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New Advice: How to find out their budget (even when they don’t know)

Posted by Ilise Benun on


Last week’s Quick Tip, in which I retracted a piece of advice that wasn’t working anymore about how to get a prospect’s budget, really hit a nerve.

Here are just a few of the responses I got from creatives who are using the new technique already — and some who used it as soon as it arrived in their inbox because the timing was right! (Read the original tip here.)

Nick J wrote:

It’s a poker game, Ilise!

The fear is always responding to an inquiry with something like, “Well the base for this project begins at $1,500…” and then you never hear from them again, even though their budget was $1,200 and you would have gladly accepted that with some conditions.

A client [recently] filled out my project inquiry form and for the budget question answered “not that much.” Of course “not that much” is subjective. After I determined it would be a pretty simple/quick-turnaround job, I was going to ask “Realistically, what have you budgeted for this component—$500? $1,500? $3,000?” but, instead I just simply asked, “Realistically, what have you budgeted for this component?” And though he responded with a fairly low number, it was still within range and I made it work. I think the key is that these people don’t actually have any idea how much something should or could cost, and their budget is actually much bigger. So there is definitely a more optimized sentence/question to be crafted for the client to shift their mindset into the correct dollar range for their respective project. I’ll definitely try your method next time and see what happens.

Michael L wrote:

Yes! This technique works much better than asking for a budget. I currently use a questionnaire to answer inquiries and vet prospects, and included is a question that asks people to choose between low, mid and high budget ranges. My low range starts at the minimum fee I will accept so prospects know right off the bat whether or not they can afford me before we start talking.

It has made all the difference between time wasted and time invested.

Rosa F wrote:

Brilliant!! That is the best way to make them say what is the budget and they have to answer in some way. I guess if they say anyway “I don’t know” we can say, “well, this could fall in the estimated range of xxx-xxx dlls, depending on the details and scope of the project”

What a great way to make the client say what they think it should cost.

Also, we may include the words “design project” because the client may be thinking design and printing for 10,000, of which the printed brochures will take 9,500 from the budget leaving 500 for design… : )

Colleen G wrote

This is interesting. I like this and will try it out. Depending on their expectation of cost, if they have a lower budget, you can say that:

a) it’s not possible to do what they’re asking

b) you can do x and y, or

c) you can do x, y and z, which could present an opportunity to upsell something they might not have known they’d need or want.

I am going to tack this up to my bulletin board now and try it out soon! :)

Martha L wrote

I agree!!! it’s hard to bring up the topic of money and budget, so i am trying to get that on the table early,

“if we work together, our initial contract will be 2900, does that work?” at least it’s out there.

Don F wrote:

I do that all the time. I give them real numbers. The conversation is usually “I don’t have a budget in mind.”  Then I reply, “So do you feel you have $50,000 for this video.” “Oh, not that much.” So are thinking more like closer to $5,000 or $20,000.”  “I was thinking no more of $2,000 for this 3 days of shooting, actors, music and editing.” Conversation usually ends soon after.

Lindsay G wrote:

I already do that and it works brilliantly! Not 100% of the time but way more than it did by asking “what’s your budget” lol

Jenn C wrote:

This was great advice! I used it yesterday in an initial meeting… only I changed the numbers to $5K, $15K and $50K.  $500 is way too small and $50K would probably be way too big, so they’ll inevitably land in the middle, but $5k won’t get them much either!! $15K felt like a better middle ground. It worked and was a good conversation starter to explain what they could get for that amount.

Kim P wrote

I agree and have used this tactic before – I usually say “are you thinking $300 dollars or $3,000 dollars?” – but I like your 3 price points better … though my issue is I do not do this consistently – I think I need to do that. Throwing those ball park figures out there helps better understand where the client is coming from – what level of cost or budget they are comfortable spending – you may still need to educate to validate each level which is fine – also it easily lets you slip out saying “if you are thinking $300 we do not take on projects of that size – Thank you for thinking of us”  – so it can help to quickly qualify a lead.

Ivan L wrote:

I respectfully disagree. I think that any question about a prospect’s budget looks like you’re nosing around to see what to charge.

My method, right or wrong, is to tell them what my typical fee range is. For example (roughly):

“Most of the invoicing I do for a range of projects typically runs from $xxxx to $xxxx.”

Read the original post here… and if you have trouble with the money conversation, check out my book, The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money 0r sign up for my free mentoring session and we’ll see what language will work best for you.

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