“How much does it cost?”
It’s the quintessential opening line of every potential customer. And you need to know how to answer it in a way that puts you at an advantage.
Today we’re talking about price: why it matters, what customers are actually after when they ask about it, and how to position your product as an investment instead of an expense.
What Would You Charge for Wedding Planning?
Not long ago I met a wedding planning consultant at a business conference we were both attending. I love talking to people like this. She obviously loved what she did and felt it was her personal calling to give her brides the day they had been dreaming about since they were little girls.
As you might imagine, her services did not come cheap, and everyone knew that, including the people who called her to inquire about hiring her for their wedding.
But that didn’t keep people from asking about money way too early in the process. When a new prospect called in, the call usually went like this: name, date of the wedding (if they had one), and then the dreaded, “how much will it cost?”
“It happens that way EVERY time,” she confided in me. “And I have no idea what to say. At that point I barely know their name. There is so much more I have to know before I can give anything close to a reasonable quote.”
Most of you know this feeling. You don’t know the first thing about what this prospect needs. If you’re a consultant, giving a price quote at this point is just pulling a number from thin air. Even if you have standard pricing tiers, you still don’t know which one is right for this person. Giving a price could easily drive them away (if the number is too high) or cost you a bigger opportunity (if the number is too low).
I know the price question feels like a trap, but it doesn’t have to. There is a simple way to answer this question to turn the conversation from price to value.
You just have to know the right words to say. Here are 5 steps that will help you confidently answer the price question in a way that will keep you in control of the conversation.
Step 1: Say Thanks!
There are two simple words you need to remember when you get the price question.
They are: thank you. Here’s how to use them:
“Thanks so much for considering [me, our company, our product]!”
The reason to say thanks is that the prospect has you on a short list, and that’s a big accomplishment for your and your product. Think of all the other offerings out there they could have chosen that weren’t even worthy of the email or phone call you just received.
Saying thanks tells the customer that you respect them and you respect their situation. They still might not pick you, but by saying thanks you open the door to the vital next step in this conversation: asking questions.
Step 2: Get More Info
The next step is to ask questions. My wedding planner friend might respond with something like this:
“Thanks so much for considering me as the wedding planner for your big day! It’s a big decision and I know how important it is to find someone you feel comfortable with.
There is really so much that goes into pricing. I’ve had clients who’ve paid hundreds of dollars and others who’ve paid many thousands. It really just depends on what you’re looking for.
Would you paint the picture for me? When you were a little girl and you dreamed about your wedding day, what did it look like?”
You have two goals when asking these questions:
Get enough details to give an appropriate price quote.
Get the prospect start talking about her dreamy wedding day, instead of the limited funds in her bank account.
These two things together are powerful. By getting the prospect talking, you put her mind in a different place. You make her think about the value you’re about to bring to her life, instead of the money you’ll be charging her.
To be clear, you’re not dodging the price question. You’re going to tell her the price, just not yet. You have some investigating to do first.
Step 3: Continue the Conversation
Keep the prospect talking as long as she wants to. For our wedding example, the longer the prospect visualizes her perfect wedding, the more she’s going to imagine your role in making it happen.
Mirror your prospect in every way you can, which will be easy if you genuinely enjoy helping the people who buy your product from you.
Smile a lot. Laugh. Lean forward. Ask lots of follow up questions.
Step 4: Prepare and Present a Persuasive Quote
You’ve done the work with your prospect. You know how you can help them. Now it’s time to give them a number.
Depending on your business model, you can do this at the end of your conversation with them, or you can tell the prospect you’ll get back to them within 48 hours with a specific proposal.
Either way, don’t just give them a number. Instead, frame your cost as either an investment or a value far beyond the price.
A freelance writer’s proposal, for example, shouldn’t just say:
White paper: $5,000.
It should say:
Background research and reading.
15-minute interviews with product experts (3x).
Writing, editing, and proofreading.
Up to 2 rounds of revisions.
Coordinating layout with graphic designer.
Coordinating posting of white paper to company website.
Client communications (emails, phone calls).
See how different those two responses are? The first one seems like you’re not getting a lot for your money. The second one seems like a bargain compared to the first. The prices are the same, so it’s not because it’s less expensive. It’s because it appears that you just get so much more, even though the two offerings are actually exactly same.
That’s why we call it a persuasive proposal, because it’s meant to persuade your prospect of the value of your product, not just communicate the final price you’re going to charge.
Step 5: Wait for a Decision
In some cases, the prospect will have sticker shock when you finally give a price. But fear not. All the work you’ve done up to this point is about to pay off.
Now, they’re thinking about all the value you or your product is going to provide. That’s why you wait so long to give a price or recommend a specific tier from your pricing structure.
There’s a battle in the head of your prospect: value against price. The question is no longer
Can I afford this?
Now, the question is very different. Instead of focusing strictly on price, the prospect is trying to answer a different question:
Is the value worth the price?
If it is, the price may still be “out-of-budget,” but you’ve still sold them on your value, and if there’s a way the prospect can afford to buy, they will.
A Step Back: Why People Ask About Price
Now that you know how to handle the “how much does it cost?” question, it’s worth taking a moment to ask why we as humans ask about price so quickly in the first place.
It’s a confusing habit of ours if you think about it. Consumers usually know that the salesperson can’t give a good price without more information.
Some people would suggest that buyers are always trying to lowball the salesperson or trap them in some sort of price war that will eventually land them a deal.
But I’m convinced the answer is much simpler than that. I think we ask about price because we just don’t know where else to start the conversation.
It’s like asking, “How are you today?” It’s more habit than a real question.
And just as we never directly answer “How are you today,” you don’t always have to answer the “How much does it cost” question with a quick, direct number.
It’s ok to go after clarification and scope for a new project or client. Your prospects will understand if you just ask nicely and explain why you need the information.
What consumers really want to know is: “Are you worth the price you’re going to charge?”
They don’t ask the question that way, but that’s ultimately what they’re after. If you immediately answer the question, “how much does it cost?” with a number, you keep the prospect’s focus on her budget, instead of moving it to the value you provide.
But if you can be disciplined enough to treat the “how much does it cost” question as a conversation starter, instead of a sales question to be answered, you should see much more success with your sales efforts.
What about you? How do you answer when a prospect asks about price?