Let me share with you a personal story of something I have been struggling with for some time now:
I have been struggling with the notion of "sales", "discounts", "promotions" and other such business terms for some time now. As a young business owner, I have been told that you must do and offer such things - especially on Black Friday.
"Alex, you gotta run sales, provide discounts, and offer special, limited-time promotions." This was the advice I received by many people in business. Men and women who to this very day, I respect to a large degree. When I was younger, I took their advice and did these things. But the longer I have been in business, the more I have started to ask one simple question, "Why?"
Why must I do these things? What does doing these things achieve? The obvious answer is that you must do them to make sales - to get people to give you money. Ok. So if my goal is to get money, is that the best way to go about doing it? The answer I have come to discover is, it depends on what your goal is.
Simon Sinek, in his iconic book, Start with Why, talks about this very thing. When I re-read his book recently, I thought he was speaking directly to me. He discussed how all these things - sales, promotions, discounts, etc. - are, at the end of the day, manipulations to get people to give you money. Tactics to separate someone from their green stuff. He described about how these tactics do work (i.e.: they get people to give you their green stuff) but they are short term goals that cannot provide sustainable results. So if your goal is short term sales, these tactics work great. If however, your goal is to achieve long lasting loyalty, these tactics stink. I used to do things like offer sales and discounts on my services - no more.
From now on, I am going to be doing business another way: believing in and sticking to setting a real price for a real and reasonably valued product or service. If I agree to do a seminar for you for $100.00 because we negotiated that price, then that is fine. I'm always open to negotiation. But I'm not going to "discount" something for you. I am no longer going to attempt to bribe you with deals, discounts, tokens, promotions etc. I am no longer going to insult your intelligence with such an obvious method of trying to separate you from your cold hard cash.
Why will I no longer be offering discounts, deals, promotions, sales, etc.? Many reasons. Let me explain:
1) I feel like shit when I do it. I feel it insults your intelligence and it makes me feel like shit. I feel like I am manipulating you for money, even though I don't even have a clue or a care as to whether or not you can benefit from, want or need what I have to offer or sell. Until I re-read Simon Sinek's Start with Why, I could never figure out why offering deals and discounts made me feel so badly. I do now.
I recently had this discussion with my friend, Ted, on his show, Social Selling TV. We talked about being authentic and sticking to your core values and then doing business with people who believe what you believe. Simon Sinek speaks of the same thing in Start with Why.
My friend whom I greatly respect, Dr. David Phelps, has created a tremendous business and community with his Freedom Founders Group. I asked him how he created such a large and consistent support group - they are actually friends at Freedom Founders, not just business associates. How did he do it? Dr. Phelps told me that it was by building the business slowly and by sticking to his core values. He told me, "You will be very tempted to take short cuts to make quick sales and to make money fast - avoid this at all costs." I had a great time talking with him about this on his show, the Freedom Blueprint Podcast.
Sinek captures why I had this feeling perfectly on page 34 of his book. I didn’t realize this consciously until reading his book: "With every price drop, promotion, fear-based or aspirational message and novelty we use to achieve our goals, we find our companies, our organizations and our systems getting and weaker." "With perfect irony, we, the manipulators, have been manipulated by our own system."
Wow. I now understand why all these things always made me feel like shit - none of it communicates true love or care for you nor myself. None of it breeds trust. When I offer you these manipulations, I don't even like or trust myself so how could you? When I use these manipulations against you, I feel non-authentic because I now that are just that, manipulations.
2) I hate being manipulated in this way.
I don’t know why it took me so long to figure this out, but if I don’t enjoy when a business manipulates me in these ways, why would I perpetuate the very things I hate? Why would I assume that you won’t mind it when I hate it? Maybe you don’t care, but I shouldn’t assume that.
3) Manipulations or freebies do not cause you or I to value the work or product.
I used to complain when people would ask me for freebies. If you're a business owner, someone has asked you for free products or services. I know people have asked me. I used to get mad at people who did this - but now I realize they were only doing what I gave them permission to do. It is my fault. I would capitulate and give freebies, run promotions, etc. No more.
Let me be clear, if you want to negotiate something, I am all ears. A negotiation involves both parties trying to add value to each other and come to the most satisfactory conclusion for both sides. A negotiation is not, "I can't pay so give me free shit." Sorry, move along.
On the flip side, it is not a negotiation if I try to bribe you with "Black Friday Deals" to get you to buy my book or services. That is me trying to manipulate money out of your pocket. I am done doing that.
I want to tell you a story that a speaker mentor and friend told to me a long time ago. When this friend was a young speaker starting out in the business, he knew he wanted to write a book. He found out about a man named Dan Poynter who taught people how to self-publish a book. My friend wanted to take his course but, being a young man, didn't have the money. He told this to Dan Poynter when he saw him at a live event. He was about to ask Dan if he could join his course for free when Dan stopped him mid-sentence and said, "Well then I guess you don't want it badly enough." And he then turned and walked away.
I used to think this was cruel for Dan Poynter to have done to my friend - I no longer believe this. Dan denying him and cutting him off mid-sentence motivated my friend to save his money and invest in the course. He then had more reason to value the knowledge Dan gave him. My friend went on to self-publish many books using the knowledge he learned from Dan's course. Would my friend have valued the course as much if Dan had given it to him for free? No.
You have experienced this as a teen or as a parent of a teen very profoundly: How does a teenager treat a car they had to buy (or at least partially buy) compared to someone who was given the car for free? The treatment is not even close.
Similarly, if I use these fancy manipulations to get your money, I don't value my own work or product. You don't value it either. Tell me if you can relate - the customers or clients who have given you the biggest hassles are the ones who get freebies, deals, discounts, or took advantage of promotions? Is this your experience? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I know this has been my experience. Friends who I gave free or discounted items to were always the ones who gave me the hardest time.
In conclusion, I will no longer be engaging in these types of manipulations to get your money. They make me feel bad, they insult your intelligence, and they cause a devastating loss of value in your perception and in my perception. I don't respect myself when I offer these manipulations and if I do not respect myself, how can you respect me?
I am going to continue putting out free content and I will be doing exclusive content for paid members and patrons. Those who believe what I believe and wish to benefit from what I am doing will become paid members and contribute, even if just $1.00/month, to receive all the videos, blogs and interviews I do in the future. Those who wish to stick with the free blog posts, that’s ok too. People who don’t want to follow me at all, I wish you well.
My book, Anatomy of a Warrior, is $19.99 on Amazon. The eBook is $7.99. Those are fair prices for a book that involved 2.5 years of work, and required me to interview 120 people. I believe those prices to be fair and sufficient. I am not going to “discount” the book for Black Friday, nor am I going to tease you with “THIS IS THE CHEAPEST YOU CAN EVER GET MY BOOK!” I now respect myself too much for that and I respect you too much for that.
If you have the appropriate funds and believe that buying it and reading it would be a good thing for you, then by all means, get your copy. If you think a friend or group of friends would benefit from it and they can afford the price, by all means, I desire you to share it with those friends. If you lack the resources or do not believe it would be helpful, 3 choices remain: Do not buy it ever, save up the money and then buy it or, negotiate. Make ME an offer - don't ask for free stuff. Because the answer from now on, will be "You must not want it badly enough."
What will I be doing instead? How do I plan on surviving and making my business thrive without doing these manipulations? That will described in detail in Part II of this blog series which will be released soon! If you've read Simon Sinek's book, Start with Why, you know the answer lies within the Golden Circle...
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National Speaker, author, blogger, and life-long student of warrior arts and science.