Answering Questions- Talking to People About Money
I am working on a project and would love your input – particularly newer teachers, but any input is welcome.
When you take a phone call from someone asking you about piano lessons, are there questions that you are not quite comfortable answering yet? For example…questions you know you will be able to answer more confidently later on after becoming more familiar with the curriculum…or general questions you just do not know how to answer.
A few examples might be the following questions –
- Is Simply Music similar to the Suzuki method?
- When will my child learn to read music?
- Is this method okay for someone who has already taken X years of lessons?
Would a scripted, standard suggested response for these questions be of value to you? What other questions are you faced with that make you cringe?
Thanks very much!
I was going to reply to this off the forum, but thought I would also ask what other people do. I’m still unsure whether to answer questions about my fees or not. Generally I try to side step it and invite them to an FIS but as a potential student I would find that infuriating! Occasionally (especially if they ask again) I will tell them (it works out about $30.00 for 50 minutes and that I charge a flat monthly fee which keeps it low but is a bit complex to explain over the phone – so I give them a ball park figure). The point being I HATE being asked that question.
Elaine F. South Carolina
I know the dilemma! You want them to hear about SM because you think that they will be more likely to stretch their budgets and pay your price if they hear how great it is. But you hate to be evasive.
I err on the side of just telling them.
For some people it’s a deal breaker no matter HOW great SM is. Some have no clue what piano– any kind– costs. You don’t want to waste your time and their time with an FIS if this is the case. So this takes care of that population.
Second, you are working on always being truthful and open and building relationship. This happens with the first phone call. If they ask you directly and you don’t answer, you’ve started off on the wrong foot, IMHO.
It took me a long time to feel comfortable talking about money. Now when I think about how many hours I put in outside of the lesson I think to myself ” I wouldn’t do it for a penny less!!!”
Cheri S. Utah
I agree with Elaine, and with Alice’s original concern–if I called a prospective teacher and asked about rates, I would feel a bit put out if I never got a direct answer. As a teacher, I want to put my best self forward in that initial conversation, and, as Elaine said, in that first phone call we begin establishing a truthful, trusting relationship. I don’t think we need to make people wait until the FIS to hear our rates. In most cases, we will have discussed the program fairly extensively by phone before the FIS. The first phone conversation includes a lot of info about SM, and should be enough to give people a sense for its potential. If in that conversation, we haven’t convinced them that it’s highly valuable, we haven’t fully done our job.
It’s usually not hard to manage that first conversation so that it closely follows the outline Neil gives in the teacher training. That “Talking to People” outline is super effective and ensures that we start by building a relationship and discussing our unique program. I’ve never had someone push the money question when I start by inviting them to share their own musical experiences and talk about what they’re looking for. After that it’s pretty natural to move on to basics about the program. By the time I invite questions, we’ve already built some rapport and they’ve heard all the basics about the program.
Usually someone calls because they’ve heard a little about SM somewhere and they’re very happy to spend some time learning more about the program. If money is the first and only thing a potential student keeps asking about, then I probably wouldn’t be interested in teaching them anyway.
The money question becomes a little more challenging when the first inquiry comes by email, especially if they mainly ask about rates. It’s hard to build a relationship by email, so I try not to use it for those first conversations. Instead, I invite them to chat by phone, figuring that if they’re not interested in getting to know me and learning about the program, they’re probably not a good fit. SM requires a strong commitment from students and parents. If they really are just looking for the lowest price, it’s better to know that right away.
All of this, of course, assumes that you’re comfortable talking about money. For some that’s a deeper issue than just piano teaching. For me, it was hard at first because my rates are higher than some people in my area are accustomed to paying. I started by always pointing out that my rates are similar to any teacher with special training like a music degree or Suzuki training.
That helped me feel more comfortable at first. With practice, I don’t really need that crutch any more–and I mean crutch in the best sense–a tool that helps you, as you’re growing stronger. Besides practicing talking to people, I think I’ve also gained confidence in myself as a teacher, learned more about the program so I understand even more how great it is, and I’ve also seen how much time and effort it takes to really master all of it (and will continue to take, for many years). What I’m putting into this is worth at least what I currently charge. So these days I have no problem just stating my rates straight out, with no explanation. I still prefer to talk money after we’ve begun to build a relationship and established some basics about what makes this program unique. But I don’t put it off until the FIS.
I received a recent inquiry call that I was expecting from a friend of a student (mother.)
When she asked about price, I replied as I usually do that because the program may be individually tailored (i.e. Private or share, rate of progress, etc.) that I will go over prices at the FIS. She never called back to schedule the FIS. I think I will state the price when asked in the future.