Being Principled - Why I Don't Automatically Give Free Valuations

"In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." - Thomas Jefferson

When someone says to me they want me to value a rare coin or a collection, experience has shown I really need to be clear on a few principles before I go anywhere near talking coins or numbers.

The reason is, some people need an appraisal for their insurance, some are looking to sell but most are simply curious about what their treasured memento is worth. Each of those exchanges is in fact quite different on the back end and needs to be handled differently.

I can and will help no matter where someone is at, but to make sure I give people the information they need and protect the value of my own time, I need to be principled from the get-go. If I encountered this situation once a month or once a week, I could afford to be free and easy. As it stands though, our office receives dozens of requests for appraisals each week via the phone; email; social media; live chat and in person, so the cost of being unprincipled is incredibly high.

This idea that someone in business won't provide free quotes is of course contentious. After all, if I want your business - I have to show you the money! I have to deliver some certainty I'm the right person for the job.

All of us as customers rightly insist on getting value before we make any payment at all, but many businesses make the mistake of delivering a lot of their value before they get clear on terms, which can be disastrous. It was for me, and I got sick of it. I've since learned how to deliver certainty before I start work, and it's been nothing short of life-changing.


Delivering Certainty Before Starting Work

I start this by getting clear on where a potential vendor is at (which is a conversation in and of itself). I then confirm with them I have the expertise to identify and appraise anything they might have, and that I'm prepared to let them know exactly how much it's worth.

After a signal like that, most folks are pretty keen to get started straight away, but before I find myself working for free I need to be quick to ask them if they'd like to hear how I might be able to help.

If they say yes, I can start to provide them with some real certainty. I let them know that because of the value I deliver when I provide written appraisals of rare and valuable coins and notes, my rate is $200 per hour.

I then promise the following: "If you make an appointment with us at our office in Fremantle, I'll identify and appraise anything you might have, to a standard an independent expert would be satisfied with. The time we spend together will be capped at 5 minutes, and the information provided is going to be verbal only. If you choose to sell, you'll walk out with some money and hopefully a smile. If you choose not to sell, that's absolutely fine, you'll be clear on what your items are worth and I ask that you make a donation to the charity box that's on our counter."

There's an old saying that goes something like: "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." I know that from my lived experience! I mention it because before I started with the above foreplay, I would waste hours and hours each week having fallen for perceived or hollow promises, and would provide countless authentications and assessments that didn't amount to any business at all.

Since I've started making what is a valuable commitment I'm prepared to be held accountable for, the number of "wasted" valuations I provide has dropped dramatically. Once most potential vendors hear what I'm prepared to do and what I won't, they often say they appreciate me being open and feel comfortable enough to affirm they'll gladly reciprocate my generosity.

Demonstrating the Values I'm Expected to Abide By

By taking this approach, I'm demonstrating the values vendors expect me to abide by when providing the service they're after.

When I let them know up front I'm prepared to be held accountable and at the same time have firm boundaries around what I expect, it's almost like I pass a litmus test around honesty, and we get down to business comfortably.

Make no mistake, I know this approach isn't faultless! I've had people tell me I'm arrogant, insulting and just too much hard work. We've also had more than one person say they'd rather throw their coins in the bin! (One might argue this is effective self-selection at work).

Overall, my conversion rate from inbound inquiries (via phone, email, live chat and in-person) to actual paid business has increased markedly. I feel confident and settled when speaking to people, and I'm behaving in line with my values and "brand" without compromising productivity.

We've donated several thousand dollars to a charity that looks after the homeless people in our local area - I'm happy to generate value for my local community, the folks that donate feel great about being generous and our community benefits as well.

I'm still quietly delighted that putting a stop to a conversation to be clear about what I will and won't do actually makes my working days less stressful and more productive, but there's no doubt about the results.

All this comes from making a valuable promise I'm prepared to be held accountable for and asking for the same in kind.

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Comments (3)

Fare buisness ethics.

By: on 3 July 2023
Well put. I fully understand what you are saying. In business that is the way you need to be.

Well Done.

By: on 1 July 2023
Great article Andrew. I support your stance and I think it is definitely a win-win for you and your clients. More businesses should conduct themselves to your high standard. Well done and all success to you in the future. Cheers from The Hills area in Sydney ~ Brian.

Fair call

28 September 2022
I think that's a fair call. I value and appreciate your honesty. Thank you.

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