Hallway Studio

January 31, 2018

I’m a huge fan of the content Intercom puts out and through them I discovered Gerald M. Weinberg’s The Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice SuccessfullyIt’s full of amusing and good advice. One of the best bits is about the orange juice test and it’s something I’ve used to teach my team how to manage tough situations with clients.

“Imagine that you had to choose a site for an annual sales convention, accommodating seven hundred people…When you see the banquet manager for a hotel, you pose the following problem: The founder of your company has established a hallowed tradition for your sales meetings, requiring that each morning’s sales breakfast starts with a short toast to success, using orange juice”

Your client wants a toast for 700 people at 7 am using juice that has been squeezed no more than two hours ago. What do you say?

No, there is just no way to accommodate this request.

Yes, just to get the business and hope that you can do it but you’ll probably have to back off of this commitment later.

Well, if we did this we would need additional inventory, equipment, glasses, kitchen staff and servers that will mean an additional charge of [big number] dollars. If you give us more time to squeeze the juice or we use a smaller glass we can bring that cost down.

If you say yes or no you fail. If you let the client know the cost and help them make a decision, you pass. The best service providers help guide clients towards decisions and make them feel comfortable they are in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing.

There are a few key lessons:

  • Show your work – Helping the client understand the effort shows them that your are knowledgeable and thoughtful
  • Help clients understand cost – I have no idea what things cost when it comes to home improvement so I really value a contractor who explains why something costs $200 versus $2,000.
  • Suggest tradeoffs – It’s not uncommon for clients to have visions of grandure and little budgets so they need help making decisions on where to spend money

Image: Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona

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