How Picasso Helped Me Articulate My Value

April 10, 2017

I ran across this story about Picasso a while ago and thought it perfectly summarized how an expert service provider should feel about their offerings. The story goes something like this… There is a legend that tells the story of Picasso sketching in a park when a woman approaches who recognizes him and begs for a portrait. He agrees and a few minutes later hands her the sketch. It has one swift and glorious stroke on the paper. She is elated at how perfectly he captured her true essence. She exclaims how beautiful it is and asks him how much she owes. He replies, “Five thousand dollars.” The woman is outraged and asks how that is even possible given it only took him five minutes. Picasso looks up, and without missing a beat replies, “No, Madam. It took me my whole life.”

Reading this story was a pivotal moment for me. One I’ll never forget and continue to apply to my sales process with potential clients. You see, I’ve got almost 30 years of experience in a specialized area and I articulate my value and charge rates accordingly, but not everyone charges what they should and sometimes, those that do get overlooked for discount providers.

Sadly, I’ve had numerous conversations over the years with people who worked with a brand strategist who sold them a brand package well below market rate. The conversation usually sounds like this, “I can’t believe how bad the logo, the creative, the website turned out. They don’t get me and I don’t know what to do.”

Their frustration stems from the fact that they were told they would get a great product and ultimately they don’t feel they received it. The problem is that the money had been spent, often times with multiple revisions and it still wasn’t what they wanted or what they felt they paid for. It’s a challenging dilemma. They wanted to save money, but in reality, they were bleeding out not only for their original budget, but now also needing to find resources to have someone else “fix” the damage that had been done. Or worse yet, they accepted the result because they didn’t know the difference between good or bad branding and are now bewildered that there is no change in their business once the project launches. It’s as if they didn’t make improvements at all and then feel as though they shouldn’t have done anything to begin with and now question the value of branding altogether.

So when I’m on the phone with these well-intentioned business owners, it’s a very difficult conversation to have because I can certainly help them, but I have to charge for my services which means they have to go to the well… again.

What’s a bit baffling is how this current trend by entrepreneurs is placing a preconceived value on services. For example, the business owners I spoke with in the above scenario were only willing to pay $5,000 for a brand package (which by the way is too low by industry standards) however these are the same business owners who without hesitation pay between $25,000-$50,000 for 12-month mastermind and coaching programs.

I’m surprised by the math and the results assumption. Instead of paying the same amount for a “do it for you” brand solution where a complete brand is built and launched—often times within a short interval, six to eight weeks — business owners would rather meet virtually once a month to have business coaches and colleagues weigh in on their branding who are not necessarily experts in branding.

In many cases, there is no solution after the 12-month program. Their brand has not been improved. The group scenario offers advice that, in my opinion, is subjective based upon personal experience and/or preference and not from a place of specified expertise. In other words, if you need a haircut, you’d go to a stylist in a salon or someone who specializes in cutting hair. You wouldn’t ask your business coach to cut your hair. Right? That may sound more than obvious, but I’m trying to express the point.

I think part of the problem also stems from an influx of “free” content and expertise available today. Many specialists offer their golden nuggets complimentary in an attempt to build a strong list with the hope of selling them something through a sales funnel or nurture sequence on the back end of the “freebie.” What the folks on this trend train don’t realize is they’ve created an expectation of low cost (or free) solutions by even the most seasoned providers. I saw this in the early 2000s when I was in the housing industry. I was a selling manager watching a discount war between builders, which got so bad it was significantly eroding margins. At one point, the national builder I was working for had had enough and all discounts were taken off the table. Initially, it was tough to sell against the discount builder across the street, but over time the sales staff found ways to sell value and at the end, value is the solution.

When I left corporate to become an entrepreneur, I didn’t discount and lost business because of it. But I didn’t want to be busy skinning the squirrel, when the buffalo walked by and once I was able to explain my process and confirm that my experience was commensurate with my rates, and that I could speak to the deliverable, my business has been the better for it.

If you offer a premium service and you can guarantee a strong solution, don’t apologize for your pricing. If you can deliver what you promise and it’s amazing value, your pricing should be comparable with the deliverable and the speed in which you deliver it. People pay for the solution and it’s your job to translate that through your sales process. Picasso was a talented guy and a smart one, too. He recognized that talent and experience come at a price. If you articulate that correctly, the right clients will find themselves within your sights.