Every contractor, freelancer, coach, and small business owner dreads getting “that” question from potential clients.
This one → “So, you can guarantee that I’ll get results…right?”
…or its (really annoying) cousin, “So and so said that they can guarantee xyz.”
While that question (or its numerous variations) can be harrowing for someone newer in business, it also gives those of us more “seasoned” contractors heartburn.
We worry that we don’t have “enough” proof. We fear that without providing concrete guarantees, they’ll find someone else. We worry that if we say no, we’re not “professional.”
And let’s just be honest with ourselves for a minute. With all the income claims and “100K” launch posts that seem to dominate social media, it’s no wonder.
…wanna know the truth?
You don’t need to guarantee results to “prove” your value as a contractor, a coach, or a small business.
If you’re re-reading that, stick with me because after doing this “online service provider thing” for more than a decade, I’ve learned a few valuable things that I’m going to share with you:
- The results that you achieved for a former client are not a future guarantee.
- The results that you get your clients may or may not be relevant to this potential client’s goals and needs.
- This new potential client may have unreasonable expectations about what a new website, a sales page, or your coaching will “do” or “give” them.
And quite honestly, IMHO, it’s not only damn near impossible to guarantee specific results to a potential (or current) client when it comes to any type of digital marketing campaign, product, or program. In fact, I believe that doing so is unethical.
Technology Always Wins
When you’re dealing with digital sales of any kind, you’re also dealing with the algorithms that control the sites (like Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn), and you cannot control those. And those algorithms control what the potential purchaser of any product or service sees. Yes, you can give your best recommendations and ensure your client has the best chance of success…but you can’t guarantee It.
And the user experience has become more and more customizable, and that’s not slowing down. In other words, if I search for “best marketing channels,” the results I get will be different than yours because the algorithm isn’t just taking the actual search into account.
It’s also taking into account your past searches, purchases, your Facebook followers, your Yelp reviews…you get the idea.
Human beings are unpredictable
If you’re a parent, you know this already, but as a contractor, there are a LOT of things outside of your control. Like their implementation of the content & marketing strategy. Their sales skills (or lack thereof). What was done with the list, the channel, or the program before you came on board.
And that’s just a (very) small sampling of a much larger issue: you can only control the things that you are directly responsible for. This is the exact reason that I no longer offer “profit sharing” as an option for payment – there’s too much wiggle room (“Oh, yeah, I’ve known her for years, so it definitely wasn’t your marketing content that convinced her to buy.”). Yeah, no thank you.
Comparison is the Thief of Joy
But what if the potential client is completely obsessed with “one-upping” a specific competitor?
While it’s super tempting to compare your results to that other person or company, that will drive you crazy.
Think about this: If you know that the “average” open rate in your industry is 20%, but your emails have a steady open rate of just 14%, that doesn’t mean you’re terrible at what you do. For starters, you’ve only emailed a select segment of the total market, and maybe that limited group’s potential is just 14%.
But (stay with me – I’m gonna geek out for a minute), the metric and “rate” that you should be paying really, really close attention to isn’t actually your open rate. It’s great that they opened the email…but did they click?
If you can increase the number of people to land on, consume, and engage or purchase your “stuff” (your programs, your products, your super funny Instagram reel), that actually impacts your (or your client’s) bottom line.
I don’t know about you, but FWIW, I’d much rather see an improvement in clicks from .02% to 1.5% over a “vanity” increase in opens.
And we’re back to why I think that providing guarantees is unethical: if you don’t control the platforms, the algorithm, or human behavior, how can you guarantee that your work will, well, work? You can’t.
So What Can You Guarantee as a Contractor?
The short answer? Only what you can actually, personally (and professionally) control. Things like meeting deadlines, providing high-quality work, clear communication channels, ensuring original ideas and content…you get the idea.
In my case, I’m usually responsible for providing high-quality sales and marketing copy, as well as strategic marketing plan recommendations. The execution, the delivery, that’s up to the client.
Think of it this way: if you hire the neighbor kid to water your plants while you’re on vacation, and it rains the entire time, making the need to water the plants moot, you would not withhold payment because of weather conditions that are completely out of your control (at least I hope not!!).
So the next time you’re chatting with a potential (or current) client, they want you to “guarantee” results, share your testimonials, showcase your work, and rely on your expertise, knowledge, and experience.
And tell them exactly why you don’t offer guarantees (I promise you that whoever did make that promise is giving you the lowest possible results, banking on the fact that you will have to pay out that ‘performance bonus’ that they glossed over during your convo).