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How Much for An Hour of Your Time?

A friend of mine, a widely recognized authority in his field, shared a story with me about a prospective client who has dithered repeatedly and never hired him. This prospect would call, spend time on the phone, do nothing, and then let six months or so go by and call again.

On the last call he received from this person, the prospect started the conversation with the following:

business development, hourly pricing

“How much would you charge for an hour of your time?”

On the receiving end of this story, I spewed my coffee across the room when my friend related this question. I loved the answer he gave.

“I told her she needed multiple hours of help, he said. “One hour wouldn't even scratch the surface.”

This question is a first cousin to the “What are your rates?” question that some prospects lead a conversation with. I identify the “What are your rates?” question as a tell for one of the bad-fit client archetypes, The Cheapskate, I outline in my book, The Generosity Mindset. (page 99)

What if we're wrong and this client is not a cheapskate? I’m doubtful, but here are some other possibilities:

  • This person is too busy to stop long enough to get the full treatment needed. Sure, this engagement would work great. “Fix my problems, but don’t bother me while you do.”

  • They are transactional and see you as a parking meter. "Let me rent this space next to you for an hour and squeeze whatever I decide I want from you."

  • They have no idea what they want and are therefore afraid to commit. I covered this archetype in my book as well; they’re “The Brain Picker.” (page 98)

  • This individual already thinks they know what they need and has self-diagnosed. It’s the person who needs major surgery, but they decide to go to the doc in a box. How can you help someone like this achieve transformative results?

I sometimes receive pushback from clients I work with about calls that feature these questions. They wonder why they shouldn't engage with someone a bit instead of doing what I suggest: ending the call gracefully yet quickly and moving on.

Sure, when someone starts a conversation by asking a question like "How much would you charge for an hour of your time?" they may not be a miser.

But even if you guess wrong, all the possibilities are just a notch or two over on the bad-fit client dial.


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