Ask About a Budget or Investment Range Early

If you walk out of a meeting with a client and you don’t know how much they’re thinking of spending, and they don’t know how much you’re thinking of charging, you are both guessing. No guessing! The client has a range—it may not be explicit or conscious, and it’s there. And you have a range too. The question is whether their range is going to overlap with your range. If it’s not, you probably can’t do business.

When you address budget, you are only talking about value justification. You’re not going to give the client your fees or price, and youʹre not asking them for the specific dollars they have in a budget. Your intent is to understand if there is congruence between what they think itʹs worth to solve the problem and what you think is necessary to solve the problem. You might ask about budget in any of the following ways:

  • Have you thought about a level of investment for this project?
  • Have you established a budget for this project?

If the deal is more of a self‐funding/value‐based opportunity:

  • Have you had any thoughts on how to financially structure this initiative?

When you encounter yellow lights in response to your budget question, use the three‐part response to turn the yellow light to red or green.

  1. I don’t know how much this will cost you (every client situation is unique).
  2. Other companies in similar situations, trying to achieve these kinds of results, tend to invest between X and Y.
  3. Can you see yourself falling somewhere in that range?

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