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Managing unreasonable requests

Earlier this week, I read an online discussion about being asked to provide services within your business for free. The discussion led largely to managing unreasonable requests. I thought this was a good time to discuss this in more depth.

We constantly have requests from others: friends wanting to borrow things; employers wanting you to work late to meet a deadline; family wanting you to do things for them etc. It is particularly challenging for individuals, like myself, who run their own business. We are constantly asked to do things. But it is the ‘unreasonable requests’ that annoy most people.

I believe there is a lot we can learn from receiving unreasonable requests: not just how to manage them, but also about ourselves and how others perceive us. It is easy to get annoyed when we are asked to do something for free: where we feel we are being ripped off or undervalued, and where they are benefitting hugely. This could be delivering training for free, when the participants are paying to attend; demanding a significant amount of a product for free, which doesn’t benefit you at all but is a great offer for the asker, or even someone haggling over your product or service to a ridiculously low level.

Natalie Reynolds, in her excellent book, We have a deal, says that the first person to pitch a figure is at an advantage, because the other person will have an emotional reaction to it. So if it is a totally unrealistic demand, the other person will be annoyed but possibly be more amenable to agreeing a higher valued offering at the end of the negotiation. And there are some people that will GAMBLE the fact that their first demand won’t be agreed upon but they will get more from the agreement.

There are three ways we can actually learn from these situations rather than wasting time ranting on social media and getting angry.

Firstly, there are always chancers: people who know that if they ask so many people someone will agree to their demands, or that they will get something out of the demand – rather than nothing. The responses of “You can’t have that, but how about if you have this”. There is no point in getting annoyed by them; just understand what their motivation is. It is nothing personal; they are wanting the best deal. Your response should be calm, lacking in emotion and direct. “We do not provide xxxx products for this event. Our charges are XXXXX”. This might lead to some negotiation.

Secondly, consider that the person asking might not actually know the value of your service or product. They might truly believe that you will deliver a day’s training workshop for free as it is a “marketing opportunity”. They might not realise that you have a successful 7 figure business and your marketing activities do not include free full day workshops to people who will probably not buy your service. In this case non-emotional responses such as “I am running a successful xxxx business and we use other ways of marketing to specific targeted clients”

Thirdly, and this is a hard one, it might be that you are actually projecting a level of service or product where you will be ‘grateful’ to deliver work for free. In other words you are giving signs that you will do something for free. the “Good old Susan, she won’t mind doing it for free”. The trouble is, we all look for people who do this, and there are individuals who project this, which devalues their personal brand. In these situations, look hard at yourself and start building boundaries to ensure others get the message. A non-emotional response could be “Thank you for your offer. I owe it to my paying customers to use my energy in delivering excellent work for them, and am unable to spare time delivering your work pro bono. Of course if you have a budget we could discuss this further. My prices start at xxxx”.

Let’s change our mindset on being asked unreasonable requests. Instead of getting angry, don’t take it personally and start a conversation, or politely say no. In doing this, you will be demonstrating your value to the other person. Good luck.

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