Money talk is awkward at best.
Clients never volunteer budget information.
You’re trained to ask the question … but you know what the answer will be.
It doesn’t have to be so awkward. One of these four techniques is sure to get the most reluctant client to tell you what her budget is.
No One Wants to Say a Number First
Clients don’t want to tell you their budget for fear they’ll be overcharged.
You ask, “What’s your budget?” and she says, “I don’t know” or “you tell me what it should cost.”
You don’t want to throw out a dollar figure because it may be too low … and then you’ll have a difficult time asking for more money later.
Somewhere along the line, someone decided that you should never be the first one to mention a dollar amount. Else you lose your power position.
So clients and agencies avoid the conversation.
You and your team are forced to
waste invest time pricing out the project without any idea of the budget.
You use your best guess for quality level and pad time to make sure it’s all covered.
Only to be told that’s too much money.
Finally, the elusive budget range makes an appearance. So you prepare the real estimate.
Or, your client approves the estimate on the spot and you wonder if you could have gotten a little more budget to make the project that much better.
It would be so much easier if your client would just tell you her budget from the beginning instead of playing the guessing game.
Don’t settle for “I don’t know.” Try one of these methods instead.
1. Ask For Past Budget
This may not be the first time your client has done this type of project. Maybe it was with another agency or directly with a vendor.
If so, ask her how much she spent last time. Let’s see her wriggle out of answering that direct question.
Just make sure that you also know what the scope or specifications of that previous project was so that you can compare it to the new project scope.
Use that prior project as a springboard to talk about how that budget might apply to this project. If that budget was very low, this is a good opportunity to let her know. And find out how much higher she can go.
2. Offer a Price Range
If you’ve done this type of project before and you feel comfortable that this project would be similarly priced, you can suggest a range to see the type of reaction you get.
Say something like, “Typically past projects like this have run in the range of $20,000 to $30,000.” (Using your figures of course.)
If your client says that range is too high, you can talk about the scope and areas where you could shave off costs. The goal is to get her to give you a budget range she is comfortable with so that your team can estimate it based on that number.
3. Provide Examples with Price Ranges
Like the second technique, this requires you to have already done this type of project for other clients.
Show your client tangible examples of similar projects and tell her the budget range for each one. Ideally, you will have two or three examples that represent a nice range of price and scope.
With the examples, you have the benefit of talking about the aspects of the project that kept the costs low, or in the case of the higher range, added more to the price.
Your client may be swayed to spend more money than she was originally planning when she sees what she can get for additional budget.
This does require some pre-planning on your part to have the examples and ranges ready to go.
If you don’t know enough about the project prior to your meeting in order to prepare samples, you can ask the budget question of the client. And when she says she doesn’t know, tell her that you will pull together some samples to give her an idea and get back with her soon.
Again, the goal is to get that elusive budget number before your team estimates the project.
4. Low, Medium and Outrageous Ranges
This final technique doesn’t require examples of other projects. But there is a little advance preparation.
Think about the minimum amount of budget that you suspect the client will spend and that your team can work with. That will be your low, baseline budget range.
Multiply that number by 5 or more … that’s your mid range.
Then multiply the baseline number by 10 or more to come up with an outrageously high range.
These are the figures you will go into the meeting with.
After your client has gone through the scope of the project, and you’ve asked the obligatory budget question … and she’s given you the obligatory non answer, say something like this:
“This type of project typically falls into one of three budget ranges: $x (your baseline budget), $5x (your mid range budget) or $10x (your outrageous budget).”
When your client hears these ranges, she will typically tell you what her highest budget range is. And don’t be surprised if that number is higher than your baseline number.
This is a great way to ensure that you are not low balling the budget and missing out on enhancing the project with a little more spend.
Project Estimate Tips
Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind for the estimate.
- Clearly defined scope – Be sure the estimate clearly states all the specifics about the scope of the project. Regardless of the type of project it is, there should be no misunderstandings about what is included in the price and what is not.
- Options – Particularly if the client’s budget is low, include some options in the estimate that could be added to enhance the project and bump the budget up a little. If the client decides not to go with the increase, you’ve still provided an estimate that is within her budget.
Discussing budget is uncomfortable for everyone. But it’s a lot less comfortable using one of these four methods up front versus being told your estimate is way over budget after you’ve done all the work.
The more you do it, the less awkward it will be for you … and your client.
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