The budget is irrelevant

Everyone says you need to get the budget from your customer before you can work out a solution. Everyone is wrong. Learn why here.

I've done a bunch of courses about business, design, development, marketing, and many that are specifically about growing a web design agency.

In case you've never done these types of courses, basically what they are is some former web design person decided they were sick of actually getting clients for web design, and instead built a course how to get clients for web design businesses.

Some of these courses are terrible. Some are awesome.

But invariably, they all end up giving this one bit of advice for talking to a potential client: ask for their budget.

They're pretty serious about this part, and then make a bunch of decisions based around what that client tells them.

This advice is wrong.

I want you to think about this.

Have you ever gone into a shop to buy something, let's say... a new pair of shoes?

And you've decided you're willing to spend up to $100 for those shoes. You look around the shop, and see plenty of really decent shoes that you think are probably worth $100. And of course, you're pretty happy at this point - you have plenty of options, and spending money to buy something you want is almost always fun.

But then..... it happens.

Like some clouds parting, with a ray of sunshine beaming through, you see.... THE pair of shoes.

You know what I mean, these are the shoes that are exactly what you need. Exactly your taste, just perfect. All the other shoes pale in comparison. These are the shoes you need!

But one small problem.

The perfect shoes.... they cost $200.

Damn. You really weren't expecting that.....

So what happens?

You still buy the damn shoes.

Yup. Most likely, you're walking out of there with a bit of extra damage to the wallet or purse, but holding exactly what you want.

Why? Because the $100 wasn't how much money you had. No, the $100 was just how much you were thinking a pair of shoes would be worth to you.

And this is exactly how it works when you're selling a service.

People who are buying already have an idea in mind of what the service is worth, so their "budget" is based on that perception. It's rarely how much they can actually afford. And often, if they think it's worth the money, they're quite happy to spend way more than they originally planned - because they know they're getting what they really want that way.

Using this in your sales process.

Firstly, forget the price conversation for a while. Price comes last.

Start by finding out what the actual problem is.

See, when you walk into a hardware store to buy a drill, it's not because you need a drill. It's because you need a hole in a wall and the drill is the right tool for the job.

When clients come to you asking for a website, or a new logo, or whatever it is that you do, that isn't the problem. The problem is usually related to a lack of clients, or not being taken seriously, or whatever the hell the problem is. The new website is the solution they think they need.

So you need to ask about what they are trying to do. What they've been doing so far. What is working and what isn't working for them.

Most web professionals will do this by using a website design questionnaire, which gives them a systemised way to keep them on track with their questions.

And if you do all this, gradually you get a really good understanding of their problem - which is CRITICAL because it shapes the rest of the conversation.

Once you know the problem, then you can start on a really important step, which is educating the crap out of them.

Education is the differentiator.

You need to educate the potential client on their problem. You need to educate them on what sort of solutions there are. You need to educate them on what can go wrong. You need to educate them on what you do differently.

You need to EDUCATE them.

Because when you do, you're showing them expertise. You're showing knowledge. You're showing understanding.

And by showing them all of that, it means that you're in the running to be the person most likely to be able to help them.

Plus, let's be honest, most of the other people out there aren't really taking the time to do this.

For example, when I talk to a potential client, I'll educate them on things like how different colours work on different target audiences. Then I'll tie it back to their specific situation and how I would use colour for their business to get them a better result. This helps me stand out, because not many of my competitors are really doing this. And this is only one of the many education pieces I use in the conversation.

Why do I do this? Because each time I educate them, it's like a little light bulb goes off for them. They'll either learn something that's useful and helpful to them, or they'll think "this guy really gets it" - and those light bulbs are what get you sales.

Once you've outlined your solution, and they agree that it's the right solution, you'll tell them the price.

Now, think about this.

They came into the conversation thinking a website was worth a set amount of money.

You've just spent a bunch of time educating them on really important information about what they want to achieve, how best to do that, and how you're uniquely positioned to make it happen for them.

Everyone else is charging what they were expecting to pay (or more) - but, like walking through the shoe shop - everyone else isn't the right fit anymore.

So don't you think you'd be able to charge more now?

This isn't me talking out of my ass. At my web agency we charge $10k as our project minimum. I'll routinely get small business owners tell me that they were only expecting to pay $2k, $4k, etc for a site, yet they're super excited about the project and paying $12k, $15k, or more.

An important caveat.

You really need to make sure you know how to deliver though. Especially if you're charging at the higher end of the market.

Nothing is worse than someone who talks a big game but then doesn't deliver, and unfortunately many people out there aren't able to deliver.

If you're not sure about your ability, then either keep your price lower while you're building experience, or focus on skilling up (I'm always doing courses and learning as much as I can).

Final recap.

Okay so let's recap what I've written about so far.

  1. Forget the budget
  2. Find the problem
  3. Make sure there's a fit
  4. Educate them
  5. Give them the price
  6. Make sure you can deliver

So rather than starting conversations by asking about budget, start by asking how you can help them.

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