The thought of sharing their intellectual property causes some hand-wringing among consultants. How much should you give to a new client? Should you hold something back until you make the sale?
Some people worry that clients will pilfer their ideas and use them without any help. Others are concerned that competitors could get their hands on proprietary information and figure out a way to profit from it. A few believe that clients should pay before getting the “good stuff.”
Such concerns are not unreasonable. I’ve seen clients “borrow” ideas, and ethically-challenged consultants have been known to “adapt” other people’s work and call it their own. Fortunately, these are exceptions, not the rule.
Clients buy your expertise. Your best ideas are the foundation of the value you offer. If you hold them back, you put yourself at a disadvantage. Plus, hopefully, no one can execute a project using your ideas as well as you can.
My advice is to share your best ideas freely. Clients will appreciate your commitment and you’ll have better luck closing sales. When asked if it wouldn’t be better to wait on providing ideas to clients, a colleague summed it up by saying, “They can take my ideas. I’ll come up with others.”