I just got off the phone talking with a representative of an industry research group whose research I’m interested in. This was a scheduled, introductory call in which I was asking questions about their organization and how I might use their research in my new business, Elevate. Our conversation went well for the first 15 minutes. Then I inquired about their cost because I was interested in joining. Their lowest price point is way beyond what I can afford right now. When I mentioned that I wouldn’t be able to afford that right now, there was some silence on the other end. So I asked her a couple more questions about purchasing individual products direct and about, perhaps, looking at their certification programs. She responded by saying that she would email me some information and thanked me for my time.
It was clear, once she realized I couldn’t purchase a membership right now, that she was done talking with me. She asked if I needed anything else and I knew the right answer to her question was “No”, so that was what I said. We ended the phone call and while she doesn’t know it, probably ended our professional relationship. I doubt I’ll ever pay for their services.
Every once in a while, I bump into vendors who are all about “the dollar” – at least that’s how I put it. If they realize there is no sale there, they bail as soon as possible. I infer they don’t want to waste their precious time with me, so they quickly move onto another lead or another customer or perhaps, to a cup of coffee. They lack any realization that “paying it forward” will help them in the long run even though it takes some time and energy in the here and now.
Paying it forward is a phrase I hear other business people us (and I use it too) to say “I’m going to be helpful and add value before I ask for your business”. In my Elevate business, I offer free consultations – not just short phone calls, but a real consultation in which I try to offer real value. This way, a potential customer can “get a feel” for how I’ll work with them and the value that I offer. And even if they don’t purchase from me, they’ll remember that I was helpful and perhaps, will send a referral to me someday or even call back to inquire about purchasing my services.
Paying it forward has a number of positives. It shows respect for the customer – especially if they can’t afford to purchase your services. Some of the small customers you have today will “make it big” and you’ll be glad you built and maintained that relationship when they were first starting out. In addition, it gives you a chance to minister to them, which aligns with our stewardship of giving. Finally, you create a new relationship when you Pay it Forward and you never know how God will use that relationship in the future.
Paying it Forward. If we did more of this, perhaps more people would patronize our businesses and perhaps, we would have greater Kingdom impact in the marketplace.
Bill English, CEO