apple-orange-scaleYou’re talking to Teresa, who has identified some things that are missing on your website. You ask Teresa, “Do you do work in this area?” Teresa answers, “Sure! What’s your budget?

Now stop for a minute and ask yourself. How do you feel when Teresa asks this question? And, if you’re Teresa, should you ask this qualifying question?

Recently I came across an article by a respected marketer I’ll call “Susan.” Susan was furious because a designer, “Teresa,” had asked her this question.

“I got flustered,” she said, “because I had no idea what was involved or what the project was worth.” She concluded that the question, “What’s your budget?” was a bad qualifying question.

Frankly I think Susan, the buyer, overreacted.
Teresa’s timing or phrasing might be off. However, I understand exactly where Teresa is coming from. She doesn’t want to invest time if Susan isn’t prepared to invest at the level where she works.

Susan writes, “I was tempted to throw out a very low number. But then Teresa would be insulted.”

Insulted? I don’t think so.
I get low-ball numbers all the time. When that happens, I explain what I can do for that number. Often we can have a few coaching calls instead of full-service copywriting, for instance. Alternatively, we can work together to create a smaller-scale solution in the short term. And sometimes people decide to make a larger investment when they realize what they will be getting.

Of course, Teresa was introducing a new service. She skipped a step: she needed to show the benefits. She might have asked more generally, “What are you comfortable spending on marketing in a given month?”

Now let’s look at the prospect, Susan.
Why would she be “flustered” when asked to throw out a budget number? Hey, this is business!

I have found that people who will give me a number – any number – tend to be serious about moving ahead, whether or not we work together and regardless of the project size. I have also found that people who are comfortable with numbers are more businesslike and professional.

So what are the takeaways?

First, if you’re selling business services, you need to find a way to qualify your prospect early. Many have a number in mind, even if they’re not comfortable sharing it. You have opportunity cost to consider: you could be using this time to generate revenue from other sources, such as info products.

Second, if you’re the buyer, always be ready with a budget number. Don’t be afraid to
low-ball. Do your research before you talk to designers, consultants or copywriters and get a sense of the going rate.

Be sure you are comparing apples with apples. You can get a customized blog post for investments ranging from $5 to $500. But how long will the post be? Will the writer also do some research? Do you get revisions? What’s the style of writing? Can you get a discount when you offer a contract for 4 posts a month for 4 months?

You probably have ideas of your own! Please comment below.