Give it away
“I’m happy to come over there and charge you for it,” says the gruff voice on the other end of the phone. “But if you’re even remotely handy, you can fix it yourself.”
Holding my broken kitchen faucet in one hand, I pause to consider whether I meet this plumber’s definition of “remotely handy”.
Before I can respond, he proceeds to tell me how to find the part I need and then calmly walks me through each step of the repair. He sounds like he’s in a cave and I’m pretty sure he’s lying on his back, working under someone else’s sink while also trying to help me.
I decide to follow his instructions and by the end of the day we have running water in our kitchen again.
Earlier that day a different plumber took one look at the faucet and told me flatly, “I don’t have that part on my truck.” He immediately pivoted to offering me a brand new faucet that he did happen to have on his truck (for $600) and said he would kindly install it (for another $350).
Guess which plumber now has my business for life?
In his book Getting Naked (it’s a business book, I promise), Patrick Lencioni advocates for just the type of service delivered by my now plumber-for-life:
[Give a] client advice and service even before they agree to become a paying client. By demonstrating generosity and trust, you drastically increase the likelihood of making them a client, not to mention proving to them that you can help them.
Lencioni calls this “giving away the business”, and I know for a fact that it works.
At my business, we frequently give away answers or solutions to potential clients well before we talk about rates. There are plenty of occasions where these giveaways are all the prospective client needs and we never hear from them again, but that’s okay. I can’t imagine either of us would’ve enjoyed working together if this was truly all they needed. And if they do end up needing more, they know who to call.
Not only does “giving it away” work, it’s also what most of us naturally want to do. This makes it an easy policy to not only practice, but also teach. I’ve personally found it much easier to train a team to “give help as soon as you can” than it would’ve been to train them on sales closing techniques.
“Giving it away” isn’t just for business owners and consultants.
Employees—especially those battling bureaucracy and politics—have a tendency to hoard information and ideas. This is understandable since it can feel like ideas are the currency that helps you get ahead in many organizations, but stockpiling them is shortsighted.
Twenty years ago Seth Godin released (for free) his book Unleashing The Ideavirus. In it, he nails the fallacy of keeping information or ideas to yourself:
The mathematics of the ideavirus make it too compelling for the creators of viruses to stay greedy. The more people know your virus, the more it is worth.
We all have something we can give away—and when we do, we’ll find that we get back even more in return.
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