Talking Money in a Recession

Here's a question I got recently from a reader, which seems like just the tip of the iceberg of questions about how to address the issue of money at a time like this.

Lately, I have been getting messages out of the blue from people who have found my website and want to know what it would cost to have a website created for them. My gut is telling me that these are not prospects I want, because they are focused on price, not value. I’d like to focus on “business-building” clients and projects. How would you handle calls like this without leaving a bad taste in either one’s mouth? How would you turn the conversation around so that you could find out for certain if this is a viable client or not?

And here's my answer:

Well, you're doing something right in the SEO. People are finding your web site, so that's a good thing. But are they the right people? I wouldn't rule anyone out just because they're asking about price first, especially now. But it may be a red flag. The only way to really know is to pick up the phone and have a conversation about it, instead of responding via email. During that conversation, ask lots of questions, then throw out a price range to see if they fit within yours. Say something like, "A Web site can cost anywhere from $1000-$5000 (or $5000-$50,000, whatever makes the most sense), depending on many factors. Is that within your price range?" If it isn't, you won't waste any more time. If it is, you can invite them to continue the conversation so you can see whether they are in fact a prospect for you.

What do you think about this? What other pricing issues are coming up lately? Are clients trying harder to negotiate your prices downward? Are you complying? Are existing clients mandating your prices and you feel like you have to take what they're offering?