||I had a win recently where I was able to demonstrate the value even before discussing pricing. I was able to demonstrate the value, and that was so important to me. Demonstrating the value to the client, while I was actually on site speaking to them about things that were way outside my field but speaking about their pain in terms that they understood. That really positioned me in a great way to feel very, very confident to, shall we say, push the envelope a little bit when it came to the price, because the client was able to see the value extremely clearly.|
|Hau:||Got you. Have you noticed that the more conversations you have with stakeholders at these companies, do you find your confidence growing in terms of your value proposition and communicating what you can bring to the table, and then later on justifying that with a number?|
|Anthony:||Yes, it’s really been extraordinary, because I’m there just trying to heal their pain, trying to absorb their pain. Understanding that, even if it’s not an actual hands-on technical look that I’m doing, it’s been very liberating because they … I’m simply mirroring back. It’s just like good copy-writing. I’m mirroring back to them the exact concerns and pains that they’re having, and they’re sort of saying, “This guy gets us. He understands.”|
|Hau:||Got you. One thing I’ve struggled with, this is with a former client where I’ve demonstrated value previously and I worked in the capacity of I’m their temporary for-hire architect where I provide guidance, and support, and direction. This former client came back almost two to three years later. They’re now moving into an upgrade project where they need to revamp their systems, and they’re looking for additional guidance and support.|
|The trouble I had, even though I’ve demonstrated value with them before, has always been the pricing of it. I’ve seen what other larger agencies charge, and because I’m a smaller, independent consultancy, maybe with an additional resource, I don’t feel as comfortable asking for that dollar monetary amount. Anthony, how you get around that uncomfortable discussion when it comes to money? Have you found one approach, or have you found that through repetition does it get easier when you do that?|
|Anthony:||It gets easier, but it’s a totally different mindset. Tristan, you run an agency I think, so you’ve got a few people working with you. Is that right?|
|Tristan:||Indeed. I have a couple of people who work for me. I mean I still did have the mindset of, “Look, I’m independent, I can just price out my own rate. I’ve worked out my hourly rate, and that’s what I feel like I price out.” I’ve been reevaluating that this year, and thinking when I’ve worked with agencies I’ve known that they’ve priced out at sort of three or four times a multiple per worker, because that’s their running cost for the show, because it’s got to cover other things.|
|I think I’ve transitioned to that as working out my own multiple for the business, because if you do only run on this lean hourly rate that you have of your own, you don’t get anywhere and you don’t get the growth, and you’re not really returning the value to the customer. Once you’re a consultant, you are Xing up that value for them and you should represent that in your own communications too.|
|Hau:||That’s really interesting what you’ve just said about representing the value to the customer. This is the mindset shift that I have been through extremely recently, which is instead of saying, “Well, my costs are not that high, and I’m struggling, and I’m waiting for the next invoice to get paid, that sort of thing,” instead of that, I’ve convinced myself that I need to charge more. We can post in the show notes an article from Andy Adams, a friend of mine who said, “Look, you really need to talk yourself into charging more, and here’s how to do it.”|
|It’s a very interesting article in getting through that mindset of how do I convince myself that I should charge more and I shouldn’t just be, “Oh, well I don’t have these big expenses, these big offices and so on.” Also, the big mindset shift is to say instead of how much my cost is and add something on, or instead of looking at market rates and saying, “Now I’m going to add something or be a little bit less than the other guys,” you’ll stop talking about yourself and start talking about the client and what’s the value to them. Because you’re never going to outprice the value. If you convince yourself that you are providing value, then you can charge more.|
|Hau:||I think you hit on a very important key part is that it’s hard to convince yourself when you don’t have the next opportunity or set of projects in your pipeline, when you’re going through that famine phase of the cycle. I think that’s something that a lot of people like myself struggle with. That’s where we ignore the need for building up that pipeline. We don’t maybe network as much or do our outreach as often as we should, and then you put yourself in that position. Wouldn’t you agree?|
|Anthony:||Oh, yeah. One of the difficulties is that if you’ve only got one option then that’s really an ultimatum. That’s the same thing with pricing. If I say to you how I’m going to charge you $100 for this book or for this service that I’m providing you, that’s an ultimatum. If I give you some options and you can clearly see the difference in value between option one, and two, and three, then it’s easier for you. You don’t feel constrained. The same thing with one client. If you’ve got only one client then you’re bound to that. If you’ve got other options, if you know that you’ve got other clients who are knocking on your door, then it’s so much easier to say no.|
|Hau:||I agree. This may be more of a Tristan question, just because he’s running a group, a consultancy. Tristan, I’ve always in my last I would say 15 years, I’ve done 100 percent consulting where I’ve been at one client at a time, and I’ve run into the feat and famine cycle consistently. Of course, after a while you get tired of that, and you want to transition and get off of that track. How do you juggle? Not only are you managing multiple clients I’m assuming, but also multiple employees. How do you juggle that situation?|
|Tristan:||I think I was sort of more used to this internally when there was other people, that it’s not your responsibility, but moving in and the last few years running my own shop it did take an internal process of growth to get to that point that I felt that I was actually taking it on. Because I took in a lot of projects that I would maybe have two or three running at the same time, but they’d be different time schedules so that maybe not all the work was needed at the same time. There’s this concept of you can only wear one hat at a time.|
|I had a good discussion with another consulting friend, and he persuaded me of this fact that you can only be the business owner, or the salesperson, or the person doing the work. In my case, the developer. You can’t be both of those at the same time. There are two reasons. One, if you talk to the customer they will have the concept that you are one of these things, and they will talk to you in that way and they will present things in that way.|
|If you try and put the other hat on while you’re talking to them, in the same sort of conversation, they will get confused or they will think you’re trying to play them off against different things, because obviously the business owner and the project manager is trying to get more work in, is trying to generate business or maybe allocate work out as a project manager type role, whereas the worker is trying to go from A to B and get the work finished. They sometimes find that confusing as to that you maybe are trying to pull a fast one on them or something.|
|The personal transition that I had, so this is the conversation that I had with the customers but also taking on that yourself internally, if you’re working … It was very easy for me to sit down and plan out all the projects, and go, “All right, I’ve got these two projects on, and this needs to be done and this needs to be done.” It would be the end of the day, and I’d realized I hadn’t done any of the work.|
|You can’t wear those two hats for yourself too. You’ve got to plan the work or you’ve got to do the work. That transition came when I took the effort to employ someone, because then I had the faith and therefore that reassured me that was someone was still working. I could take the time to the project management, because that didn’t mean that everything else stopped.|
|Hau:||That’s fascinating, Tristan. You know that the engine is still running, even though you’re getting out to look at the map or something else. Wow.|
|Tristan:||Mm-hmm (affirmative), but I did have to feel that I had to structure the project in my own sense and my own time scales, and I do have to consider it in a slightly different way to have this other person working for me, but it definitely allows having multiple projects running or time to do planning and time to do work, and you don’t feel like you’re chasing the rate.|
|Hau:||It sounds like once you made that transition, Tristan, you weren’t switching your hats in the same conversation with the clients at this point. Is that correct? Or you would come in only as the business owner or the project manager?|
|Tristan:||Yeah, so I’d had visibility of that a little bit before. When I’d been working with one agency I was always paired with a technical project manager when we’d go to client meetings. It was so much more efficient, and the level of stress and the planning dropped when we were in these meetings, because if me as the [inaudible 00:13:22] worker, the developer, we sat there and the client asked, “Can we have this changed?” It was very hard for me to say, “No, I can’t do that this week,” because obviously I’m the one who was going to do it, so it sounds like I’m just saying I won’t do it.|
|Compared to when the technical manager was there, he would say, “I’d have to look at the schedule, I’ll schedule it,” type thing, and they were totally accepting of that. I get that same feeling now doing that myself, is I can just be talking to them and we just have the concepts that other people are going to be working on it. It’s not just me. It makes the conversation more natural. I’m talking to them as a business person and they’re a business person, rather than they feel they need to manage me. That’s probably the key thing.|
|Anthony:||Yeah, isn’t that significant, because our tendency as technical people, maybe as creative people is that we tend to be measuring things on how fast we’re typing and how much we can get done in that sense, but there is a huge value to many clients in terms of strategy. Strategy sounds like all very abstract and so on, but being able to say, “Actually, I think that maybe we shouldn’t even be doing this in the first place. I know I’m actually going to get like bucket loads of money from you if we take on this project,” but to have the confidence to say, “Look, I’m so convinced of your value I’m willing to…” In fact, this is what I do now when I meet clients, is I try and talk them out of giving me a job. That’s a fascinating conversation.|
|Tristan:||How so there, with that, Anthony?|
|Anthony:||I stole this from Jonathan Stark, on value-based pricing. I talk myself out of … I try and talk them out of giving me a job. I say, “Look, couldn’t you do this yourselves? Can’t you go to Fiverr.com or to some recruitment agency? Do you really need to do this in the first place? Do you really need to do this now? Is it really that urgent?” Really drilling down to find out why this project needs to be done now, and that very quickly turns into a, “We really, really need to do this. We need to do it now, and you are the only person in the world who can do this.” That obviously affects pricing and all sorts of things. It’s a wonderful conversation to have, is to have somebody talk your way out of giving you the job and then they basically beg you to stay.|
|Tristan:||Are you sort of creating a sense of urgency and raising that value?|
|Anthony:||I’m raising the value; I wouldn’t call it a sense of urgency. It’s not like I’m walking away like I do with my children and say, “I’m walking away. I’m leaving the park now. You better come.” No, it’s not so much that. It’s more really getting to the heart of the matter, getting to find out what the real pain is and the real problem is that they may not have realized themselves.|
|Hau:||I was going to say, Anthony, for the folks listening, most of my audience is technical in nature and most of our colleagues are very technical in nature. When you talk about talking to the business or talking in business terms in ways that they understand, we’re very comfortable knowing what we know, but how do you make that transition from the technical side to the business side without feeling like you’re an impostor? How do you get comfortable in that shell?|
|Anthony:||This has been an extremely recent development for me, as in just the last maybe six weeks, where I’m now aiming not for technical people reaching out to my peers but for reaching out to the decision makers. Once again, it comes down to understanding their pain and articulating their pain rather than focusing on my technical skills, or how we’re going to get there, or speaking of my technical experience. It’s a very different conversation, but basically in short I would say just don’t talk technically.|
|Hau:||I think you hit a good point. In a previous conversation I think you suggested to me this is not a technical interview. You’re not going in there as an interview, you’re going in there to understand their business pains. Maybe, if I could relate this to something that Tristan has done recently with his I think manufacturing conference, where I think you were there to network but not in the traditional sense, Tristan. You went there to understand what business challenges most of these companies were facing. Is that right?|
|Tristan:||Yeah, indeed. I went around the floor at the conference they had on the side and then the show floor. There was many directors and sales managers were operating the stands, rather than just sort of hired PR staff. I took my five questions with me and surveyed the floor, as much as interviewing people for potential business, and also using that as a way of striking up conversations with people. It’s quite interesting how open and clear people would be with their strategy or their plan for the rest of the year as to whether they were into larger volumes of orders or [inaudible 00:19:31].|
|Hau:||That’s great. Can I ask you to share maybe one or two of those five questions for the folks listening? I know networking itself is a topic that strikes fear into a lot of technical people’s souls.|
|Hau:||Sure. It sounds like Anthony might have some advice to give.|
|Tristan:||Also, with the networking, I had not done any networking at all up until maybe six weeks ago. Nothing in terms of face-to-face. It was a huge change, a huge benefit for me to be able to meet business owners, and sometimes for very small businesses and really not my market at all, but because I happened to bamboozle them by doing something really magic like look up their website on my iPhone, it just blew them away. “Wow, this guy’s an IT guru,” because I looked it up on the spot while I was there, when they said, “We’ve got a problem with our website.”|
|Now, I don’t do websites, but I just looked it up while I was there, on my phone, and they were shocked. They were just, “Wow, this is the guy to go to for computer problems.” I couldn’t believe it. That was enough then to say, “Look, tell me what’s your biggest challenge. Do you use Excel, Outlook?” Everybody’s got a problem with cutting and pasting from email to Excel. Some tiny little thing that has got nothing to do with my field, because I work on the big IBM back-end systems for really big companies. Still, it built an enormous amount of trust in a very short time.|
|Did that actually lead to sales? Indirectly, yes, because I met somebody then who introduced me to somebody else, who I’ve not networked with and we’ve spoken about different clients. Anyway, it has led to it, but indirectly and not directly.|
|Hau:||It’s funny how things work, because I think early on I felt a lot of pressure networking, because I was operating under the pretense that you’re supposed to pass out business cards and out of so many business cards you might hit one sale. I think that there was a lot of pressure if you try to close the deal in the traditional sense, but I’m now finding out…|
|Anthony:||You might as well…|
|Anthony:||You might as well take a box of engagement rings with you and just keep asking people until one of them decides to marry you.|
|Hau:||Tristan, what’s your thought on networking?|
|Tristan:||I think I’ve taken it from a different point of view. It may be a younger person’s thing or something. I find myself being very social, social media and stuff, or just that sense of reaching out, because you’re working with technical people and it’s good to reach out to other people or just learn new things. I feel moving to consultancy definitely benefited from all those connections I’d made, the thinking of doing it for four or five years before that, just sort of local user groups, and conferences, and different pieces, just going and just adding people as friends, and growing that.|
|Things take a long time. My advice to other people and the learning that I took from doing it myself is when you are doing consulting and doing the networking sort of thing, or even cold outreach to different clients, meetings and things you’ve had, they may pay off in the short term but usually it will take an average of six months or maybe even a year or more before the things will pay back off. People don’t usually have an instant need for a project, or a thing, or something else, and most of the referrals I’ve actually got are friends of friends. That’s the thing that I value. You talk to a person at a meet-up, they’ll then think of you when they’re talking another time and bring the lead back to you.|
|Anthony:||Yeah, that’s exactly it. I’d agree with that, Tristan, is that they will think of you because there is some angle, something they felt that you understood and that probably nobody else in the world understands. I think Pat McKenzie, pattyo11 his name is online, I think he says he belonged to an elite group of one. That really comes back down to my point of talking your way out of a job.|
|Really, that seems almost sneaky and seems counterproductive, but in fact what you’re doing is you’re eliminating your fear. You’re focusing on the value, and what you’re doing is you’re trying to say, “Let us really, really focus, let us really hone in on the problem that we’re trying to solve here,” and then your pricing, and then your confidence, it all sort of comes together that I’m willing to say, “This is what I do, this is what I don’t do, are we actually a good fit? Do you really need this done? Why do you really need it done? I really want to understand, even better than you do, I want you to articulate for yourself what problem we’re solving here.”|
|It’s been extremely liberating and extremely effective. I had even just a one-hour session with somebody on the phone yesterday, and it was easily the best amount of networking I’ve done in a month.|
|Hau:||Wow. That sounds like a great topic for another podcast. If I could somehow tie all this together, it sounds like maybe this is something a lot of the listeners can relate to. In terms of confidence, whether it’s approaching a new client with a pricing sheet or reaching out to new folks at a networking event, it sounds like confidence is the underlying theme here. I think, Anthony, you mentioned this before, and it was a great quote. The first person you have to convince is yourself, in terms of your value, in terms of what you can bring to the table. Is that right?|
|Anthony:||Yeah, very much. Look, we’ll post also in the show notes a video from Brennan Dunn, the founder of doubleyourfreelancing.com, and we’re all members of that. Brennan speaks about impostor syndrome, and having that confidence to charge really some amazing … It’s not big-noting yourself, it’s saying, “Look, even in spite of my lack of confidence, I can tell you the value for your business and that’s why I’m willing to charge this much.”|
|Hau:||Tristan, is that something similar to what you discovered once you transitioned from say the developer technical person speaking to the client but now you’ve elevated yourself to the business project manager role? Have you found that also to help in terms of reaching out to new customers or at least proposing pricing to these customers?|
|Tristan:||I think, yeah, going back to the point from a little bit earlier, just having that. I’ve raised my own personal confidence by having employees, even though in a sort of small scale, that I know I’ve got capacity, I’ve got an understanding of what’s going on.|
|Then that concept of if you are the best target market of one, it’s because you’ve niched down. If you can niche down in your own self, you can have a confidence, you’re repeating a pattern, and you’re showing that the value is the best that you can offer. That’s certainly given me a sort of personal confidence to have these conversations with people, because I know the end result I’m looking for, I know the yes or the confirmation at the end of the conversation I’m looking for, and therefore I know where I can go with pricing that to get out the other side with success for them.|
|Hau:||Yeah, that’s awesome. I think it’s incredible how although the three of us work in three different capacities and different technologies, we’re still dealing and we’re still working through the same issues and challenges that other folks who haven’t been on the consulting side or are at least thinking to move from full-time employment to consulting, that’s something they have to work through also. I think that’s great. Thank you for sharing with us.|
|Tristan:||We’re all putting our businessman hats on. We’re all becoming businessmen. We’re not technical specialists, we’re meeting the customer and the client on their playing field, as we are fellow business people that can offer this skill. We have a product that we’re selling, but we’re meeting them on their side.|
|Anthony:||Yeah, that’s exactly right, Tristan. When I as a technical person wanted to jump into, “Well, I suppose I better learn something new technical, where the world is going now.” I’ve stopped doing that and I’m now focusing on the business side, and it’s been extremely valuable, liberating, and good for the client, good for myself, everything. We’ve covered a lot today, haven’t we? It’s been a wonderful topic. Are we going to tell our listeners that we basically picked this topic with about a minute to go?|
|Tristan:||Well, it’s obviously dear to our hearts.|
|Hau:||Yes, exactly, and I think this is a great way to end the show on a great note, the fact that once you make that transition to yourself, the mindset shift, the opportunities unlock and you’re no longer racing and chasing with other competitors to the bottom of the pricing well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, guys. I really appreciate it.|
|Anthony:||Thank you, Hau.|
|Tristan:||Yeah, thanks very much.|
In a follow-up to his article, Anthony walk us through the 2 must-have components in your IT disaster recovery plan.