Design Domination Podcast Episode #50: Confidence, Closing and Content With Mike Killen

Mike Killen and I talk about confidence, how it’s vital in closing the deal with clients and why you should be selling futures, not features. Get actionable tips to use when talking to clients, including how to respond when a client says, “That’s too expensive.” Also find out why you shouldn’t worry about criticism when putting your content out there. The answer will surprise you!

Mike Killen

Mike Killen works with marketing funnel businesses to help them attract and close five-figure projects. He wants to get sales training into the hands of every child and school in the world, because sales builds confidence and confident people make better decisions. He’s the author of From Single to Scale and the upcoming Universe Fuel and runs Sell Your Service. He can be found on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Colleen Gratzer: Thanks for coming on the podcast, Mike. It’s great to have you here.

Mike Killen: Hey there, how you doing? It’s really good to catch up with you again, Colleen. Thank you for having me on.

Colleen: Too bad this isn’t video, because we’re all missing out on Mike’s hair day by this being in audio.

Mike: I don’t understand this. I genuinely get messages from people being like, “Hey, man. Love your hair today.” I don’t know if there’s a group out there that’s like, “what we should do is we should freak him out and every once in a while send him a message.”

Because I don’t think it’s that crazy. I just have hair that I have. Anyway, it’s, yeah, fine. Thank you though.

Colleen: Michael MacGinty in the Design Domination Facebook group joked that your approach to marketing is like an Italian taxi driver. No waffling, no chitchat, just straight to the point.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah, I don’t know how I feel about that. I’ll take it as a compliment. I don’t know if he meant it as a compliment. But yeah, maybe aggressive as well?

Colleen: That’s funny. So I wanted to just share with the listeners that you and I, we met a couple years ago at a WP Elevation Mastermind in Miami. We hung out and had a blast.

You were a coach for WP Elevation.

Mike: Yeah.

Colleen: You’ve always come across with a lot of confidence. I can only wish that I had that much confidence when I was starting out in my career. So I’d love to know: where does this confidence come from?

Mike: That’s a really interesting question. I was only talking to somebody about that last week. I was actually really shy and nervous as a kid. I was bullied a lot. Like a lot of people were, like digital creatives.

Colleen: Yes, I was.

Mike: Yeah, right? It’s a pretty common trait. I was very small for my age. I think at the age of 18, I realized that everything you go through at school doesn’t matter. As soon as you leave college, as soon as you leave school, it’s like none of that matters then.

That was a huge realization that everyone who was kind of considered at the age of 16 or 17, you obviously look back now and you’re like, “They didn’t matter.” I think I had this sudden moment of realization. I then went away traveling by myself for quite a while, basically as a kid. I think I went through a lot of experiences.

A big part of people saying that I’m confident, it’s actually … the back and forth we have now is kind of a bit of an act. I’m super, super quiet, I’m very chilled out. I’ve found it easier to help people if you’re just really clear and typically things that are delivered with clarity and things that seem very clear seem to be like confidence. I think it looks a lot like confidence, but in actual practice, I think it’s just repetition and training. So maybe that’s it.

Colleen: Yeah. How do you think that that confidence helps play into the sales process? What part does it play?

Mike: That’s the big thing I get asked about a lot, particularly as someone who teaches people how to sell is, “I don’t have the confidence to do that.”

Colleen: Right.

Mike: “I don’t have the confidence to be a salesperson” or to say the things that I teach people to say.

If you rank or look at the traits that you think are attractive about someone, usually confidence ranks pretty highly. But then if you break down what confidence is, confidence is really just practice within one particular area and feeling comfortable that you’re clear on what the outcome will be. Those typically tend to be the two outcomes. There are some areas that are very interesting about confidence.

Let’s take design, for example. When you produce something in a particular skilled area, such as graphic design or digital design, and you put it out there into the world, some people will look at that and go, “Oh, my god. There’s no way that I could do that.”

Colleen: Right.

Mike: There’s a massive amount of skill and talent. Now, I would argue that that’s confidence. Confidence to put something out there because you know… like you say, you practiced in the area, you’re comfortable in the area, and you’re pretty confident on what the results will be. Sales is exactly the same.

Confidence helps with sales, but confidence is actually being clear on what the outcome is and being more sure on what the outcome will be.

That’s typically through practice and skill. It’s not something you’re born with, it’s something you grow and develop and nurture. Hopefully, some of the tips I can share with you today will be things that if you just do every time you have a conversation, you will look a lot more confident when selling, as opposed to just becoming a more confident person.

Colleen: When it comes to demonstrating expertise, I tell designers all the time, “You’ve really got to get content out there.” I mean, you’re the master of this, of course, but I tell them, “Get it out there.”

Some of them are lacking confidence and they’re like, “Well, what if somebody doesn’t like what I say, or they don’t think it’s right, or they don’t agree with it. How am I supposed to put it out there if I’m not confident?”

So it’s like they’re not just talking on the phone to somebody. They’re trying to put something out there online for a mass audience who can judge them.

Mike: Yeah, that’s tough, man. It is. If anyone goes to any YouTube channel—mine as much as anyone’s—you’ll see a ton of people that say, “This guy’s an absolute joke. He clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

The easiest way that I’ve learned to deal with that is by agreeing with people. If I put a video out there and they say, “This guy is an absolute moron. He clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” I’m like, “Yeah, man, you’re probably right. I might not know what I’m talking about.” Done. End of conversation. What else do you want me to say about that?

Anyone who ever has a go at a creative endeavor, and this is true of all creative pursuits—design, I would even have sales as a creative pursuit, marketing, music, art, whatever you put out there—if someone directly has a go at it, they are not having a go at you—ever. All they’re saying is that they don’t feel that they could do that.

So when someone has a go at my marketing techniques on YouTube, I know that they’re not having a go at me. They’re actually saying, “There’s no way that I could do that.” That’s what they’re really saying. So the first thing is to understand when you put anything out there, yeah, you are going to attract negative attention, but it’s actually not directed at you. If you agree with them, it kind of negates any impact it has.

Secondly… This is the other thing and this is the thing I think people find maybe a bit more scary, is people already don’t like you, you just don’t know it. But already, 10% of the world, 20% of the world, doesn’t like you. They don’t like who you are, they don’t like what you do, they don’t like what you stand for, they don’t like how you act, how you behave.

If you produce content and put it out there—whether it’s written, whether it’s design, whether it’s visual, audio, whatever it is—you’re just expanding the number of people that get in touch with you. The percentage of people who don’t like you is always going to stay the same.

Colleen: Wow, that’s really interesting. I never thought of it that way.

Mike: If you have a conversation with people at a dinner party, you’re always going to have people who are like, “I don’t quite agree with that.” Fine, that’s in a room of 10 people, 20 people. You expand that out into a billion, it’s going to be roughly the same percentage. It’s pretty low. It’s just a part of running a business.

It’s not a case of whether you’re even right or wrong, some people are just… they just can’t help themselves but be negative. If you find ways of just being able to rationalize that yourself, it’s much easier to put stuff out there.

We could go down this rabbit hole a long way. You talked about the podcast. How have you found putting this out? What’s the feedback been like?

Colleen: Oh, actually, I couldn’t have had a better experience. I was very confident about what I knew and I was really interested in getting my stories and experiences out there, because I knew other people had experienced these things, or maybe I could help them not experience some of the crap that I’ve dealt with.

But when I put it out there, yeah, I was really terrified. I don’t like criticism and I don’t like to… because I was bullied in school too. A lot of it stems from that.

I’ve had really amazing feedback, and it’s only helped me personally and professionally grow from having done that. Yeah, it’s been great. I was surprised.

Mike: Yeah, this is the thing. I think you are actually more… humans are very bad risk assessment animals. We’re very bad at risk assessment, typically. So when we think, “Oh, my god, if I put something out there…”

The funny thing about video in particular and the world we live in is I was helping a friend of mine and she was like, “Oh, I was told I shouldn’t do any YouTube content until I have this type of background, until I have this type of mic.” I was like, “All of that’s not true.”

First of all, everyone who has given you that advice, unless they’ve got tens of thousands of subscribers, ignore them, because they’re not giving you advice, they’re giving you opinion.

The second thing is, the worst thing that’s going to happen is you’re going to have 10,000 people view your video or listen to you and go, “Oh, my god. This is absolute garbage,” but that’s 10,000 people.

Your problem will not be finding 10,000 people that hate you. There are certain people that make a career of that. Your problem will be finding people who want to listen to you in the first place.

Don’t worry about people not liking you. That just means you’re finding a bigger audience.

As soon as you start hearing negative feedback, that’s good, because it means you’ve gotten out there to a wider group.

The worst thing that happens is you’re going to have 10,000 people say, “This isn’t very good,” but that’s 10,000 people who now know who you are.

Colleen: Right. Well, I’ve heard that you haven’t really made it until you have your first hater. I actually had a bad review. I got a bad review on the podcast from a hater. It was totally not even constructive criticism, it was just—

Mike: Yeah, exactly.

Colleen: She hates my giggles, but everyone else has said, “Oh, I love that. It’s great.” Whatever.

Mike: Yeah, what the hell? I especially love your giggles and laugh. That’s one of your endearing qualities.

But you’re right, this is what I mean. This goes back to that first point. People don’t hate you. They don’t even hate your content. What they’re finding is a part of themselves that they don’t like that you’re exposing.

I guarantee dollars to doughnuts that that person at one point has been told that people don’t like their laugh. I will promise you that it’s a level of projection. Almost all of the bad reviews and stuff we see out there are actually just people working through their own issues. It’s like a trait. You don’t need to say anything at all, but if you do need to say something negative, it’s usually a reflection on something yourself.

So people aren’t ever hating on your content, what they really don’t like is a part of themselves. Like I said, we can go down that rabbit hole, but that’s the crux of it.

Colleen: Right. Confidence and mindset, they go hand in hand. Most designers go into this mindset—and it’s the wrong mindset—that when they hear a pricing objection from a client, the client’s just not ready to accept and move on to work with them. They really internalize that.

By internalizing, they think that, “Oh, my pricing must have been wrong, because they’re not accepting it.” But the pricing is not for pleasing the client. So the fact that the client questioned it must mean that they shouldn’t have charged that much. Then they’re like, “Oh, crap, what do I do now?” Then they blame themselves instead of understanding more about the buying process.

Mike: Yep.

Colleen: One of the objections that they might hear a lot is, “Oh, well, this is too expensive,” or “We cannot afford that.” What you say on your YouTube channel, which I love, is, “That’s not an objection.” So can you expand on that why that’s not an objection?

Mike: So there’s a few parts to this we’re going to have to unpack. It’s not something that, when someone listens to this, if you’re listening to this right now, you’re not going to listen to this and then instantly accept everything I’m going to tell you, because there’s a lot to unpack here and it goes against some of the things that we’ve been taught since [we were] children.

It goes against some of the things we’re taught as an entire society, stuff like the customer is always right.

Colleen: Yeah.

Mike: The market dictates the price. None of that’s true.

The first and most important thing to understand is the price is your price. It’s got nothing to do with the customer. That’s it. Fundamentally, it’s your price. If you know you need to make £300,000 or $300,000 a year and you need to sell ten $30,000 logos, great. That’s it, that’s the price.

When someone comes back to you and says, “Oh, man, that’s kind of expensive,” the first thing you need to understand is they’re not saying, “No,” they’re just saying, “It’s kind of expensive.” You have to say, “Yup, I agree. Sign here, send it over to deposit, and we can get started today.”

When I bought this house that I’m currently standing in and doing this recording, I wasn’t looking at it going, “Oh, man, what a steal. I really happy to be spending £200,000 on this, essentially, pile of bricks and mortar.” Of course not! It’s way too expensive.

Buying a car is too much. I pay too much for my credit cards. I pay too much for the rent at my office. Everything costs money, but we still do it.

Someone who comes back to you who says, “That’s too expensive,” don’t think that you have to go back to selling or negotiating your price or anything like that. They’re not even saying, “No.”

Chances are, a bit like the negative comments we heard earlier about YouTube or reviews or whatever, it’s just a complaint. That’s the problem. You have to understand: a “pricing objection” in commas and quotes, it’s not an objection, it’s a complaint.

It’s a bit like them saying, “It is absolutely pouring cats and dogs out there.” You go, “Yeah, man, tell me about it. Anyway, sign here, send over the deposit, and we can get started today.”

I promise you that most people who say, “That’s too expensive,” even if they go, “That’s a lot of money, I don’t know if we can afford that.” “Yeah, it is a lot of money, I completely agree. We’re worth it, though. Anyway, send over the deposit, sign here, and we can get started today.” They’ll go, “Okay, cool.”

They just want to be… they need to get something out there. People can’t help themselves.

My stepdad is a really good example of this. He says, “That’s way too expensive,” to everything, but sure enough, my mum eventually kind of twists his arm and says, “We need the kitchen redone,” or whatever it is.

It’s not even a case of whether it is too much money. Assuming you’ve done your due diligence up front and you’ve asked them their budget up front—and we can kind of talk about that a bit as well—it’s not an objection, it’s a complaint. You have to treat it like a complaint. 99.9% of the time it’s stuff that you can’t even do anything about.

When people say, “Oh, my god, thanks for sending over this proposal. My son is an absolute moron, he keeps messing up the company. We’ve taken him on the board as a director.” You go, “That sucks. He does sound like a moron. Anyway, sign here, send over the deposit.”

It’s a complaint, it’s not an objection.

Colleen: I think maybe the bigger deal that you make of it, that makes it a bigger deal in their minds too, do you think?

Mike: 100%, absolutely. That’s such a good point.

You and I have both got dogs. I see a lot of time with dog owners, when you have a really neurotic, overly nervous owner, you have a really neurotic, overly nervous dog. So, if you’re just chilled out about the price…

I constantly hear… I hear about everything. I hear about the book. I released a book the other day for $6.99. Someone was like, “Ah, man, are you going to do a lower price?” I was like, “$7?”

Colleen: That’s crazy.

Mike: Yeah, what do you want me to do about this? So it doesn’t matter what the price is. The price is irrelevant.

We can go into the whole thing of money is fake, money is a myth. You can’t eat money, you can’t put money in the car. You have to exchange it for something. So it’s only worth something when you give it to someone anyway.

The whole principle around… you’re absolutely right. If you’re chilled out about it and you hear that complaint all the time, just treat it like, “Yeah, man, tell me about it. Anyway, sign here, send over the deposit, we can get started today.” That’s as big a deal as you need it.

Here’s the reason you do that. We’ll come back to the pricing stuff, but people might have a real objection. They might have an actual objection, which is where they don’t trust you, they don’t trust the product or they don’t understand the price. Typically, those are three. They don’t understand the price.

It’s a lot of money. I know that buying this house is a lot of money, but I understand the price, I understand why it’s charged that much, I understand what the constraints are. But if they say, “No, no, no, I don’t want to sign just yet, I don’t want to pay for this just yet,” we’ve already moved past the fact that it’s too expensive and you say, “Okay, what’s the real reason that you don’t want to buy today? What’s the real reason?”

If they go, “I just don’t know if we’ve got it in the budget,” again, that sounds like a pricing objection, but it’s not, it’s a complaint, and you agree with them. If anyone’s ever over budget, it’s a good thing, because they’re a person who spends money. You go, “Yeah, man, tell me about it. I’m over budget on everything I do as well. But we know you’ve got this in. You told us you had this budget. We know you’ve got this in here. Sign here, let’s get started today.”

A lot of the time it’s kind of the equivalent of when you’ve got to go to the dentist or something. You kind of have to be pushed past it. You’re like, I’m going to just put this off, and put this off and put this off.

You have to coach the customer over that line.

The more chilled out… exactly as you said, the more chilled out and the more experienced…

Here’s where confidence comes in, because even though you might internally be going, “Oh, my god, this is terrifying,” if you’re just like, “Hey, no worries. I’m going to help you get over this. All you have to do is sign here, we can get started today.”

They’re calm, they’re chilled out, they’re going to do it. The more stress you put on it, the more stress they put on it.

Colleen: Yeah, that’s true. That reminds me of the last time I flew. I’m in a panic situation. My husband’s like, “Just calm down, just calm down.” In my head, I’m freaking out.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s what we perceive confidence as. Again, another way of what people mistake for being confident is if you take a task which is seemingly very complex or even imperceptible magic.

When I see the guys who do CGI for movies and stuff, it might as well be magic to me. I don’t even understand how they get that many artists and lighting technicians and software designers to create this stuff. As far as I’m concerned, it’s magic.

So to me, they must be really know what they’re doing at their job, which I would display as a level of confidence. But it’s not, it’s a lot of practice and it’s a lot of experience. If you take practice and experience and apply it to a situation that you are comfortable at, compared to something that other people are uncomfortable at, it’s going to look like you’re very confident. People naturally are going to follow you.

So when someone says, “Oh, my god, I cannot believe you’ve sent this over. This is $20,000. This is an incredible amount of money.” If you just immediately internally think, “Yeah, okay, it is a lot of money,” they’re immediately like, “Oh, my god, this person has dealt with this before. I’m throwing all kinds of stuff at them, I’m kind of getting angry and anxious and having a little temper tantrum, even, but they’ve obviously seen this before. They’re super chilled out, so I must be in the wrong. I must be doing something weird.”

Colleen: Right.

Mike: You just go, “Yeah, it’s a lot of money. Tell me about it.” Just that phrase—“Yeah, I agree. Yup, I completely agree. I completely concur, it is a lot of money. Sign here, we can get started today”—completely deescalates it.

Most of the time, people are just going to follow along with you. If they don’t, that’s a good thing, because you’re then going to understand the real objection and the real reason why they don’t want to buy from you.

Colleen: That reminds me of when I see designers asking in Facebook groups about, “What do you guys think of my pricing?” And they don’t put any context on it.

Mike: Yeah, yeah.

Colleen: They might say what’s included in the work. They don’t say anything about the client.

Mike: Yep.

Colleen: It’s all relative.

Mike: Yeah, that’s a really good point. That’s so good. I really like that. They don’t include anything about the client, because you’re right. One of the big things I teach is don’t go off to startups. I think startups are a lousy market, they’re absolutely awful to work for. They haven’t got their own brand. They don’t even know what they’re selling most of the time.

They’ve had a lot of seed capital come in from rich parents, and mommy and daddy have given them a ton of money, and they’re like, “Cool, we need to go out and make some sales.” I’m like, “Awesome. How many sales have you made already?” They’re like, “Oh, we’ve made zero sales.” Right, I can’t work with you.

So if you look at who the customer is and we say, oh, we work with bakeries. Bakeries can’t have that high a profit margin, but if you really want to go off to them, great. Your prices might be considerably lower, but you also need to have a higher volume of people come through and there needs to be a bit more turnkey as opposed to a custom solution.

But if you’re working with… ironically, talking about startups, like seed capital investment firms that deal with hundreds of millions of dollars in turnover and funding a year, they will spend 35 grand on a logo, no problem, absolutely no problem.

Colleen: Right.

Mike: The funny thing is that both of those clients are as easy to get hold of and as easy to sell to. It doesn’t matter what the price is, it’s actually who the customer is.

You’re right. When people are like, “How much should I be charging?” I’m like, “Well, how much do you want to make?” That’s the question. How much do you want to make? If you want to make 100 grand a year and you only want to work with one client a month, you know you’re going to have to charge roughly 10k a project. It’s as simple as that.

Now, let’s figure out who can afford 10k, what have you got that’s worth 10k and how can we get in front of that particular customer? It’s not a pricing problem, it’s usually a product problem.

Colleen: You could even have a big client, and then if you’re pricing too low, they’re expecting to pay a lot more, so those expectations there are out of alignment. So they’re going to be like, “Well, you just don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Mike: Absolutely. Yeah, we’ve even seen that. We’ve seen customers… we coached an ecommerce business only recently. They were look, “Look, we got this project, it’s 35k a month, but we know that the other guys are going to be undercutting us.”

I was like, “For 35k a month, you shouldn’t be going near undercutting anyone, because that is positioning you in a bracket that knows what they’re doing.”

They said that they won the contract based on the price, because the customer was like, “You guys obviously know what you’re doing. No one would charge 35 grand a month for this service unless they knew what they were doing.”

Colleen: Yeah.

Mike: And yeah, they had gone through the sales process, they backed it up with case studies and stuff.

But if some kid went in there and said, “Yeah, I can do this for 5 grand,” and we’ve seen that happen. We see that happen all the time. There’s a difference there. It should be obvious.

Some customers will absolutely expect you to charge higher prices because that’s the perceived value of the service.

Colleen: Right, and that leads me to my point about if you ever hear from a client, “Oh, hey, my nephew can do this on Wix or whatever for $500. Why should I pay you $5,000 to do this?”

Mike: Yup, so that’s one of my favorite objections. We get that a lot, because I teach constantly, “You should charge 25k for your websites, minimum, absolutely bare minimum.”

Whenever I speak, particularly if I’m being honest, openly, a lot of Word Camps don’t like it when I talk about that, because they’re like, “Oh my god, that’s not how we work.”

But anyway, a lot of businesses will say, “Yeah, but I could charge a lot less, because I don’t have that many overheads,” or I’m constantly being told that some clown down the road can do it less.

The question you have to ask… and this is what happens. Let’s say you’ve put that forward to the customer, whatever it is, website design, logo design, even just a branding package, and they say, “Well, I know someone else could do it a lot less.”

The only question you have to ask is, “Okay, why wouldn’t you buy from them?” They’ll go, “Because I wanted to see what your price would be.”

“All right, awesome. Why else wouldn’t you want to buy from them?”

“Well, he’s my nephew, I love him, but he’s a bit of a moron.”

“Great. Why else wouldn’t you buy from him?”

“He probably doesn’t have as much experience as you.”

“Okay, great. Why else?”

You just exhaust that, “why else?” reason. You don’t go to pricing.

This is the thing, even if you’re comparing two products like for like… We bought a new TV recently. I went to a store here in the U.K., it’s called John Lewis. It’s kind of premium-level retail shop. I said, “Look, this place down the road, they’re selling the same TV, but it’s 200 quid cheaper.”

They say, “Okay, why wouldn’t you buy from them, then?” I was like, “Oh, okay, awesome. I guess because their guarantee isn’t as long as yours?”

They go, “Okay, yeah. Why else?”

I said, “Well, I don’t think their customer service is as good.”

“Okay, why else?” I ended up selling the TV back to myself despite the fact that the price is even more expensive. It’s almost irrelevant.

A lot of people will go to the price and say, “Oh, well, we could negotiate there. We could talk about this.” Don’t do that. Instead, say, “Why wouldn’t you buy from them and why would you buy from me?” It’s just an open conversation. You’re just having a chat.

Chances are, they’ll end up selling you to them.

Because if they were so sure about the other person, they would be buying from them. The question is they’re saying to you, “Can you help me get over the line? Can you help me justify why I should work with you?”

Again, don’t bring it down to price, bring it down to their own reasoning, their own justifications.

Colleen: What’s so great about what you just said is that you’re not convincing them. They’re convincing themselves. So if you have to convince somebody, then it’s like you’re the snake oil salesman.

But when you’re helping them come to the conclusion in their own mind and they’re making the choice themselves…

Yeah, it’s just great.

Mike: It’s super simple. There’s a couple of different ways to do this.

Of all the sales training in the world, closing and objection turning is my favorite thing to talk about. It makes me an extremely boring party guest. Liv gets really annoyed because it means we’re not invited anymore because I just want to talk about sales and closing and objections and stuff.

So the other way of doing that is when someone says to you, “Yeah, I’m not so sure about buying this. We’ve got past the price. It’s not the budget. I just don’t know if this is the right time.”

You go, “Awesome. Let’s do a pros and cons list and just work out is this the right thing for you.”

You say, “Okay, so I’m going to think of a pro, you’re going to think of a pro, I’m going to think of a con, you’re going to think of a con.”

You write it out and you say, “Okay, pro of buying. Well, we’ll finally get our website sorted. Awesome. I think another pro of buying is this shows a sign of maturity in your business. What’s a con? Well, it’s going to cost 35 grand. Great. What’s a con?”

You might have to say, “Well, it’s a pretty sizable investment. Great. What’s a pro?”

I promise you they will find more pros for whatever it is: working with you, working with somebody else, against working with somebody else, the pricing, choosing that particular solution, moving with a CRM system as opposed to doing in-house, whatever it is, they’ll find more pros.

The sales process is only ever working out: does it make sense for two parties to work together? It’s not your job to convince them that this is the right product, it’s their job to convince them that it’s the right product.

So if you just work out does this make sense for us to work together.

Yeah, you’re going to have people come up to you and say, “You are way too expensive. I think your products are shoddy, I think your design sucks. I can’t believe you use WordPress. Everybody knows that real businesses use Umbraco or whatever.”

You’re like, “Great. You’re probably going to be a nightmare customer. I don’t want to work with you.”

Colleen: Right.

Mike: It’s as much about you qualifying them out as them figuring out, “Do I want to work with this person?”

Colleen: Yeah, I mean, if there’s that much friction in the sales process with them, I mean, good grief. Red flags.

Mike: Yeah, exactly. Is it going to get better? Almost certainly not. 100%. It’s all about red flags.

The only other time that pricing becomes a real problem is if you haven’t done your due diligence.

So this is when if we put a proposal in front of someone or we send over a quote or whatever, and they’ll say, “10 grand? We were kind of hoping it would be about 2.”

As a rule, I say you have about a 20% to 50% leeway. If someone’s got 5 grand, they’ve got 10 grand. If someone’s got 10 grand, they’ve got 12 grand.

If you’re hearing that a lot, and it’s not just like, “Whoa, that’s expensive,” or “Whoa, that’s a lot…” They’re going to say that all the time… It doesn’t matter. Unless you have asked them what their budget is in this place. You have to ask that. It’s absolutely critical.

Colleen: Yeah.

Mike: It should be one of the first conversations. Yeah, it’s a little bit awkward. There are ways you can phrase that when we’re having a conversation, this open, exploratory conversation.

You say, okay, you go through all of their problems, like what are their needs, and then you just say, “So what are you looking to spend on solving this problem?”

If they say, “Oh, I don’t know. I was hoping you could tell me,” stay quiet. Stay completely silent. Don’t say a word. Until you get a number from them, don’t say a word. It’s very awkward. It is awkward, but your job is to get a number out of them.

If they’re a proper business, if they take themselves seriously, they’ll have a number in mind. They’ll um and ah, and they’ll try and talk around it, like, “Well, what do you think?”

You just stay completely silent. What ends up happening is they end up looking for your approval. They’ll end up coming up with a number. They’ll say, “We were thinking maybe 5 grand.”

You go, “Cool. Thank you so much. Now, if 5 grand is in your budget, which it should be, you need to confidently say, “Look, the minimum we deal with at this level is around $10,000 for what you’re looking for.”

Again, stay completely silent. If they go, “Yeah, okay, I think we can stretch to that,” great, you’ve got your budget.

If they go, “Absolutely not, completely out of the question. We don’t have that kind of money,” you know that you can’t work with them.

It’s as simple as that. Move on, find somebody else. Or find a product that they can buy that’s worth $5,000.

I think everyone thinks that I believe everything should be 25 grand. If it’s a course, 25 grand. If it’s a book, 25 grand. But it’s not. The problem is I don’t like people charging 5 grand for a 25 grand product.

Around $5,000, up to about $5,000, even 10k, you need a scalable, repeatable product, like a course, a piece of software, like a system, something turnkey that you can sell to people.

If people have only got £50, great: “Here’s a copy of the book, here’s access to my blog.”

Until they start having these higher levels, they can’t have your one-to-one time. That’s more of a budget question during the qualification stage. It’s hugely important to get comfortable with that, because it will help you further down the line.

Colleen: When you bring up money in the beginning, early on in the process, it really makes you appear more professional, because that’s what professionals are doing. They’re talking money.

They’re not waiting around and then later spending days or weeks on a proposal and trying to throw something at the wall to see what sticks with their budget. They’re talking about it up front and then not wasting time if it’s not a good match.

Mike: Absolutely. Yeah, it’s not even a case of people thinking of talking about money as awkward. That’s not true. If I emailed you every 50 minutes to say, “Hey, you’ve just made another $1,000,” all of a sudden money isn’t very awkward to talk about.

So it’s not the money that’s awkward. What it is is at the moment they don’t fully trust you. That’s all it is, that’s what it comes down to.

You have to project—exactly as you say—enough of a level of professionalism to the point where they think, “Look, Colleen clearly deals with this all the time. She wouldn’t ask this question unless it was needed. I need to be upfront.”

In the same way that parents talk to their kids, if you give them space, they will be honest with you. If you ask them a question, they’ll be honest with you.

One of the things my mum was incredible at, did really, really well at… because my brother and I, frankly, were tearaways who didn’t really go to school. We kind of went off and did our own things. But if she ever said, “Tell me about your day,” which is essentially the budget question for a kid, because I’m like, “Oh, my god, if I tell them, they’re going to be completely embarrassed.”

You just give space. You don’t talk, you don’t interject, you don’t try to answer for them, you don’t try to give examples. Eventually the psychology will turn around where they’ll think, “Well, I need to get their approval.”

What’s even worse is if you give an answer—as a child, as the customer—but they still don’t respond, because that’s clearly not the answer that they were looking for.

So if you go, “Tell me where your budget is,” and they go, “Eh, we’ve got an idea. We were hoping you could tell us. We don’t really know.” Just stay silent.

Even that three seconds… Just stay completely silent and eventually they’ll go… Internally, they’re thinking, “I’ve now offended this person. I haven’t given them the right answer. They’re still saying silent. Oh, my god. 10 grand?”

I promise you they’ll get to it at some point. They are other ways to word it, but eventually, if you give people space, they will tell you everything you need to know.

Colleen: Well, I don’t stay silent like that, but—

Mike: Try it. You need to try it. I promise you—

Colleen: I am going to try it.

Mike: Your budget will double.

Colleen: I am going to try it though. But what I’ve done in the past if they don’t have a budget or if they say, “We haven’t planned for this,” I’m like, “Okay, expectation of cost?”

Mike: Interesting.

Colleen: So I don’t just say, “What is your budget?” because budget can be total BS.

Just because they have a budget doesn’t mean that it’s the proper amount to do anything with for anybody.

So I’ll ask, “What is your budget or expectation of cost? What kind of investment have you set aside to get this work done?” If they still don’t know, I might be like, “Okay, is it $500, $5,000, $15,000?”

Then I will compare it to a car. You’re going to go buy a car: “Well, what are we looking at here? Are we looking at a Mercedes, are we looking at a commuter car? What are we looking at? What ballpark are we in?”

Mike: Absolutely, yeah. It’s really interesting. The car thing is really interesting, because the analogy works. Again, internally some people are like, “I don’t want to give you my full budget in case you push it to the max,” or, “I don’t want to tell the freelancer I’ve got 15 grand, because they’ll want to push it to the max.”

Well, I’m pretty open and pretty brazen, so maybe this is where people think a lot of my confidence comes from. If someone goes, “Well, we don’t want to tell you our full budget, because we don’t want to go to the max.”

I’m like, “So just to make sure, when you fill up your car, do you make sure that you fill it up just beneath where it’s full? Is that right that you think that’s the most efficient way of filling up a car with gas or petrol?”

They’re like, “Oh. No, I guess not.”

I’m like, “Of course, I want to know what your full budget is, because I want to know the full amount of resources that I’ve got to invest in your business. I’m not taking this money and putting it into my business. I’m taking this money and putting it into your business. If you give me 15 grand, I promise you’ll get 15 grand’s worth of value, but only if I know you’ve got $15,000 to spend. Don’t give me the ‘range’ answer as a way of reframing it. I’m trying to help you. You approached me.”

There’s ways you can have fun with it. But entirely when you are selling this and you begin to internalize this stuff and have this as your mindset, like, “No. I deserve to have every single penny that the customer has.” Like I said, that’s a whole other rabbit hole.

You deserve to have the maximum resources at your disposal. Yeah, you’ve given some great examples of other ways that you can word that. But if you ever feel, “Well, I don’t want to ask the budget, because they don’t want to tell me in case I push it too the max…”

Yes, that’s kind of the reason we do it. That’s why we have the pricing available. No one else does it in any other industry except ours, for some reason, and it’s our job to turn that around.

Colleen: So one of the things that you talk about a lot is “Sell futures, not features.” So do you want to talk about that a bit?

Mike: Yeah. So it’s interesting, because you brought up the pricing thing earlier, like, “Hey, this is what we want to offer. Do people think it’s worth this?”

This is our pricing structure and they’ll tell people what the deliverables are. We’re constantly told to sell the benefits, sell the benefits, sell the benefits. For whatever reason, we refrain from that.

The phrase “Sell futures, not features” basically means could you write up, almost like a creative writing exercise, the type of future that your customer will experience after buying your product. We can prove that this works.

I have this little spiel. I have this little sales process where I say, “Hey, the only problem you’re going to have in the future is that you’re going to have to buy a whole new wardrobe because none of your old clothes are going to fit you. You’re going to be in such great shape you’re going to have to buy a whole new set of clothes. Everyone’s going to be asking you, ‘How do you look like that?’ Your skin is better, you’re sleeping better. You’ll have a better relationship with your kids because you’ll have more energy to spend time with them. Everybody is going to be asking what your secret is. You’re not going to have to go on any crazy diet. You’re not having to wake up at 5:00 AM. Does this sound like something that you want?”

Most of the time, people say, “Yeah, that sounds incredible. I’d love to buy that.”

You go, “Great. Here’s the price,” whatever it is.

Throughout that process of selling to you, of being desirable and being something that you want to buy, I didn’t tell you what the product was. I didn’t tell you if it was a course, if it was a book, whether it was a training program, whether it was PT sessions. It doesn’t matter.

Your business is designed to sell a future to the customer. Mine is to help people, basically, increase their prices and get better at selling. I’ve got a range of ways of doing that. I’ve got coaching, I’ve got courses, I’ve got books, I’ve got blog posts, I’ve got a membership system, I’ve got one-on-one consulting and coaching.

The price is irrelevant. It’s all about the future that we’re delivering to the customer and you have to begin writing that future out.

Literally some of the exercises we do are writing out that future. Even for a logo, could you write out a future that looks like something that someone would pay 10 grand for?

Colleen: Yeah.

Mike: If you start writing that out, you think, “Well, the way that I do this is by delivering you a logo,” you’ve skipped all of the, “Well, convince me it’s worth it,” because you’re writing a future. It’s clear who the niche is.

Again, you mentioned they haven’t told you anything about the context, of the customer, who the market is, who the niche is.

When you’re writing a future, you’re clearly defining who that niche is, because surely only… In my case, it was clearly parents who were overweight, who wanted to spend more time with their kids. That was implied through the future.

That’s what becomes attractive, not the product. So that’s what we mean by sell futures, not features. We should be positioning to the customer the better future and how their life is better and how they’re going to feel and the emotions and these illogical, dumb things that they have.

That’s what they’re buying, that is what the… Even things when buying a logo on a website, especially so, that’s actually what they’re buying.

Colleen: Right, because branding is going to help them reach the right audience. What is that going to do for them? Is that going to maybe help them double their income? I mean, that could be something in their future.

With a website, it’s going to help them be able to take in more sales, possibly. So what’s that going to do for their income?

There’s so many different things, and we have to always ask them what that is? I think, too, that

when we understand that value that we’re delivering, then we feel more confident about what we’re charging.

Oh my gosh, how could I charge $500 for a logo when this is what they’re getting from this branding?

Mike: Yeah, if you do a little bit of exploratory calls with your customers, and we do it with our private consulting clients who don’t have as many anymore, but we’ll still do the same process.

I’ll say, “Okay, so why are you looking at doing more marketing?”

They’ll say, “Oh, we want more sales, we want to grow the business.”

“Great, every single business in the history of mankind has given me that answer. Why do you want to grow your business?”

Then they’ll start to get into it and they’re like, “Well, I’m thinking of selling it in a couple of years.”

Great. That’s the future that I want to sell to.

Or they might go, “You know what?” You get deep into it, you get to know these customers. They’ll say, “You know what? I set up a business as a way of impressing my father. He ran a business. I still feel that, frankly, it’s not really a legitimate business, it’s not a big boy business. We’re kind of still playing. It’s like a hobby that makes money.”

These are businesses that do, 2, 3, 10, 20 million in turnover, but for whatever reason, they’re still, internal… We talked about being bullied earlier. They’re still living that out.

You go, “Great. What about in the future? If your father turns around to you and says, ‘I cannot believe you’re running this, I’m so proud of you,” they go, “Yeah, that’s what I want. Ultimately, deep down, that’s the transformation that I want.”

“Great. We have a branding package that helps turn businesses like yours that are essentially hobby based, money-making opportunities into big-boy businesses that impress the people closest to them, and also in two year’s time, you’re going to be able to exit and sell. How does that sound?”

They go, “Oh my god. I absolutely want to buy this.”

All of a sudden… You’re right: a logo is not worth 500 bucks, that logo is worth $10,000, because you’re completely changing the future and the transformation that that customer goes on just through asking them a few questions at the start.

Colleen: Exactly. Okay, so now I’ve got a question that… This is kind of… It’s a little on topic. I have a question from Michael in the Facebook group. He had asked, “Do you prefer Miles Beckler or Neil Patel?”

Mike: Oh, right. Yes, he did. Miles Beckler 100 times over. I think Neil has done some great work. I think he’s got a very good team around him, but, frankly, his advice now is garbage as far as I’m concerned. It’s out of date. Some of the stuff he’s posted recently is just so, so, so misguided.

Colleen: That’s what I’ve seen other people saying.

Mike: Yeah, he knows his stuff. He’s grown some massively powerful businesses, but the problem is he is now applying 10-year-old corporate marketing tactics to smaller businesses, and it doesn’t translate.

Miles Beckler at the moment is incredibly relevant, because he’s taking advice and tactics that he uses in his business. The advice you get from a business that’s doing anywhere up to maybe $5 million turnover a year is completely different from a business that’s doing up to $20 million a year.

If you’re only making $100,000 a year, and the statistics show that most people in their businesses, this is in the U.S., the U.K., and most of Europe, around $30,000 a year. You can’t take corporate marketing and branding expertise and apply it to a business that’s barely making enough to live on. It doesn’t work.

Miles, on the other hand, he does work on businesses that is relevant to the turnover and the size and the type of businesses that they’re running.

So yeah, Miles Beckler 100 times. I didn’t realize how passionately I cared about that. That’s interesting.

Colleen: So this has been really fun. This has been so much information. This is so great. I can’t thank you enough.

Mike: Oh no, thank you. Thank you for bringing me on.

Colleen: I wanted to let the listeners know that From Single to Scale… I actually have that book. I love it, it’s awesome. I still need to leave you a review, by the way.

You’ve got another book coming out called Universe Fuel. So would you like to talk a little bit about that and when that comes out?

Mike: It’s a very different book than From Single to Scale. Universe Fuel is, basically, I noticed repeat patterns in how some people seem to just achieve lots every single day. They seem to have clarity, purpose in what they want to do. It’s something I think…

A lot of people ask me, “How did you figure out that this is what you want to do every single day?” You get out of bed. It’s not to say I have this perfect, idyllic lifestyle. I still struggle with stuff.

But overall, there seems to be these traits that everyone who we admire and look up to seem to have. It basically revolves around this pattern of what I would consider “universe fuel.” They kind of tap into this wider purpose. It’s less spiritual. It’s not anything like that. It’s just what is it that they seem to have a lot of that seems to turbo charge and power their lives. I think there’s a way of getting more of it.

So it’s just a book on how to achieve more clarity, how to find purpose within your life, manage your time and energy levels a little bit better and, ultimately, have more of whatever you want.

Yeah, it’s on Amazon. Depending on when this goes out, there is a paperback version and a Kindle version. So you can just go ahead and search “Universe Fuel.” They’ll probably be a website at some point, but we haven’t gotten around to figuring that out yet.

Colleen: Wow, I can’t wait to get that book too.

Mike: I’ve also got a Facebook group. If you head to, it’ll redirect you. It’s called the Sell Your Service Private Mastermind.

Or YouTube. That’s where you can find my YouTube channel as well with all my free sales training.

That’s the easiest place to get in touch with me if people have got any questions, shoot me an email or put a message in the group.

I love talking about sales and pricing and objections, or any of that kind of stuff. So, go nuts.

Colleen: I love your YouTube channel. It’s great!

Mike: Oh, thank you very much. I have a lot of fun using it. I like it a lot.

Colleen: I can tell you do.

Mike: I’m really enjoying the podcast, by the way. You’re knocking this out of the park. This is great.

Colleen: Oh, thank you!

Mike: What I like is your interview style. I like the way that you kind of offer feedback on some of the questions and the answers as well as actually run the calls. It makes a big difference. Your personality lends to those types of conversations. I think they get better answers out of people, as well.

So, personally, yeah, I’m a huge fan. I love what you’re doing.

Colleen: Oh, my god, I could cry. That just made my month. Wow.

Mike: I’m glad. Good!

Colleen: Oh, my god. I have to play this back over and over and over again. Oh, my god…


  • I enjoyed your podcast. I listened because I really like Mike Killen, I always learn something from him. I want to hear more of your podcasts so I subscribed! 😁

    1. Hi, Shelley! Yes, Mike’s great, always full of great insights. Thank you for the feedback and for subscribing. I appreciate it! 🙂

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