Has this ever happened to you?
You’ve had a series of great discussions with a prospect, taken lots of great notes, and you’ve developed the proverbial “killer presentation.” You’ve started to deliver that presentation, and you’ve gotten all kinds of positive signals from the prospect: encouraging body language, words of approval, that kind of thing. Things seemed promising. Then you got to the final slide, the slide everything else was supposed to justify: the price.
And all the positive signals stopped cold.
The meeting ended without a commitment. The prospect had to think about it, had to talk to people, had to check the numbers, had to do any number of things ther than say “yes” or “no” to your pricing. And you left without any timeline. And the deal died.
You made a classic mistake. You saved the money discussion for last.
HAVE THE MONEY DISCUSSION BEFORE YOU PRESENT
Once you have uncovered pain that can be successfully addressed by your product or service, you must discover the prospect’s expectations or limitations regarding the financial aspects—the price, costs, terms, fees, etc.—associated with the acquisition of your product or service. Why would you save that discussion for the final slide of your presentation? Doing so only produces the perfect opportunity for a “Let me think it over” moment.
Many salespeople (perhaps you as well) feel uncomfortable discussing money issues with prospects and clients. The discomfort is most often the result of early childhood messages, primarily received from parents, which suggest that it is not appropriate to talk about money. Can you remember your parents telling you that it is not polite to ask someone how much money he earns or how much something costs? Were you taught that money was the root of all evil?
Not all money messages were negative. Perhaps you were taught that “it takes money to make money,” or “money is a well-deserved reward for hard work.”
These messages – both positive and negative – were most likely appropriate in the context in which they were conveyed. In the sales arena, however, it’s important to understand that talking about money—fees, price, terms, etc.— is an integral part of selling, and that this discussion must take place before the presentation.
If you are very comfortable discussing money issues, you want to make sure that you don’t appear insensitive to your prospect’s concerns. Conversely, if you are uncomfortable, you must be aware of your tonality and body language. You don’t want to telegraph your discomfort because it could undermine your credibility and possibly cast doubt on the validity of your price or fees.
Having a strategy and a prepared set of questions can help ease this discomfort (for you or your prospects) and make the financial conversation a natural part of the selling process. The most direct strategy for uncovering a prospect’s budget situation is simply to ask.
Here are some examples:
- Do you have a budget set aside for this purchase?
- Is the project funded?
- Are there budget limitations about which I should know?
If your prospect’s answer to your budget question is “yes,” appropriate follow-up questions include:
- In round numbers, at what amount are you looking?
- Perhaps you can give me a ballpark idea of the amount with which you have to work.
Using terms like “round numbers” or “ballpark” take the pressure off the prospect to commit to a specific amount.
If your prospect’s answer to your budget question is “no,” or he is reluctant to share the information, you can “test the waters” using third-party stories. Reference one or two similar sized projects or sales you completed with other clients and disclose an investment range within which those transactions took place. Then, ask your prospect if he would be comfortable making a similar size investment if he felt your product or service was the best fit for his needs.
For instance, you might say:
Jim, the last two projects that we completed that were similar in scope to what we are discussing came in between just over $18,000 to just a bit under $22,000. I suspect that you’d be looking at a similar size investment. Can you be comfortable with an investment in that range? If not, you should probably tell me now before either of us invests any more time in something that will never get off the ground.
[Jim indicates he is comfortable with the range.]
Where in that range do you suppose your budget will fall once it’s established?
QUALIFIED PROSPECTS ONLY
If, after all that, your prospect still won’t share any budget information with you, you’re not ready to present anything … because this person has disqualified himself from your sales process. Instead of investing lots of time, energy and resources and setting up a presentation that won’t close, make “Let me think it over” a thing of the past. Disengage politely. Work with a qualified prospect who will discuss budget issues directly, and who will commit to giving you a clear “yes” or a clear “no.” Your closing numbers, and your personal income, will improve as a result.