For professional services providers, entrepreneurs and thought-leading executives... the #1 dreaded question is, “How much do you charge?”
Especially when it's asked too early, out of context, and before you've established any sort of relationship with the prospect or any sort of value for the project...
In short, if you blow the answer, your prospect is gone.
Here are three things NOT to do:
- Quote a random price out of thin air (unless you sell haircuts for $18 or oil changes for $34.95 or you do bookkeeping for $65/hr)
- Act surprised or unprepared for the question ("Uhhh... what do you mean?")
- Get defensive or go on a rant about how "all people care about these days is price, price, price."
Some of the answers you're about to get are evergreen, some you can adapt to your own personality, and some you may want to keep in reserve until just the right moment with just the right prospect.
Here we go...
"How Much Do You Charge?"
- A lot. Why do you ask?
- I don't think we're there yet because I don't know what you're buying
- I'll answer your question in a moment but to give you a more accurate answer, may I ask you three questions first?
- Well, the friends and family rate might apply but we're not friends yet - do you mind if I ask you a few friendly questions that will help us answer your pricing question together?
- It's nine million dollars until I know what you're buying. Can we spend a few minutes narrowing that down to help you lower the price?
- I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that you don't have a $500,000 problem. The bad news is that you don't have a $10,000 problem, either... if you can help me answer some key questions, we'll both know a lot more about what your investment might look like.
- If it works, it's cheap. If it doesn't, it's expensive.
- Let's talk about what you're trying to accomplish first and then we'll work out some pricing options based on that.
- Do you want the Ferrari version, the Lexus version, or the VW Bug?
- A project like the one you're asking about ranges from $X to $Y. Sometimes a little more. Not usually less. Is that what you were expecting to invest?
- There's no good answer to that question in a vacuum. Can we talk a little more about what you're hoping we can do for you? Then I'll give you some pricing options that make sense for your budget.
- A project of this scope only makes sense if it's already in your budget. Nobody wakes up one day and suddenly finds the money to solve these kinds of problems. If you can share the budget range you have set aside for this, I can tell you if it makes sense for us to talk any further.
- I have a feeling that if I quote a random number right now, I'll be dead in the water. Do you mind if I ask you some questions to get a better idea of what your goals are? Then the numbers we talk about will be specific to you and your situation.
- Just like you need to make an educated decision about which partner or resource to hire, I need to give you an educated answer to your pricing question. And I'm feeling pretty dumb right now, since we just started talking. Mind if we have a 10-minute conversation about your situation? After that, I'll have a much better idea of what you're after and some different ways we can help.
- Sounds like price is the most important factor to you. In my experience, everything is expensive until you want it. Can we talk about what you want and then work our way to the pricing options based on that?
- It's more than a cab ride to [local landmark, i.e. "the Empire State Building"] but less than [the landmark, i.e. "the building"]. If we can chat for 10 minutes about why you called, I can give you a much more specific answer. Do you have 10 minutes now or shall we look at our calendars?
- Until I have a better idea of what you want - and whether or not we can even help - any number I give you is going to be too high. Would it be OK if we spend a few minutes discussing why you called? Then if we can help, I'll get you the pricing options you need. And if we can't, I'll refer you to some other great resources that do things we don't. Fair enough?
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