June 5, 2017

“Must a Why Conversation be done verbally?”

Reader Shayne Rempel asks (shared unedited, with permission):

Hi Jonathan,

I have a question about the Why Conversation that I think other readers may be interested in hearing as well. Is the Why Conversation something you can do in a questionnaire format or do you believe it should only be done through a verbal conversation?

I have a partner agency who is looking to bring me in on a job, asking me how much my portion of the project (designing 8 web page templates) would cost. Should I value price the agency who is looking to subcontract the work (determine how valuable my service is to them) or have the partner agency use a Why conversation questionnaire I create to help me price my portion of the project?

Thanks so much for your time and valuable snippets of pure wisdom!

Shayne Rempel

Thanks for the question Shayne!

There are two things I should comment on here:

I’ll answer the first today and the second tomorrow.

Must a Why Conversation be done verbally?

When I first read the question “Must a Why Conversation be done verbally?” my knee jerk reaction was “Yes” but upon reflection, it’s not quite that simple.

The real answer is “It depends” which begs the question “What does it depend on?”

Here are a few dependencies:

In a situation where you have worked closely with a decision maker for a long time, you can probably forgo a verbal Why Conversation for a new project. You might be able to forgo a Why Conversation completely.

For example, last week I got a request from a client that I’ve been working with closely for a couple years.

When it came to pricing the engagement, I opened the conversation via email by saying:

“I have no idea how to price something like this but it’s not a lot of work so I’m not worried about it.”

My contact (the president of the organization) said:

“Just send us a bill when you’re done... we’re good for it ;-)”

In other words, they trust me to name my own price. And they can, because they know that I know what’s at stake and what my bit is likely worth.

The moral of the story:

Having a LOT of trust built up makes things MUCH easier for everyone.


Unless you’re working exclusively with existing clients, you won’t have a lot of trust built up with every prospect.

In the case where you have never worked with the client before and you aren’t even sure if you’re talking to the right person yet, a verbal Why Conversation is very important.

For a really big opportunity, I’d go so far as to say you should do it in person, even if that means getting on a plane (on your own dime).

Tomorrow: “Can you value price through an agency?”