Fellow microbudget filmmakers, today is a post for all of us who do video production on occasion, on the side, or downright full-time. A “tire kicker” is an old car dealership/sales term. If someone walks onto a lot, asks boat-loads of questions, then doesn’t buy, they’re a “tire kicker.” Shoot, we kinda did this in motor pool with Uncle Sam; when we (mechanics) were assessing the vehicle to be repaired, we’d walk around and literally kick the tires; sometimes it was perfunctory, sometimes it was deliberate.
I want you to be able to spot a tire kicker right away, save yourself time and spare yourself the headache of dealing with one. Tire kickers - while I’m all for what Jesus and even folks like MLK Jr and Gandhi preached and practiced (love) - are folks you can steer clear of without being a turd. You can say to them with confidence, “move along - I’m not the droid you’re looking for.”
Bonus: would you rather watch and learn this information through a video? Scroll to the bottom fellow microbudgeter.
1. They want to know price up front.
Every time I’ve talked to a prospective client who brings up price as the first talking point, they are without a doubt a tire kicker. They’re price shopping. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’ll have to work that much harder to communicate value to them because whether $5 or $5,000, any amount is too much for them since they
a) don’t know you
b) don’t know your value
c) probably talked to at least one other video production group before you
At this point, it’s your choice - if they disclose a budget up front, then you’ll know right away if the job is a good fit for you or not.
Now, let’s talk about pricing up front. I believe in Grant Cardone’s practice of disclosing price up front. In fact, you should know the minimum amount you’ll work for and tell folks up front. If your minimum is greater than their maximum, it’s an easy way to excuse yourself from talking to them any further:
“Hey, I’m Jake the film guy, and my intention is to bring you the best video production service at the best price, and I am the best value. My services start at $2,500.”
At this point, you have two options in your next breath:
Can take the job: "Let me ask you something - what problem are you trying to solve?"
Can’t take the job (too much for what they need): "My best suggestion would be to call up the local university and see if there are any media/journalism students who can help you out or try Craigslist."
Note: it’s very important you don’t give a specific name - you don’t want to undermine our profession or refer a lemon, you dig?
It’s easy to tell folks a floor price up front. An exact quote is something you have to figure out in the first conversation, both for their sake and your sanity. I made a tool if you struggle with this idea of cranking out fast, exact quotes for prospective clients. Give it a spin for 14 days and if you don’t like it, send it back - no questions asked!
2. They make an absurd request.
This one always cracks me up. The other day I had a tire kicker spam (only the good Lord knows how many) people in Las Vegas and Los Angeles:
I wish to have 50 videos (90 seconds or less each) produced exactly like the
Video ingredients include
- intro logo overlay
- 1 picture overlay
- 1 social media overlay
- 5 word display overlays
Right now I am price shopping between
Las Vegas & Los Angeles
rapid delivery over budget.
Please get back to me asap with a quote.
Yikes. The best part was his subject read, “Hey Jake, my budget is around $2500.”
I’m no math teacher anymore, but that is an average of $50 per video. The YouTube example he shared was three minutes long and looked like a church announcement video with graphics and slides, etc.
Instead of ignoring him, I took the opportunity to send a response few others would likely do:
And I did it because it only took 7 seconds to further my business’ name. Businesses die because of obscurity. Get attention - yes, it goes against everything your parents taught you. If you’re promoting a great cause through film or working to put bread and butter on the table for you and your family, then get attention.
Note: the emoji face I used on my phone looked more like the “laughing-really-hard” face and less like a gumdrop.
P.s. he responded with:
Then, in a followup email, he asked:
Does that mean it's a go? Lol.
I hit the “ignore” button at that point. I made my point, and I’m sure he blasted 200+ producers looking for quick and cheap. I do quick work because I've had years of practice, but I refuse to do “cheap.” Find a student for entry-level work, entry-level turnarounds, and sub-par customer service; I’ve got a family to feed.
3. One and done.
This one needs some explaining. One and done - a prospect reaches out to you for some work, then vanishes.
No amount of followup on your part gets them to respond. Phone calls, emails, e-cards, snail mail, social media posts, showing up at their business - nothing gets them to come around the corner again. If persistent, creative, and VARIED followup is the key to sales, then how do you spot a tire kicker?
You have three options:
a) do nothing - you lose the sale, the chance to grow, and the experience - and they lose too (their problem isn’t solved)
b) continue with persistent, creative, and varied followups - when you get no response, it’s tempting to quit, and I don’t blame you
c) use the same medium they used to reach you and ask “what problem are you trying to solve?”
I don’t recommend the first option because you’ll never know if they were a tire kicker or a legitimate buyer because you folded before the cards were dealt. How can you stay in business that way?
The second approach is strong when there is a dialogue - i.e. a two-way street. But if your prospect won’t talk to you, then you have a tire kicker, and with 7+ billion people in the world, move along, they’re not the right droid.
The third approach is best. If they email inquiring of your services, email back. If they call, call back. Respond on whatever medium they like. I've had people essentially tell me to "shove off" on the phone, but I tried again by email and they opened up 'cause they liked email and were probably scared of the phone. Ask the magic question and put the ball back into their court. If they don't respond after the magic question, try again a time or two, then load ‘em up with your contact info and move on.
4. More than one.
If a person refers a tire kicker to you more than once, it’s a good bet they’ll keep referring tire kickers to you.
For example, there’s a local wedding place that sends folks my way. The people who are referred to me are always folks that fall into the first category (i.e. they ask about price up front). Without fail, these folks that are referred to me can’t afford my services. I always respond because I believe in getting my business “out there” (more on that in a second), but I always tell folks my pricing up front and then refer them to find a student or put up an ad on Craigslist.
You don’t have to do this - you can politely call the place and ask they stop referring folks to you. Me? I’d rather talk to someone than not. Because the brave and bold will still ask a tire kicker for a referral:
“Sorry I can’t be of service to you Uncle Bob; do you know anyone who needs __________?”
We have not because we ask not. Your call amigo.
5. No previous hires.
This applies to people who are brave enough to freelance on sites like Upwork (I don’t recommend). If your prospect has never hired someone on the medium they are posting a job, it’ll show:
Guess what they do when they’re next to a wheel?
Your best bet: don’t apply to their job. If you insist on freelancing through sites like Upwork, work only with clients who have hired people on the site before. Tire kickers show up to the dance, stare at the crowd a while, then exit. They’ll amass several proposals, but they have no real interest in doing business. Chances are they’re price-shopping before hiring someone local. Move along.
If you’re working “offline” and/or not through a freelancing site like Upwork, just screen prospects with this question:
“When’s the last time you did a video?”
“Why do a video now?”
If they’ve never done any videos in the past, you’ve probably got a tire kicker, but rest assured, someone will work for them. If they can afford you, bring the value and loads of it champ.
If you need more qualifying questions to screen people, here ya go lass - or laddy.
6. The owner of the business is talking to you in the first chat.
This one sounds like you’ve hit the gold, right? After all, this is the gal or guy who can sign the checks!
But as I learned from Grant Cardone, if the owner - the top dawg - is talking to you in the first call, they have too much time on their hands. People without enough time are the the people you want to work for.
Think about it. If the owner calls you, it’s likely they’re in the first category, and they’re the type who would spend 3 hours to save $100 rather than spend $3 hours to make $3,000.
For example, I recently had a small business ask about my services. I should have known better at the get-go when the lady said she did it all, from opening and closing to marketing, etc. - like it was a badge of honor.
When I sent the proposal through betterproposals.io, my proposal’s tracking showed me she opened the proposal multiple times over the course of several hours:
Too much time on her hands? Yep - kicking them tires buddy!
People with NOT enough time hire other people. People who hire people generally have an admin to screen calls or place calls or inquire of video guys or gals like you and me. They (admins) are typically the ones you’ll talk to in the first conversation, and you want to make sure you’re talking to a decision-maker when the time comes to making a deal. Try this for a spin to see if they’re the right person:
“Are you the person who’s in charge of these kinds of video projects?”
“Are you the decision-maker for a minimum of a $3,000 investment?”
Expect to talk with the decision-maker in a subsequent chat. Treat the admin like royalty; after all, they have their decision-maker’s ear, and that makes them an influencer. You cannot be rude or anything less than a servant leader with an influencer.
Found your decision-maker? Great!
Screen. Propose. Close. Go shoot your video.
No matter how tempting it is to jump on a tire kicker’s job offer, don’t. There are so many other people out there in need of your talent and your vision. Focus on marketing your services. Marketing is all about getting your message out there: HEY! I’m open for business!
Keep getting the message out there and you’ll find clients to work with. It’s a numbers game, so commit, say a prayer or two, and get some grit in you.
Again, if you need help with quoting your video production jobs, check out the pricing tool. It’s a worksheet you can plug numbers into and churn out a quote in the first convo with a prospect. It’s saved me time, helped me avoid tire kickers, and ultimately it helped me land my first 5-figure contract in 2016. It itemizes your costs (to the prospect) and exports quotes as a .pdf you can keep for your records and send to your prospects.
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