There's an old joke about the New York City blackout. Power was out everywhere, and the electric company couldn't figure out what was wrong or how to fix it. Finally, they decided that the only one who could solve the problem was a long-retired worker who knew the system inside and out. He came out to the power plant, looked around, picked up a hammer and tapped one of the generators.
Suddenly, lights came on all through the area. Overwhelmed with relief that the problem was solved, they asked how much they owed him. "$20,000," he replied. $20,000? For tapping with a hammer? "Well," he said, "tapping with the hammer is $10. Knowing where to tap is worth $19,990."
There are a couple of lessons to be learned from the joke. First of all, the value is higher when the problem still exists than after it has been solved. After all, if told he could restore the power for $20,000, officials would have written him the check immediately, without question. Afterward, the problem wasn't so urgent--it was solved. Quote your price and get agreement while the customer still feels the urgency (and the pain that you will remove). That's when the value is highest to them. Your agreement can include conditions and guarantees, such as the results you will obtain, and deadlines, if they want assurances about results.
Maintain a little mystery. If they hadn't known that all he did was tap with a hammer, his services would have seemed more valuable. After all, they got the result they valued--the power was restored. Focus on the results, not exactly what methodology will be used. Don't let customers look behind the curtain. (Remember the Wizard of Oz?)
If you are the only one who provides a particular product or service, or you have skills or training no one else does, the value of what you offer goes up. Highlight your exclusive set of training, education and experience. Use unique language to describe what you do. You can also create an aura of exclusivity by screening clients, and only accepting those who meet your criteria. This can work if you have a reputation already, but it can also help build your reputation, if you've got the guts to try it!
Consider what your clients are used to paying, and charge at least that much. If your clients are used to paying $100 an hour, and you come in at $50, you probably won't get the job. On the other hand, if you can show that you are worth $150, you may be able to charge more than the going rate.
Another way to get an hourly rate higher than others is to charge by the project, rather than the hour. For example, maybe you charge $150 instead of $100 an hour, but you get the job done in fewer hours. Get the client to look at total cost, rather than hourly rates. Once again, get them focused on results.
This issue comes up all the time in my publishing classes, where I remind students that they are not selling paper. They are selling the information printed on the paper--information that will improve the lives of the people who use it. Paper is cheap. Useful information isn't.
Keep in mind that the value of your product or service is related to the benefits your customers receive, and how they value those benefits. Present what you sell as solutions to problems, and you can charge premium prices for your excellent products and services.
Copyright Cathy Stucker. As the Idea Lady, Cathy Stucker can help you attract customers and make yourself famous with inexpensive and free marketing ideas. Get free tips, articles and more at http://www.IdeaLady.com/.