The 4th step in the Sandler sales process is Budget, having a direct, honest conversation about what that individual/company would be willing and able to invest in addressing their issues. Written down on paper it sounds like a straight-forward conversation but we all know that in reality it’s far from that simple. So often people either avoid this step completely or do it in a token way that neither helps them nor the prospect.
Why do we struggle so much with talking about money? One word, headtrash. Transactional analysis teaches us that we all grow up hearing messages from our parents that we adopt (often inappropriately) as our own and some of those messages can include ‘Its rude to talk about money’ ‘Don’t talk about money in front of other people’ ‘Don’t ask questions about money’. Those of us (myself included) who grew up with these types of messages have to overcome that scripting to have effective budget conversations. And remember your prospect may well have the same hang-ups, which can end up with everyone trying to avoid the topic or at least skipping over it as quickly as possible.
So why does this matter? Well, if we accept that selling should be about both parties having very honest, direct conversations so they can both work out if it makes sense to work together, knowing the budget is fundamental to that. For so many of my clients the solutions they could provide to a client can be tailored according to budget so not having this conversation is equivalent to having a stab in the dark that ‘this is what they can afford’. Based on what? What cars they drive? How smart their offices are? Or the prospect ends up getting a massive shock when they open your quote/proposal which either means the end of your opportunity (after you have invested a lot of time and effort) or you end up on the back foot having to justify your prices.
The alternative is to bite the bullet, plant your feet, ask the budget questions and not movie on until you have the answer. Not accepting phrases like ‘no we don’t have a budget for this, you tell me how much it should cost’ or ‘money’s no object’. Making the end goal of the budget discussion a figure that you can both work within. Or if the budget isn’t enough agreeing how to move forwards, if at all.
The push-back I get from some people is that their prospects won’t give them an honest answer. If that happens regularly to you then I would suggest that there are more fundamental challenges in your sales approach than just talking about budget.
One of the differences between being average or really good at selling often comes down to a few seconds at a time, being brave and asking those difficult questions, planting your feet and not moving on until you have got the information that you need. If you are uncomfortable talking about money then this may be the part of the sales process that takes the most guts. So next time you are in a selling situation set yourself a goal of having an effective budget discussion and don’t allow yourself or your prospect to duck out of it. Trust me, once you’ve done it you can walk that little bit taller and next time it will be a little bit easier.