Red Letter

in Considerations

Dear $client,

I greatly appreciate you are considering my company as a potential partner for your project.

Nevertheless I feel the urge to let you know something about me, and my company.

The big assumption

As an Apple Senior Manager once told me when I was working for a mobile telecomm operator: “We don’t need your money.”. This sentence is the “big assumption” that should regulate our conversation.

When we will meet the first time

If you say to me something like “You know, we like you, but there are a lot of companies out there willing to work with us” you can bet my reply will be: “Yeah, I’m sure about that, and I guess they are as much as the clients willing to work with us. Let’s call it even?”. What you must know is that this is true. I am not bluffing. Lucky us, we can still choose.

Another thing you should not say when talking to me is: “You know, we have our way to do business here.”. Fair enough. I hear you. It will sound strange to you, but we have our way to do business as well. Your statement does not automatically translates to: “You will do everything I ask to close this deal.”.
No, it does not work that way. You should read once again the main assumption, and try a different approach.

I will be very excited to know more about your project and being provided with your brief. Nevertheless I must say that I will not do anything for free. Never. I am sure that I explained in great detail what we do in our company, how we work, and, more importantly, why we work in such a way. If your brief states that I will have to work on something (e.g. creativity proposal, strategy, and so on) that even remotely resemble a program deliverable, you will have to pay for that. Again, we don’t do work for free. If you look at our company, I am sure you have noticed that we are supposed to make money and create value for our shareholders. We are not an NGO.

If you start the meeting talking about money that immediately rings a bell to me. I am already placing you in the list of clients I don’t want to make business with. You should start talking about your business goals and how you think you may hit those goals with the project we are talking about.

The proposal

When I ask you the question “What budget did you allocate for this project?”, and you reply “We have budget for this, but I won’t tell you.”, you are heading directly to the situation where I will fire you as a client.
It is a fair question, and its main purpose is to avoid you and me wasting time. Time is my most precious resource, and I will do whatever is needed to preserve this scarce resource.
You are not answering my question because:

  • you think that whatever the budget is I will make a proposal that will exactly match your budget whatever the scope of the project is.
  • you have no idea of what you need.
  • you don’t have the budget.

No matter what is the case, I’m going to fire you as a client.

The pitch

I think it’s fair enough to ask you who will be attending the pitch meeting. I don’t see any reason you should not give me this information.

As a good professional would do, I have mapped your organization, and I know who is going to be the decision maker, the roles of the different stakeholders and the name of the “boss”.
Everybody will need to be on time, especially the boss. I will not start my pitch since everybody in the attendee list will be in the room. Again, both of us don’t want to waste their time, and mine is as valuable as yours. Now a few words for you, boss. I understand that joining a meeting fifteen minutes after it has started. That’s one of your way to let people know you are the boss. Well, “that doesn’t impresses me much.”. It makes me angry. I know how my reptilian brain works and I have learnt to control it.

I love the work the architects have done on your offices, and the interior design is looking great. That said, I will not wait for you for more than fifteen minutes. I am a very polite guy, and the case is that I may have been standing out of your building the last thirty minutes or so since I hate to be late. You must as polite as I am. There are only few things that will make me accept you are late on your schedule (e.g. a meteorite has hit your house, our country is being invaded and a few more other things). If you are late, I will leave, and I will try to reschedule the meeting. If you feel offended by this, I suggest you go back to the main assumptions.

The negotiation

I like to negotiate, and I can negotiate for ages without starving.

Please note that the meaning of the word negotiation is not a synonym of blackmailing or threatening. If I feel that you are trying to blackmail or threaten me, I will fire you as a client right away.

I know the value of what we do, and I am not keen to give our products and services away for less than they are worth.

You can ask for a discount, but you should not take it for a given. Usually things become more difficult when procurement is involved. More often than you can imagine procurement does not understand what you are trying to buy from me. Your help here is greatly appreciated. The sentence “OK. We are all set. I will now leave you to the procurement for negotiation” is not the right way to deal with it. The procurement guy and myself are playing a comedy, and you are part of the plot!

I welcome compliments and appreciation for our work, but that’s not a shortcut for a discount.

Saying to me that the program we are negotiating is part of a bigger initiative that may be awarded to my company if this first program will be a success will not have any effect on my behavior or my pricing. On the contrary, I will probably increase the pricing since I am sure you will ask for a discount on next programs since you are a recurring client.

Honest. I hate when you put the word “investment” close to something that is related to the work we should do for you. Let me be clear on this. In this relationship, you are supposed to make the investment to reach your business goal. I am here to sell the products and services you need to accomplish that result. Not the other way round.

Actually I have something against the word “partner” for the vast majority of occasions in which you will use it as well. Refer to the previous paragraph for more informations.

Finally, you should know that even if you read on my business card that I am a Chief Strategist I am a smarty pants sales guy. I have seen, studied and managed the most complex sales already. This one is no different. Showing muscles does not impress me much. Chances are you will make me walk away without regret.

The execution of the program

I am very excited you decided to work with us and that you are eager to start the program. I am, as well. Unfortunately, I must decline your request to start the program before the Statement of Work sign off. You have to put some ink on paper before we can actively engage with you. Come on. Show me some commitment.

As you may have noticed from the paperwork, we have signed a Statement of Work that is binding for both of us. We have mutually agreed on the content. Surprise, surprise! You have to stick with that, and I have to do the same. I understand that something may change during the execution of a program, and we can manage that efficiently using what we have already written in the Statement of Work (i.e. Change Order). Please notice that everything you will change in the shape of the program will have a direct impact on one of the three variables that govern the program: scope, price, and time.

We have signed a contract, and I can bet that there isn’t something stating that I have sold you slaves. We banned slavery in Europe since 1500.

During the execution of the program, we detailed the schedule of deliveries, and we will stick to that. I kindly ask you to the same with payments. You may find it strange but people, and companies, like to be paid for the work they do. I am sure you ask the same thing to your clients, and I do not see any reason you should behave differently with me. I would also remind you that we have kick ass lawyers that are eager to take money from our pockets to bring you to court. And yes, they do look like sharks.

Please do not hesitate to contact me any question should arise. I am looking forward to working with you.

Yours sincerely,

Obviously this is a joke, and you should take these words as that. It’s just a list of things I really hate to hear during my everyday job.

Original photo by Gene HanOriginal Photo