How To Ask About Budget

You must earn the right to ask a client about budget.

If like most you still struggle to find out a client’s budget upfront, then you’re probably approaching the question in the wrong way. After years of struggling with this element of the sales process I created a highly effective questioning structure to get to the bottom line.

The Problem

Talking about money is a taboo subject

The majority of us have inherited the belief that talking about money is socially unacceptable, and frankly, a little unsophisticated. Keeping one’s wealth to oneself is thought to be prudent and asking about other people’s money is considered bad manners.

No-one wants to be ‘taken for a ride’.

Some people think that salespeople are untrustworthy or manipulative. This negative perception is hard to shift, especially given how bad stories are so easily shared afterwards. I often say ‘people rarely remember a good salesperson but they sure as hell don’t forget a bad one.’

Salespeople are seen as fair game.

David Sandler believed many buyers think it’s OK to waste a salesperson’s time, deliberately mislead them and even lie to from them. This isn’t necessarily out of malice; it’s a game people play that has been passed down through established rituals in societies around the world.

The Solution

Ask about the constraints. 

Salespeople are given frameworks to qualify prospects but they have a tendency to spook buyers, especially culprits like the B.A.N.T. methodology, that oversimplify the process. In order to switch to focusing on constraints, you first need a detailed understanding of the client’s situation and aspirations.

A framework for sales discovery meetings

Viability, desirability and feasibility is an approach used by many to describe product management. However, I’ve found it works as a helpful framework for sales teams who were onboarding complex projects.

Here’s a quick overview:

Step 1: Find out the business viability.

Sales meetings require you to go on a voyage of discovery. The first step in that journey is finding out the viability for the business. Start by letting them tell you as much as possible about their current situation. Facilitate the person to communicate the goals the business wants to achieve and the current obstacles and pains they are facing in trying to get there. Find out what led them to this point and what return on investment they would like to achieve.

Step 2: Find out the experience desirability.

Shift the focus to conversations about people. Asking questions about the person who will ultimately be buying the final product – really understanding their pains, limitations and motivations will unearth a lot of insights, as well as help to foster a sense of empathy.

Step 3: Found out the technical feasibility.

These two previous steps allow your brain to overlay the business needs and objectives on to the user’s current situation and desired future state. Digging into more technical questions should give you a better read on how feasible the ask is, or give you a good starting point to offer out some possible recommendations.

Step 4: Ask about the constraints

In my experience, investing a few hours in pre-sales and taking them through this framework means that when it comes to asking about budget, is more a matter of how much the business had to spend on what has been discussed.

The conversation usually goes something like this:

“What are the project constraints?”

99% of the time, they’ll give a puzzled look and ask you to clarify…

“Well I have a good grasp of why this makes sense from a business point of view – your goals, challenges and what outcomes you’d like to achieve. I also have a good idea what your end user needs, in terms of their current situation and how this will improve their lives. I’m just trying to work out what we can feasibly make to reach those objectives. In order to do that, I need to know what your constraints are in terms of timeframe and budget?”

Why it works

Simply because any objection to saying what the budget is, is now illogical. You’ve clearly demonstrated that in order to put a proposition together that fits all of their discussed needs, you must understand what their budget is.

If you do face an objection to the question, the logical answer from you should be:

“The last thing I want to do is to take all the things I’ve learnt about you and what you’re looking for and bring you back a proposal that is double or triple your budget. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, so if I can give our team an idea of your budget, they’ll be able to come back and tell you how we can deliver it based on your constraints.”

I’ve seen this technique drastically transform peoples win ratios simply due to proposals going out the door with the right price on. I have no doubt this will help and if you give it a go, it would be great to hear your feedback.

If you’d like help up-skilling your sales team to ask the right sorts questions and ultimately win more deals, get in touch for an a conversation.

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