Does this ever happen to you? Your client calls and says ‘we need this done immediately – right now – like, yesterday!’ You’re up to your eyeballs in other work. You don’t want to let your client down because the relationship is important, and you don’t want to say yes because you’re really manic.
A hidden opportunity
This mostly happens to me when a client has had a first draft for a few weeks but leaves their review until the last minute. This is especially irritating for me, because I've already worked hard to meet the original deadline.
It’s tempting to say “lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” But inside this crisis is an opportunity.
You get the chance to pull a rabbit out of a hat. One of the most important things about being a sales and marketing consultant is to reduce your client’s stress level. This means that if you do take on the work, there’s no point moaning about it. In fact, that’s the worst result because you don’t get any credit for pulling an all-nighter and you get blamed for being a bore.
When to say yes
There are a few criteria I use to decide whether to accede:
- Are they habitually last-minute panic mongers?
- Is there a genuine reason for the urgency?
- Do they understand that they’re asking a lot from me?
- How much do I value the relationship – do they give me regular work? Am I on retainer?
- Will I get extra credit for sorting things out?
- How much stress is involved for me? Really?
In negotiation – and this is a negotiation – you don’t want to give something without getting something. Some of the things you could ask for include:
- More money for a rush job
- A get out of jail free card for next time
- A chance to educate the client in how you work so it doesn’t happen again
- Your client’s permission to subcontract the urgent work
- A nice lunch or a beer – a good sales opportunity
I also probe to see if there is any chance of getting more time. I say something like “you’ve told me you need this tomorrow morning but I wondered if there was any way I could get a little more time?” Adding a ‘because’ sometimes helps, and the classic writer’s justification is “…because that will give me extra time to do a really good job rather than a rush job.”
Remember to be unemotional about this. Find the opportunity. Negotiate for what you want. Get something in return. Your client’s inefficiency could be your reward.
See also: sales and marketing
Related service: Marketing Strategy