How do you determine what programs and services to invest in for your business or your personal development?

I hear from so many people who are disappointed in the results from the money they spent on business programs, coaches and personal growth opportunities. I, too, have spent substantial money and been left feeling bewildered at best. Looking back on the personal development program I most regretted purchasing, it was a solid program (if grossly overpriced), but not at ALL what I needed.

I spent many years in a corporate role. In this role, our department had a budget and produced income and expense projections that we were expected to hit each month. We could not just randomly spend money because we felt like buying something. And we could not just float along without making our income goals.

Never in my time in the corporate world did I sit on the phone with a vendor who pressured me into buying something with a "quick start incentive." Nor did they threaten to pull the offer if I didn't decide on the spot. I never purchased something with an over-the-top promise. In fact, in the corporate world, these promises did not even exist.

For any promises a vendor made, they would be expected to produce those results. If they didn't, at the very minimum, they would be fired, and they knew this. They would not dream of then pitching me their next solution and thinking I would actually buy it.

In some cases, part of the purchase price might be at risk. It would be paid on the "back end," based on their results. This is a common payment arrangement with consultants, for instance, where a portion of their consulting fee is based on results. If they exceeded those results, they might even get a bonus. If the results fall short, they will get less than their projected fee.

If I ran across something that I felt our company would benefit from, this is what would happen:

I went to my boss and made my case for purchasing the product or program. If I was the boss, I would see if we had money in the budget. If it was a low dollar amount, it might be a fairly quick decision and I would not need to obtain approval. If we didn't have the money in the budget or it was a larger purchase and I *really* thought we needed it, I would go to my boss and make my case.

This would not usually be easy, and if I was asking for special monies outside my budget, it might involve my boss going to the CFO. It would be extremely rare to get something like this approved, but it could happen for the right reasons, and you could bet I had my ducks in a row. It would be unheard of to present my recommendation without comparing alternative solutions first. This would only happen if literally no one else offered a similar solution. I would compare price, credibility, reputation, systems/program content and the pros and cons of each solution.

My boss responded with questions and challenges, if appropriate. I tried to be as prepared as possible to anticipate these questions by performing due diligence. If he or she asked me something I didn't have the answer for, I found out the answer so we could make an informed decision.
If my boss okayed the purchase, I then negotiated the best possible price from my vendor, based on arguments based in logic and good negotiation skills. This never involved beating down my vendor. It involved legitimate reasons I felt the price was too high, including research of alternative solutions. In some cases I would happily pay asking price, because I thought it was fair.

The online world has thrown a wrench in making purchases based on common sense. In fact, common sense tends to be thrown out the window! The reason is because in general, online purchasing is a "passive sale." This means it is a one-way marketing process, where the buyer has no direct contact (usually) with the seller. Because of this, it is very easy for the seller to manipulate a buyer who would normally use common sense, logic, research and good negotiation skills to make a purchase.

What I would suggest is that before you invest in something for your business or your own development, you make your case to your "CEO" or "CFO," who is probably YOU. If you don't trust yourself to make good decisions, or you don't have the skills yet to make good decisions, create a committee of trusted friends or colleagues to act as your "purchase approval committee" until you are able to trust your ability to make sound decisions for your business. You'll be able to make much better decisions. Of course, decisions are not all about making lists of pros and cons and performing analysis. Sometimes even when things don't look good on paper, your intuition has guided you to them and there is a really good reason, so trust your gut.

How do you decide what to invest in for your business or personal growth?

Have you ever made a purchase you regretted, or on the other hand, were thrilled with?

What was the process you went through that brought you to that outcome? Leave a comment below!


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