“I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is, “How do we make people pay for music?” What if we started asking,”How do we let people pay for music?” ~ Amanda Palmer: The Art of Asking TED Talk Feb 2013
I recently watched Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk titled “The Art of Asking” and I recommend it to everyone, in every profession. I find it particularly engaging and challenging for travel professionals. Our own industry has suffered many of the same disruptive economic forces as has the music industry. I think, too, we sometimes ask the question “How do we make people pay for our services” rather than “How do we let people pay for our services?“
The idea is both startling in its simplicity and frightening in its execution. Interestingly, whenever you speak to travel professionals about fees a discussion of fear is usually somewhere nearby. We are afraid of not getting the business because we ask for a fee. We are afraid of rejection by the consumer who can “get it cheaper” on their own. It is too often fear preventing us from asking for what we most deserve: a fair exchange for our insight, knowledge and expertise.
To allay some degree of fear, let’s be sure we see the true boundaries of Amanda Palmer’s insight. She isn’t talking about “giving away” talent or work for free. Instead, she is suggesting if we pose the questions the right way, if we build our connections to clients on relationships of trust and engagement rather than on contracts of mandates and stipulations, perhaps people would be more open to understanding the transaction taking place as a mutual exchange rather than as a “fee.” Notice the number of times the word “trust” is used in her talk.
In April I wrote a column entitled Can You Trust Your Clients? An equally interesting question is whether your clients can trust you if you don’t trust them. We trust people who are authentic, who clearly understand the value of a relationship. We trust business people who demonstrate a client-centric business ethic. Amanda’s talk has something to say about that.
And the media asked, Amanda, the music business is tanking and you encourage piracy. How did you make all these people pay for music?” And the real answer is, I didn’t make them. I asked them. And through the very act of asking people, I’d connected with them, and when you connect with them, people want to help you.
Here’s what I’m suggesting. Maybe the reason some travel professionals don’t ask for fees is a lack of trust because where there is fear, trust has a problem taking root. Perhaps the fear is borne of misunderstanding. We haven’t adequately explained our value to the world, we haven’t done a good job at explaining the exchange. We have spent all of our time figuring out how to make people pay fees before we have fully made the connections necessary for the kind of exchange where they actually WANT to pay our fee.
I think the challenge is there. Can we let down our guard, authentically explain our value and then ASK for our fees? Know this: if your clients don’t understand your value it isn’t their fault. It’s your task to make yourself understood and to be so valuable as to elicit not only a fee, but a profound “Thank you” as well.
PS. I only learned after watching Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk she is married to Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors. Those of you who know Mr. Gaiman’s work will appreciate my delight at that small synchronicity. Those of you wishing to sample Ms. Palmer’s music, I think you might be pleasantly surprised, can do so here. I recommend The Bed Song for starters.