Of course you are. Well, maybe afraid is the wrong word. Maybe apprehensive is a better word. Or cautious. Maybe we can just keep thinking up words so we run out of time and can’t ask our prospect all those squishy questions about his budget.
Why is it so difficult to ask our prospect questions about the project’s budget?
Talking about money, in any kind discussion, business or otherwise, tends to make us feel very uncomfortable. But not having an understanding of the budget can lead to false assumptions (see Chapter 8 and Chapter 9) and waste both your and your prospect’s time. It is important to realize that the budget needs to be discussed up front and early.
Early in my sales career, I was so excited to be talking to an interested prospect that I forged ahead at full speed, asking about everything except the budget. “I better not ask about money at this point,” I reasoned to myself. “She’ll be so impressed with my proposal that it won’t matter what what my competitors price is.”
Let’s look at the assumptions I typically made. Besides the 13 (yes, 13!) assumptions discussed in the previous two chapters, I typically increased the odds against myself by assuming that: 1, there was a budget; 2, there was a budget with enough funds for the project; 3, there were more funds than I was assuming; 4, project funding was only coming from one budget…and so on and so on.
Did unspoken budget questions stop me?
It didn’t even slow me down. Many hours, and then many more would go into my glorious proposals. Company history, corporate organization charts, staff backgrounds, charts, graphs, drawings, all printed out and bound into an inch thick booklet, dripping with fresh ink – customers were impressed with the sheer weight, if not the content.
As I would thump the proposal down on my prospects desk, all those assumptions would rear their ugly heads. Bypassing all that carefully crafted prose, those detailed charts and graphs, and going straight to the last page with the pricing, I would hear one of two things:
“Wow. This is way over our budget.”
“Wow. This is way cheaper than I thought.”
Neither of those statements is what a salesperson wants to hear. Not once did I hear, “Wow. This price is exactly what I expected.” Sadly, this problem is typical with not only most junior salespeople, but with quite a few senior salespeople as well.
It may be uncomfortable for you to ask questions about their budget, but if you have established trust (Chapter 7) and expertise (Chapter 3), you can accomplish this in a way that is acceptable to your prospect and furthers the sales and qualification process.
This is an important part of any business-to-business sale, and it is critical to any large, complex, or technical sale. We will be spending quite a bit of time honing in on tactics to enable a mutually beneficial discussion on budgets and assumptions. Otherwise, you are wasting time, killing trees, and annoying your boss.