Uncovering A Prospect’s Budget

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File this under … Qualifying 101. The simple fact is, unless your prospect has the money needed to invest in your product or service … they ain’t much of a prospect. On top of this, you may have several product/service options available and, while everybody wants champagne, some can only afford beer.

I have consistently found two challenges associated with the budget discussion …

  • Salespeople are loath to even ask the question
  • Prospects are even less excited about sharing the answer

In many cases, salesperson fear is due to the fact that talking about money might be uncomfortable for both them and the prospect. Maybe it seems too forward. Perhaps the question is too early in the sales process. The prospect might say “No”. And, your point is … what? Without that budget you will often find yourself spinning those proverbial wheels.

As for your prospect, they don’t want to answer this question because …

  • They don’t have a budget or …
  • They have one but don’t want you to know what it is

Everybody has a budget. Let me repeat that … EVERYBODY has a budget. While your prospect may not know exactly what to expect when it comes to the price of what they want, they do know what they are willing to spend and how much they can afford.  As for not wanting you to know … they are afraid that if they tell you how much they are willing to spend … you will figure out how to make them spend every dime of that amount.

I will generally preface the budget question with an explanation for the question. “Mr. Prospect, we have a number of possible solutions for your need and my job is to balance the best solution available against the budget that you have established for this purchase. Could you please share with me what that dollar amount might be?” Often, this will be all that is necessary but, you will also often hear … “I don’t have a budget” or “Tell me how much it is and I will tell you if I can afford it”.

Now might be a good time to throw out a high ballpark figure … “Well, without narrowing it down, this might be as high as $50,000. How does that sound?” You will get a response! If nothing else, you can start working that dollar number down until you establish the range .. “OK .. so $50K is a little too much. $40K?”

When I was in the audio visual business, we once had a call at a church that was wanting to make some sound upgrades in their main chapel. After talking to the pastor about what they wanted. we asked him the budget question. “Oh, we don’t have a budget. You tell us how much it will take and we can then take it to the committee and see if we can afford it.” “Well, pastor, we have a lot of options here and we could put in a system that could run close to $100,000.” “$100.000!!!??? Oh no! When we talked to the committee about this, they told us that the maximum we could afford was $18,000!”.

How can you tell when a salesperson is lying to you? His lips move. Sometimes those aren’t the only lips that are moving.

Author: Craig M. Jamieson

Craig M. Jamieson is a lifelong B2B salesperson, manager, owner, and a networking enthusiast. Adaptive Business Services provides solutions related to the sales professional including Boise's best B2B leads groups, NetWorks! Boise Valley. We are a Nimble SCRM and a HootSuite Solution Partner and a Value Added Associate for TTI Performance Systems. Craig also conducts training and workshops primarily in social selling.

  • Really great advice! It’s much better to know the prospect’s budget earlier in the conversation. Even if they don’t have the budget right now, you can always call again, every few months until the budget is there.