The Least You Could Do.

Imagine you've had a promising first encounter with someone new and you're wondering whether he or she is 'relationship material.' Chemistry is pretty good and it seems like a third or fourth date is certainly warranted. Then comes the question you didn't expect.

"So I'm curious," he says. "What's the least I could do in this relationship and still be your boyfriend?"

Unless you had severe self-image issues, this would certainly be enough to stop you in your tracks - or at least get you to start asking some hard questions about the 'relationship' that's possible here.

But consider how many sales 'relationships' start with exactly this kind of exchange. You lay out your capabilities, talk through your idea; there's a bit of positive affirmation and thoughtful head-nodding across the desk; and then... "So tell me, what's your minimum to do something like this?" That a buyer would ask the question is somewhat distressing. But the deeper problem is that many sellers have so internalized this thinking that they always seek the minimum as well! It's like a massive case of Stockholm Syndrome where we've come to identify with our captors.

We've slowly become the incremental generation. Too many betas and tests, too little commitment. We tend not to take big swings, lest we occasionally miss. Fear and anxiety have begun to erode ambition and vision.

Next time a customer asks about a minimum, start your reply with something like "to do this in a way that will truly help your brand you should budget no less than...." Better yet, connect your solution or idea with an unmet need of the brand you propose to serve. Big issues demand big opportunities; big opportunities require significant investment.

Then look in the mirror and ask who's really imposing minimum deal sizes on you. As the comic strip character Pogo famously declared, we have met the enemy and he is us.