Setting Client Budget Expectations, Part II

Budget – it’s one of those key things you and your client both need to know before you progress too far in the sale.

If you’re too far apart on your client’s expectations, there’s no need to keep talking.

So it’s essential to figure out – at least approximately – your client’s budget before you go too far into the sale.

Last week I proposed a simple solution to this: just ask directly.

There are two possible outcomes: your client will tell, or your client won’t tell you.

So what to do if your client won’t jump first and tell you what kind of budget they have in mind? Well, you can lock horns in a game of stalemate, awkwardly dancing around vagaries that don’t result in progress toward a budgeting discussion. Or you can set a price floor.

Thanks to reader Frank M. for sending in his tactic for this:

I start by offering my minimum site design fee baseline first ($7500). This adjusts my client’s expectations immediately. If they were thinking lower than that figure, then we quit wasting both of our time pursuing the engagement. If their budget is higher, then we have plenty of room to continue the conversation and raise the budget ceiling based on their requirements. The person leading with price first has the leverage because they set negotiation expectations rather than respond/react to the other’s figure.

I’ve often recommended setting a range of prices for your client, though this typically results in your client just picking the lowest number and anchoring there. Setting a minimum price will set a floor, just be prepared to explain why you’d charge more.

Something else happens in these budgeting discussions, and it irks me a bit. If you’re the one to throw out the price, and your client happily accepts it – or says something like “oh that’s more affordable than I thought” – there’s a feeling that you should’ve charged more. You may feel you’ve “left money on the table.”

Just charge what you want to charge.

Set your price based on what would be profitable and attractive to you, with some consideration to the value your client can get from the engagement. Celebrate when they accept, and feel free to steadily increase your prices until you’re met with the “right” amount of resistance.