I met recently with a sales leader who asked me to help his sellers do a better job of talking with their clients about money. Money is a topic that has emotion tied to it, certainly more so than other subjects like scope, outcomes and timing. So, it is a topic widely avoided by salespeople. And yet, a seller who can successfully negotiate the “money conversation” will maintain stronger relationships with his clients.
There are two instances specifically when it is important to be able to address money. The first is when you do initial discovery. Don’t be hesitant to ask a prospect about budget. Your goal is to develop a solution that meets the client’s objectives, and one of their objectives is to stay within budget. If they tell you there is no budget, this is a yellow light that tells you to slow down and address the issue. If they don’t want to give you the budget, aim for a range. There is no point in guessing as you move forward on a solution and a proposal. It is a waste of your time and resources.
Try using a version of this three-part response.
- If you’d rather not give me an exact number I respect your decision. Each client situation is unique though, and I’d like to be sure we are meeting all your goals, including your financial goals.
- Other clients that we’ve worked with who have similar objectives have spent somewhere between x-y. (keep the range reasonable)
- Do you see your project falling somewhere within that range?
Keep the conversation moving toward a range with which you can both be comfortable. If you can’t get any range at all, you have to ask yourself if this is a client worth having.
The second conversation you must become comfortable with is the discussion about how and when you get paid. It is a mistake to put the responsibility of collecting money on the shoulders of your Accounting Department. You own the relationship and you have the most to lose if this conversation isn’t handled properly. Be clear up front with a client as to what your payment expectations are and address their concerns. By initiating this conversation, early and openly you are defining how your relationship will move forward – specifically that you will openly discuss payment and terms, and that you will be handling it with your client. Most sellers believe that discussing money with a client will damage the relationship when, if fact, exactly the opposite is true. By being straightforward in discussing your expectations as well as the client’s you will:
- Give them the confidence that you have no hidden agenda
- Ensure that there are no unwelcome surprises for either party
- Garner the client’s trust that you will come to them first to resolve financial issues
- Win the love and respect of your Account Department (this may be optimistic, but you never know)
You’ve heard the saying, “people buy from people they like”. People also buy from people they trust. Earn the trust of your client by having the courage to address the important issue of money – theirs and yours.
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Jane Gentry leverages her experience with Fortune 500 clients to help mid-market companies grow revenue by solving key sales issues like: process, pipeline, leadership, relationship management and hiring. She speaks worldwide on topics about sales growth and leadership. Her clients include companies in manufacturing, medical, professional services and technology.
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