How many times has this happened to you: you’re talking to a prospect, they’re interested in what you have to offer, you think there could be a good fit here…and then it happens. They ask about price, you give them a rate or a figure or a range…and woah. Hit the brakes. “Oh no, I can’t afford that.” It’s over.
Why does this keep happening? You put in effort, find pain and uncover reasons for them to do business with you, show them what you can do—and then the opportunity evaporates in an instant.
The problem here is one of sales process. If you find yourself disappointed again and again by prospects who are eager to hear what you can do for them, but at that critical moment announce they do not have the means to pay for it, let me suggest that your process steps are out of order. You’ve brought forward your solution too soon. You’ve invested too much energy on this prospect without first finding out their budget.
This common circumstance occurs typically because of two reasons. First, the sales person does not have a formal selling process, and therefore does not have steps or stages in any particular order. Having such a selling process would reduce stress on themselves and systematically increase the odds of a successful outcome. Second, the sales person has been taught (often early in life, perhaps by a parent) that bringing up the subject of money is impolite. While perhaps well-intentioned, this taught premise is a bad one for success in sales.
The budget question has to be raised with the prospect before demonstration of any possible solution. Uncovering the prospect’s budget is not impolite: it is a necessary and important component of the qualification process. Imagine someone walking into an automobile dealership and saying to the first sales person he sees, “I want to buy a car.” Are you already starting to see the problem here? The price of cars ranges considerably. A consultative sales professional can doctor for pain, find out underlying issues, prescribe a solution—and totally miss the prospect’s budget. “Yes, Mister Prospect, I have a lovely Lamborghini that will give you that feeling of youth, vitality and power that you’ve been craving!” “Amazing! That sounds fantastic!” “It’s only $455,000.” “…Uhh…gee. There’s no way I can afford that.”
Prior to working on solutions, bring up the budget question. If you’re nervous or uncomfortable about discussing money, do it like this: at the start of your conversation, say, “Misses Prospect, I have a minor problem I’m hoping you can help me with. You see, I always get a little uncomfortable when it comes time to talk about money. When we get to that point, will you help me? I want to make sure that, if it turns out that I do have a solution to offer you, we’re on the same page with what you can afford. I’d hate to talk with you about something inadequate or too much for your budget. When we get to that point, can you help me talk with you about that?” The prospect will almost always move to rescue you, and say of course. Naturally, if you’re comfortable with the subject of money, you don’t have to do this—just bring the topic up at the right time. And when is that time?
Let’s say you have been doctoring for pain, have some, and are thinking about possible ways you can help the prospect. You have a small, medium and large model for handling the prospect’s problem, with respective prices. Now, before investing the energy in demonstrating the potential solution(s), you can gently bring up the budget question. “Mister Prospect…I don’t suppose you’ve set aside any kind of budget for solving this issue, have you?”
Or: “Miss Prospect, I think I have something for you. However, we offer a range of potential solutions. I’m not sure which one is right for you…I have an idea, though. Would it be okay if I shared with you the investment range of each solution, and you can let me know which you’re most comfortable with?”
If you’re a more direct person, you could even say something like, “John, I have to be frank with you. These items aren’t cheap. Before I explain to you how they’ll solve your problem, could I go ahead and share the rate with you and you can let me know if that works for you?”
Remember, uncovering the budget is nothing more than another solid step in the qualification process. You want to know whether or not the prospect can afford your product or service. If they can’t, why would you want to waste your time?
Now, I’m not suggesting that you be a jerk and roughly steer those who cannot afford your help out the door. While consultative selling professionals do not give out free information as unpaid consulting, in many cases it can be a very good thing to educate people who don’t have it in their budget to retain your services. People tell other people—a few people, it’s true, but they do tell some—about positive experiences. This can directly and swiftly lead to qualified referrals. I’ve recently seen this happen in the field of wedding videography. Prospect A discovers Superstar Videographer’s rates are way out of their league, but because he bothered to spend the time educating them nicely, they quickly referred other people to him—and those new prospects could afford his time. What’s important to keep in mind here, however, is that Superstar Videographer rapidly qualified Prospect A out, and while he did help them, he didn’t get himself all worked up about offering a beautiful and expensive potential solution, investing that time and energy, getting his hopes for a project up, and becoming extremely disappointed when it turned out (as it would have) at the last minute that they couldn’t afford his services.
The time to uncover the prospect’s budget and ability to pay you is after you’ve doctored for pain, and before you show them any kind of solution.