This is a bit of a ranty post, I don't do them often because I dislike controversy - but I need to say this, so thank you for giving me the space.
We're all prepared to be upsold, it is a large part of our capitalist society - "Would you like fries with that?" But there has been an increasing trend about upselling without providing the initial value that you promised. Or worse still, providing that initial product laden with manipulative sales techniques to try to ensure the upsell.
Case in point, and the reason for this post: I recently completed an expensive training course. It was an in person training course which also required me to pay for travel, accommodation and meals to attend. For my $3,000 investment, I expected more - no, I was promised more - than I received.
Trust your gut, say it with me...
Okay, let's go back a little. Last year I attended a free day, where I knew the guy talking to us would be selling to us. It is the deal with have with people who provide free content in webinars and seminars - "at the end of this I know that you will try to sell me a product, and I'm okay with that, as long as I get something of value for free." We also allow this when we sign up for someone's website freebie, but spamming us with salesy emails will quickly kill that relationship.
He did his job well and I decided to sign up for speaker training, since that is the next big step that I want to take with sharing everything I've learned. A friend of mine signed up at the same time. She did the training in November, and when I asked her about it I was disappointed that there were a few things I believed we were promised that she said they didn't get. So I called them on it, because that's the sort of thing I do nowadays. The response placated me a little, but... let's just say that the placatory details still were not provided in the training, but we'll get to that.
At this point, I feel I should say that I did get value from the course. There were parts that were very well done, and I am basically happy with the outcome - but not the manipulation, and missing content.
So why do I have a bad taste in my mouth?
From the minute we walked into the training, something felt a little off. I won't go into all of the details here, that is for my feedback form (and yes I do plan on being brutally honest about this - which is quite unlike me). What I will say, is that it was clear that we were being positioned to feel like we needed the $9,000 package - like this was all too confusing; that the experience was so transformational in three days, imagine what a year would give us; we were unable to do this alone; we had to sign up for the whole deal or else we wouldn't make it.
Simple content that many of us believed we had been promised in the sales pitch, was actually available to the higher level students only. It felt like everything over the three days was strategically designed to manipulate us - and this is not my paranoia, I number of us discussed the tactics being used on us.
Of course, the sales pitch came on Day 3, although now there was also another level - a master level that meant you didn't have to understand any of this complicated process, because they would do it for you. Don't get me wrong, I understand the attraction in that. If you just want to speak, there is a huge attraction (and possibly value) in having someone look after all of the website, social media, bio and pitching for you. And that's the rub, I get the value of these courses for people; and we did receive some great information on the course, BUT...
...since when has $3,000 become a bottom tier?
I've done a bit of training, free and paid, over the last couple of years. It's part and parcel of trying to establish a business in this crazy online world. I've learned strategies, systems, processes, tools and tactics - some fantastic, some okay, and others not worth the time I gave to them. For $3,000 I expected the focus to be on providing us with all of the value we were promised; a value packed 3 days that would blow my mind, and provide me with the basic details to get myself sorted for pitching to speakers' bureaus.
I did not expect to have basic content only available if we signed up to the next level (the speaker's bio template for example). I did not expect to feel like I was being manipulated - which makes me put my defences up, and I get even less out of it. I certainly did not expect to be made an example of because I dared challenge the celebrity in the room (don't get me started).
The good bits
I did get value, and I did meet some incredible people along the way. It would not have taken much for me to feel entirely different about this experience - actually it would have been very simple to make me feel entirely different. If all of us were valued the same, regardless of the level we registered at; if there wasn't a continual attempt to position us for the upsell; if we had been shown the basic respect of a customer who has paid a significant amount of money for a 3 day event... well this blog post would look very different.
The most valuable thing...
One of the guests told us to "back ourselves" - now this was aimed at backing ourselves by investing in the additional training, but I took it a little differently. I decided that I am done with experts, well not entirely, but I am done with new experts.
I have some incredible experts in my world, who I have weeded out from the pseudo-experts over a number of years. These are the voices I am committed to listening to, many of them are the TED speakers who have given me so much value over the years - freely, openly and with no expectation of financial return. You're going to hear from some of them in the coming months too.
For anyone else, anyone not in that inner circle already, well I'm sorry but you will have to go a long way for me to consider bumping someone from my dance card for you. So what does that mean? It means that I have already unsubscribed from 10 email lists, that I will not be buying any new courses or material, and I will trust my gut over and above any 'expert'.
What it also means is that I have a renewed belief in my ability to do this without the experts holding my hand. I had an amazingly giving person, who would never tout himself an expert but is; who was willing to share his wisdom and knowledge with me about speaking - it required me to do some work that I struggled with, so I took the easy way out. What I was reminded of is that there is no easy way, I have to do the work. I have to trust myself, and I can make this happen. It was an expensive lesson, but I think that it was possibly the most valuable lesson from the 3 days.
Are you getting disenchanted with the 'experts' who don't deliver on their promises? Or who will give you the secrets if you pay that bit extra for the next level? I'm certain it's not just me, in fact I know it isn't. Bring on the enthusiastic amateurs I say - I'd love to hear your opinion.