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Have you made yourself scarce?

One of the biggest mistakes we make as professionals is to make ourselves as available to our clients as possible. It's a natural part of our desire to be seen to be providing excellent service. It's even more tempting when the economy is down. We agree to 'out of hours' meetings, we move personal appointments to accomodate our clients, we provide every email address and every telephone number where we can be reached - including the hotel where we're staying on vacation ("just in case something crops up"). I've done it myself, and I even justified it to myself commercially: that call at 10pm on a Friday could lead to more paid work.

Have you ever paid over the odds for a 'limited edition' of something? Have you ever felt an irresistible urge to buy something NOW because it was part of a limited offer? And what about those REALLY old (and rare) bottles of vintage wine that sell for thousands, even though everyone – including the seller AND the buyer – know that the wine is undrinkable after so many years?

The answer is simple…    

Scarcity sells. And what's more, it adds zeroes to the price tag.

If you've never read the book "Influence" by Robert Cialdini, you need to go out and buy a copy – before it sells out obviously 😉 Cialdini is a social psychologist, but I won't hold his academic grounding against him: this is no academic thesis rewritten for publication. It's a thoroughly practical examination of the emotional and psychological triggers that make us reach for our wallets like Pavlov's dogs slavering whenever the food bell rang.

Cialdini examines six of these triggers, including the principle of Scarcity.

One of the biggest mistakes we make as professionals is to make ourselves as available to our clients as possible. It's a natural part of our desire to be seen to be providing excellent service. It's even more tempting when the economy is down. We agree to 'out of hours' meetings, we move personal appointments to accomodate our clients, we provide every email address and every telephone number where we can be reached – including the hotel where we're staying on vacation ("just in case something crops up"). I've done it myself, and I even justified it to myself commercially: that call at 10pm on a Friday could lead to more paid work.

If you've ever found yourself doing things like that, here's a wake up call: grab a big stack of 50's and a lighter, and save yourself all that extra time you're spending on 'service'. The reality is you're devaluing yourself to the market. It's the ancient law of Supply and Demand: the more there is of something, the less we are willing to pay for it. The more of yourself you give to the market, the less it's worth. So, you need to make yourself more scarce. you need to give yourself value by reducing your availability.

I don't mean that you need to start lying. I've seen professionals on the phone, staring at an empty diary and saying "well, this week is really hectic, but I might be able to squeeze you in a week from Friday. Let me make some calls and see if I can move some things around." That's wrong. It's inauthentic, it's dishonest, and ultimately it will come back to haunt you ("you seem to be so busy with other work, we're not sure you have the time to provide the level of support we need…")

If you are going to make yourself scarce, make it part of your business strategy. Not long after I set up my company (was it really 7 years ago? jeez, time flies!), I made a decision. I wanted to limit the number of people I work with so that

  1. I could give them more and better service

  2. I could have lots of time for myself, whether for vacations, hobbies, or just thinking time

I'd rather service a dozen clients really well, than be juggling commitments to 30. When I run workshops and seminars, I limit the number of attendees because I want them to have the experience of learning from me directly rather than just sitting in a room with 100 people, listening. (Don't get me wrong: I love the buzz of presenting to a crowd of hundreds, but that's not training).

So, if I say to a client "I'm sorry, I can't see you for two weeks", I am saying it from a place of truth, and if they say "well I'll find someone who can" I'm OK with it, because I already have the level of work that I want. If I say to a client "I'm only making 6 places available on this workshop", I mean it and I don't mind if they go elsewhere, because it's about service, not a sales manouevre.

The natural question, then, is how you can make yourself more scarce in your business in an authentic way. Think about it in terms of resources. What resources does your business have that are used up by each client: is it time (your own or your staff's)? seats in a room? computer bandwidth? product? List all of the limited, consumable resources in your business. Now think about the impact on you as each of these resources is used up. Based on that impact, you can now choose a resource to limit, and build that restiction into your business model.

That doesn't mean you can't ever make more of that resource available, just that you now have back the right to choose.

So go, make yourself scarce!

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