Recently, I decided to enlarge my sales and marketing efforts through outsourcing, so I contacted a number of service bureaus about promoting my successful line of customer service and sales training videos. I have found very few organizations that are willing to truly satisfy my needs by working on a pay-for-performance basis.
Everyone else insists on being paid, on the clock, for their time and for administration.
It reminds me of my former college students who claimed they deserved a better grade on an assignment because they “tried so hard!” They wanted to be rewarded for mere effort.
I had to tell them that effort is admirable, but to be fair, I can only see and measure results.
Granted, it sounds a little rigid, but it is a real world lesson. Sooner or later, each of us has to earn his way by performing, by achieving. A salary or a steady retainer of some sort may seem comforting and assuring, but in truth, the tightrope we’re walking on in business isn’t supported by anything other than actual accomplishments on behalf of our employers and customers.
I’ve personally sold and performed a number of consulting and training contracts where I guaranteed satisfaction. Almost without exception, these engagements are among my most lucrative.
This has to be shocking to the outsource companies that I contacted about my project. But it wouldn’t come as a surprise to author and sports agent Mark McCormack, who suggests we offer what has to be the most radical sort of guarantee imaginable: being willing to work for nothing, or in exchange for the value a client chooses to pay us at the end of a transaction or engagement.
Here’s how McCormack proposes the idea:
“I have always contended that a great way for young people to land the ideal job is to work for nothing. If they have something to offer, they’ll get on the payroll soon enough.
“The same approach works wonders when you’re selling your company’s services.
“Suppose you feel very confident that you can do a good job for somebody and you have clearly established a benchmark amount for a particular service—say a $10,000 monthly fee. It can often be to your advantage to tell a potential customer, ‘Look, I’m so confident that this will work out well, that I’ll work on the project for six months and then, after the fact, you can pay us anything you wish, including nothing, if that’s what you think it’s worth.
"This is a bold statement, but not a rash one. If you’re providing a first-rate service and if you’re dealing with an honorable person, I think your exposure is minimal. ”
McCormack goes on to say that nobody has ever stiffed him, yet one client did pay a surprisingly and undeservedly low fee at the end of a successful project. Otherwise, the idea has worked like a charm.
You don’t have to be as radical as McCormack to benefit from offering meaningful guarantees. In fact, you can be generous, yet sensible, if you craft one with care.
Taking McCormack’s example, you don’t have to work for nothing for a full six months before seeing a payday. You can break down that time into weekly or monthly deliverables, and when the client sees that they are being fulfilled, checks are periodically released to you in acknowledgement of your actual accomplishments.
Of course, if there’s a disagreement, you can suspend further performance until understanding is achieved. Your out-of-pocket, so to speak, will be limited to the time you have invested to that date.
Here is the key:
Your guarantee, to be sensible, needs to be a performance promise, and not a vague satisfaction promise.
Here’s the difference.
When you promise to perform, you are saying that you’ll achieve specific, objective, clearly measurable results, in a certain quantity, at a given quality, by or before a certain date.
For example, I might say to a client that I will train their service and tech support people to shorten calls by 25% or more. This will result in a certain dollar savings to the client, from which my firm will be paid.
Within 30-90 days of a project’s inception, we’ll measure progress. If we aren’t on track, the client can cancel the project.
There is some boilerplate that says that the client, during our work together, will do what it can, in good faith, to help me to pursue that objective, and not to introduce call-lengthening procedures that will conflict with this objective.
It’s a guarantee I can live with. I’m saying I can do this, and I will, and it will save you thousands or millions of dollars, if you help me to do it for you.
I am NOT saying, “I will please you, even if you elect to act irrationally or in bad faith. ”
In other words, if I’m performing, I must be paid. There is no right, bestowed by my guarantee, enabling a client to not pay, simply because he doesn’t want to, or because he wants to have his cake and to eat it, too. He can’t act on whim, or on impulse.
If companies are genuinely interested in achieving customer satisfaction, they need to create true alignment. This means tying their success to the success of their customers.
And if you want a better job or a great opportunity, try working for nothing!
Dr. Gary S. Goodman © 2005
The Goodman Organization, Inc.
Dr. Gary S. Goodman is the best-selling author of 12 books, including Six-Figure Consulting: How To Have A Great Second Career and Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service. He is internationally known for his consulting, keynote speeches, and sales and service training programs. He is President of Customersatisfaction.com, and an instructor at UCLA Extension. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at (818) 243-7338.