How To Talk Turkey (Money, That Is) With Your Dog Training Clients

Listing prices on your websiteWe all know to avoid topics like sex, politics, and religion when talking to potential clients. Most dog trainers would like to include money in that list, too. Unfortunately it’s an unavoidable subject, but talking about the price of your services doesn’t have to be uncomfortable for you or your clients. Setting the right tone and context for the conversation can remove the dread from this dreaded subject. Here are some tips:

Don’t hide your prices
Think about how much more comfortable it would be to talk about your rates and arrange services knowing clients already know what you charge. Putting your rates on your website puts both you and potential clients at ease by removing the proverbial elephant from the room. Your clients don’t want to have to call or email to ask what you charge. It’s just as uncomfortable for them to ask as it is for you to answer. So give dog owners the basic information they need to make their initial decision to reach out by making your rates easy to find right on the pages that describe your services.

Make the decision easy
Package your services to meet your clients’ needs. Pre-designed packages for various issues—leash reactive dogs, for example, or puppy training—allow potential clients to quickly see that you can help solve their problems or address their goals. And answering the fundamental questions we all have when seeking a service provider—what will it cost and how long will it take?—helps potential clients self-screen. This means far less time and discomfort fielding emails and phone calls that don’t lead to work.

Make the decision safe
Choosing a service provider, whether an accountant, a plumber, or a dog trainer, can be nerve-wracking. How do you know you’re making a good choice? It’s no wonder sites like Yelp and Angie’s List have been so successful. You can reassure potential clients they’re making a good choice with you by providing plenty of authentic content on your website. Authentic content is material that backs up what your site says about you and what you can do for people and their dogs.

Testimonials are a great way to do this. Sprinkle short excerpts throughout your site, rather than relegating them to a testimonials page. Though if you have a lot, dedicate a page as well. You can also link to social media testimonials such as on Facebook, or third-party site reviews a la Yelp.

Blog or article posts are another effective way to provide authenticity and assure clients you are who you say you are. Video blogs are terrific for this as well. Both show off your expertise, professionalism, and training approach. Both also have the added advantage of boosting the performance of your website in searches.

Don’t avoid the subject
When it comes time to talk turkey, don’t hesitate. If you’re using the above tips, most likely the potential client already knows what your services will cost, but don’t assume. Your best strategy is to answer the dreaded question before it’s asked. Remember, most people would really rather not have to ask. And you’re going to have to give a number one way or another—it’ll be more comfortable to share the figure on your own terms, rather than in response to being asked.

The trick is to state the price up front and then keep talking. Tell them how your service works, what kind of benefit you’ll look to bring them. For example, after gathering some basic information, you might say:

“I’m so glad you called. I’m sorry you’ve been dealing with Fido’s lunging and barking at other dogs during your walks. I know how frustrating and embarrassing that can be. The good news is that it is something that can be effectively addressed through positive training, and I think we can make your walks much more enjoyable. The first step is an initial consult, which is $XXX. At the initial consult we’ll take a look at what’s behind Fido’s behavior—there are actually different root causes and we need to know which we’re dealing with, as we address them differently. Then we’ll put a training plan together and schedule the time we’ll need to carry it out to create some peace for you on the other end of the leash. If that sounds good, I have some space in my schedule next week and would be delighted to work with you and Fido. Are you feeling ready to schedule and get started?”

You can use this same approach at the end of your initial consult to sell your package. Or, if you sell packages up front without the initial consult, simply replace the initial consult language with the price and explanation of the package and how it will work.

This approach is effective because of the tone. It’s not about selling, it’s about explaining. The client hears the number up front, releasing that tension for both sides. Then, rather than dwelling on the cost, you move on to provide the context—what will happen as a result of that cost. Continuing to talk after you’ve dropped the number also gives the listener time to absorb the cost information without being put immediately on the spot for a response. By the time you’ve finished explaining how you’ll help, your potential clients will be more ready to become actual clients.

There’s unfortunately no way to get around talking with potential clients about money. But using these approaches and shifting your mindset from selling to explaining can make it a more comfortable subject for both you and your clients—and lead to better sales. That’s a great thing not just for your business, but for the dogs and dog lovers in your community, too.