How to Find the Money: A Powerful 3-Question Process to Learn the Client’s Budget

It’s tough to ask “the budget question” on a sales call, especially with a new prospect. The client doesn’t know you, doesn’t trust you yet, and may be reluctant to give you the information.

sales find the money

Photo by vvoe/dpc

Many salespeople don’t ask at all. This is a big mistake.

If you don’t ask, you won’t know.

In my day job, I teach sales skills to radio and television station advertising salespeople. I train them to break the question into three parts.

Part 1: Ask Permission

Part 2: Ask About the Process

Part 3: Ask For the Number


Permission: “Can I ask you a few questions about your advertising plans?”

This question comes well into the meeting. By this time, we’ve already covered many other aspects of the client’s business — history, inventory, customer demographics, business philosophy — pretty much everything except that which we’ve come to sell.

If we’ve done this properly, we’ve begun to establish some rapport and trust, and the customer is beginning to let down his guard. If we just jump in and ask, “What’s your advertising budget”? the door could slam closed again.

Asking permission seems polite and considerate. The client will virtually always say yes. This obligates them to answer the next question.

Process: “Things are going pretty well for you these days, but you never know what’s coming next. You don’t know what the economy’s going to do… you don’t know what the weather’s going to do… you don’t know what the government has planned for you next.

But at some point every year, even with all this uncertainty, you have to decide how much you can spend on advertising. How do you come up with that number?”

The three factors mentioned above — economy, weather, and government — affect just about any business. Before asking for the number, we’re expressing some empathy and asking the client to open up about how they come up with the budget. We’re not ready to ask for the number yet. First we acknowledge the difficulty any company owner or executive has in predicting the future.

Some customers have a formula (usually a percentage of revenue) that they stick to. Others have a dollar figure handed to them from above. A surprising of businesses have no process at all, and just fly by the seat of their pants.

Whatever the case, knowing how they get to the dollar figure is as important as knowing the number itself.

The Number: “Okay, thanks for that. So for all the advertising you do — radio, television, digital, newspaper, magazines, billboards, Yellow Pages, and anything else — how much do you think you’ll spend this year? [Some clients won’t know a yearly figure; in that case, you can ask them to estimate how much they spend per month.]

By this time the client’s given you permission to ask, along with some insight as to the budget process. It won’t happen every time, but the odds have become much greater that they’ll tell you what you want to know.

Question: Do you find yourself reluctant to ask about the money? How do you deal with that? You can leave a comment by clicking here.





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