Asking for Fees and Root Canals

When my coaching client Craig returned from the dentist following his unexpected root canal, he didn’t complain about the pain. It was the sign in the reception area that got him: “Payment Expected at the Time Services are Provided.”

“I was wondering why the dentist doesn’t have any trouble insisting I pay him now,” he told me. What he didn’t understand is why some lawyers and consultants, including him, feel they have to tip-toe around the issue of discussing and collecting fees.

There are plenty of other professionals who don’t have trouble asking for fees. Think about those in medicine, and people like the snow plower, your car mechanic, real estate broker, plumber and your electrician.

What’s So Hard About Asking?

Why is it that lawyers, consultants and others often have so much difficulty talking about fees? Why is it that with us, we act like we’d rather get a root canal than discuss fees? Clients expect us to be assertive when helping them – so why do we dance around when it comes to talking about fees?

How To Make it Easier

Here are three tips that just might help you ask for and collect client fees:

  • Believe in yourself. Acknowledge that you are good at what you do, and that your fees reflect the value of your work in the marketplace in which you are working. If they are not, you’ll find out soon enough. And if you want some ideas on pricing your services, here’s a great compendium of short articles, thanks to Rain Today via Michael McLaughlin.
  • Deal with the topic sooner rather than later. Transparency helps. Don’t hesitate early on in the conversation to discuss your fees with a prospective client. Waiting too long may appear as if you’re hiding something, and certainly makes it more awkward. Try saying something like: “I’m delighted to talk more about this. Let me give you an idea of costs so we’re on the same page.”
  • Get personal. When you send a bill, don’t hide behind your firm’s invoicing systems. If the bill seems higher than expected, let the client know in a separate note or call – that reduces surprises and increases your reliability. If it’s lower than expected, that’s worth a call as well. Good news is appreciated. And, the personal touch will go a long way toward growing trust in the relationship.

Meanwhile, Back in the Dentist’s Chair

We all need to take our cue from those who don’t mind asking for fees. As for Craig, he’ll get another lesson when his dentist, without hesitation, tells him the cost for the cap to cover that root canal.

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