Friday, March 25, 2011

You're worth it

I just received a $425 bill in the mail today. And I couldn't be more delighted to pay it.

This bill is my annual membership in the National Speakers Association. It is a club you cannot get into unless you do a lot of paid professional speaking. Here in Ithaca, NY, for example, which is crawling with luminaries from Cornell and elsewhere, there are only three members. So for me it is both a great resource, and a celebration of getting to speak 40-50 times a year.

Which got me thinking about how you - and perhaps your business – value yourself. What makes *you* worth a premium price, one that people are more than happy to pay? Here are some things that can add to your own personal value:

Invest in yourself. What is the difference between me now versus then? First, a lot of work and study on my content and my platform skills. Years ago people gave me good ratings. Nowadays, in 2011, I regularly hear people say my workshops are the best they have ever attended. And I know I still have a lot more learning left to do.

Investing in your skills has two important benefits. The first is the obvious one: you hone the skills. But I think the second one is even more important: you start thinking of yourself as someone who is worth the investment.

Incidentally, they say you have really arrived as a speaker when you are interrupted by applause, and when you get standing ovations in the middle of your talks. I have never had either of these things happen yet. My mother, on the other hand – who is not a professional speaker – experienced both when she delivered a loving and humorous tribute to my late father, shortly after he died. So my next goal is to catch up to Mom someday.

Look at what you give instead of what you get. A lot of beginning speakers will ask "what can I charge?" I ask myself "what will my audience take away?" When I step on a stage nowadays, I *know* I am going to create an "a-ha" moment that changes the way people communicate.

Value goes beyond your products or services, into who you are. I would stand on my head to give my clients a great experience. I will come early, stay late, customize my material, meet and greet people, have breakout sessions, or practically get them coffee if they want. This may be why a lot of my livelihood comes from customer relationships, not just customers.

So take the question of what you are worth, and turn it into one of how much value you can give. And realize that this value could be much higher than you think.

Think about what the other person values. I am not just happy to pay a $425 bill. Years ago, I was delighted to have to suddenly pay a five-figure sum. You see, my wife was in a serious automobile accident, running full-speed into the back of a stopped truck. She hit it with such force that its tailgate ended up inside her passenger compartment, totaling the car, but still walked away from the accident.

I could not have been happier to purchase her a new car with every airbag imaginable. Cars are relatively easy to replace; wives and soulmates, not so much. So I was and still am incredibly thankful for the privilege of writing that big check.

Bringing this around to your business, there is often a lot of *relative* value in what most of us do. Think about what people want, need, and value. Think about where their "points of pain" are. What can you do to ease that pain, and what is it worth to these people?

I once read about a dog trainer who practically couldn't get arrested – until she changed her focus on teaching people how to avoid dog attacks. Suddenly mail carriers, meter readers, and others flocked to her seminars. Likewise, I don't have a lot of flashy new speaking ideas. I simply teach people how to communicate in their most difficult situations, with customers and each other, and make a nice living from the relative value of these skills.

So what are you worth? The answer is simple: not a penny more than you think you are. So start valuing yourself, with all the potential that you have inside, and then go out and share that value with others. For me, this has always been the true key to a nice life.

1 comment:

Richard Bradley said...

Well said, Rich!