Bring up the budget early on to avoid buyers balking

Updated Jun 7, 2019

man looking at bill worried with the chargesHow many times have you taken the time to meet with a potential client, discuss their wants and needs and create a design only to hear crickets when you tell them the price of their dream project?

This is obviously frustrating when you’ve taken the time to create a proposal just for them, but failed sales pitches like this can be easily avoided if you take the time to include asking about their budget in your initial round of questions.

Sometimes the commonly held belief that talking about money is inappropriate could make you uncomfortable about bringing up the topic, but you are running a business and your services come with a price. Any potential customer who can’t respect that isn’t worth your time in the first place.

Another concern you may have about bringing up the budget early is that you’ll come across as only interested in making a profit instead of doing the job right, but this all comes down to phrasing your questions tactfully and knowing when to broach the subject.

Budget doesn’t need to be your literal first question after a client has reached out you. Find out what the homeowner is wanting, and figure out if their project is a good fit for your company to start with. Some of the courteous ways you can bring up the topic of money are phrases like “What budget have you set aside for this project?” or “Are there budget limitations I should be aware of?” rather than something as blunt as “How much are you going to pay me?”

If the customer responds that they don’t know, they could honestly not have a figure at the moment, or they are reluctant to share it with you.

“So why won’t they tell us their budget?” wrote Jody Shilan, former executive director of the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association and landscape business consultant. “There are two main reasons: One is fear, and the other is hope. Fear that we are going to raise our prices artificially because they told us what they want to spend. Hope in that we are going to propose something that is less than they want to spend, thus getting a deal.”

In the case of the potential client holding back on sharing the budget for whatever reason, throwing out some figures can help you get them to at least admit a range they’re considering.

Providing anecdotal references to other customers who had similar sized projects and what it cost them will help you determine if they are okay with that price range or if they need to scale things back or opt for a master plan to do over a period of time.

Let them know that the project’s price could vary from $10,000 to $50,000 depending on the materials selected. This will give them an idea on how pricey landscaping projects can cost, but also lets them know their choices in materials will also drive up the costs. Usually at this point they are willing to share what figure they had in mind and you can tell them if that is a budget you can work with.

If their budget is far too low for any substantial work to accomplished you can either try to educate them on where the costs are coming from and what they will be paying for, or you can politely withdraw which will save your company from wasting any more time with customers who either can’t or won’t commit to a realistic price point.

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