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People expect to buy my expertise with a cup of coffee

2010 August 5

When people present themselves as potential clients and invite you to ‘exploratory meetings’ or old acquaintances say they would ‘like to catch up’, it is easy to be seduced into giving away expertise that has real value. In my latest article on the top-consultant website I suggest some strategies for deterring ‘time-wasters’ while still engaging people who represent genuine opportunities.

Rod Silva of San Diego [@rfsilva123] said, “Read this from 12boxes, its worth your time”. Tony Restell [@tonyrestell] tweeted that it was “an interesting take on dealing with this consulting headache” and Clive Griffiths [@igriff] tweeted that you could “add free coaching”.

I would like to mention that the article was partly inspired by a heartfelt entry in the blog of  Karima-Catherine, the founder of Three.angels marketing, a Montreal based Business, Marketing and Social Media consultancy. However, to avoid any confusion, I ought to make clear that she did not pose the question on which the article was based.

Read the article for yourself. Comment below and share how you deal with this problem.

  • Trevor Lee

    Re 'free' consultancy. I offer another variant that might be useful in some, if not all, cases.

    If you feel that value has been created in mainly one direction, and that there was no pre-condition for billing, then there is nothing from stopping one making a point by subsequently billing at the correct hourly rate and then discounting that amount by 100%.

    It reminds the recipient of the value whilst signalling that it was 'free' but with an obvious sub-text.

    Clearly the whole business of relationship building needs to be considered so the desired outcome should be considered before implementation.

  • malcolm12boxes

    Thanks for an interesting idea Trevor. I'd like to suggest a minor variant that would achieve the effect you are seeking but avoid surprising your contact. How would it be if you agreed in the meeting that value had been transferred?

    For example, you might say, “It seems from what you are saying that this meeting has been useful in helping you make some important decisions about (whatever you have been talking about). Normally, I would charge for a consultation like this, but of course, we had not come to any agreement beforehand, so it would be quite wrong to spring that on you now. However, I would like to give you an idea of how I would work professionally should you or a colleague decide to have a similar conversation in the future. May I send you a bill, setting out what a meeting like this would normally cost, but with an introductory discount on the final amount of 100% so there is actually no charge to you?”

    This article [] contains an example at the end where charging for an exploratory proposal resulted in the client placing business. Your idea is an interesting half-way house. Thanks again for the thought.