Unlike Jerry Maguire, as sellers this should be a well-placed, tactical question, not a desperate statement being screamed into a phone to save our last client. Now granted, in the movie Tom Cruise wasn’t really asking a question at all but trying to appease his quirky client. For sales professionals, in the qualifying phase of the sales cycle, “Show me the money” is a critical question and translates into “Do you have the budget for this solution?” Unfortunately, questions about the budget seem to be among the most difficult to ask but they are essential if we are going to work efficiently and bring value to our prospects.
No one has time to waste
One of the things sales professionals and prospects have in common is neither of us has any time to waste. Therefore, we can and should ask, as early in the process as possible, some form/variation of the question “What have you budgeted for this solution”?
You’d be surprised when you ask the question with sincerity and confidence how often they will actually talk openly about their budget. To be sure, some people can’t share this because they simply don’t have a budget yet. Still others won’t be willing to share this with you based on their belief that doing so simply isn’t in their best interest.
Why buyers don’t like to share information
If the buyer hasn’t yet defined a budget, we can still have a productive conversation, but we’ll save that line of questioning for another blog. For now, let’s talk about those reluctant buyers who believe that sharing this information will somehow come back to haunt them. In this case, we must retrain the buyer as to why it is in their best interests to answer this question as honestly and specifically as possible.
To illustrate this point, let’s take a moment to think like buyers. I suspect that most people reading this have purchased a home at some point. If you think back on that experience, didn’t your real estate broker ask very early on about your budget for a new home? What do you suppose happens if we refuse to share this with our agent? Right, probably won’t be seeing many houses.
In reality, we owe it to the customer to understand their budget BEFORE we begin offering alternatives. We shouldn’t waste their time and cannot afford to waste our own. Since many, if not most of our prospects have themselves been home buyers, perhaps the most effective way to address their concern is to invoke that very experience and relate your questions back to their experience buying a home.
When buying other things, many people don’t realize that telling us their budget isn’t affecting what we charge for a solution but it is affecting what solution we bring forward for their consideration. However, even the novice home buyer knows how important it is to share this information. If the budget is adequate to cover the cost of an alternative that brings greater value to the customer, that’s what we should bring forward, even if it’s at the top end of their budget. If it isn’t, then we are bound to bring forward an alternative that delivers the greatest value within their budget constraints. These could, depending on the budget, be very different alternatives. Regardless, asking meaningful questions about their budget helps ensure we’re only bringing alternatives to the table that have the greatest impact on our prospects’ business and/or personal success while falling in line with what they are willing to invest.
By approaching the conversation with our buyers this way, they are able to see the logic of our budget questions and recognize that we are working in their best interest. They see that we don’t want to come back with a solution that is far beyond what they’d ever consider. At that point, I’ve found over all the years I’ve been selling that the guard gets lowered and the information starts to flow, resulting in better qualified opportunities and less wasted time for me and my buyers.