What to Do When a Client Says, ‘I Can’t Afford You’
“I can’t afford it. I don’t have the money right now. It is not within my budget. It’s just too expensive. I’ll have to look for the money first.”
These are some of the devastating phrases no sales person wants to hear.
If you have been in sales long enough, I’m pretty sure you have heard one or more of these phrases.
What you might not know, however, is that most of the times, customers do not actually mean it when they use one of these phrases.
Instead, they use them as an excuse to cover up for something else that’s keeping them from making the purchase.
I’m sure you have also used a variation of one of these phrases to avoid making a purchase you did not want to make.
You go into a store looking for something to solve a particular problem you have and encounter a sales person who tries to sell you something to solve that problem.
After listening to them for a while, however, you are not convinced that what they are selling will solve your problem.
To avoid making the purchase without making them feel like they wasted their time explaining the product to you, you tell them that you don’t really have the money for it at the moment and walk out of the store.
Whatever you did to the sales person at the store is the same thing most of your prospects are doing.
In most cases, it’s not that your prospects do not have the budget for whatever you are selling.
If they didn’t have the money for it, they probably wouldn’t even be reaching out to you in the first place.
When prospective clients say that they cannot afford something, in most cases it means that they have another concern that is keeping them from making the purchase.
Alternatively, it means that they don’t think whatever you are selling is a priority at the moment.
In other words, the issue is not really about resources, but about how much they think they need what you are selling or how much they think it will help them solve a problem they are dealing with.
So, how do you respond when a client says that they cannot afford you or your products? Before we answer that, let’s take a look at what exactly clients mean when they say that you are expensive.
WHAT “I CANNOT AFFORD YOU” MEANS
The phrase I cannot afford you is usually used a cover phrase.
Behind the phrase, the client usually means one of the following:
You Are Selling to the Wrong Person
I mentioned earlier that when prospective clients claim that they cannot afford something, it is more of a priority issue than a money issue.
This could be brought about by the fact you are selling to the wrong person.
A person who does not think whatever you are selling is a priority to them.
Consider this: If I just bought a car earlier this year, and you came to me selling a car, I’d say I don’t have the money for it at the moment.
I might have the money, but I am a young person living alone, and I don’t see the need for two cars.
Note that I might be within your general target market (people who might buy a car), but I’m the wrong person to sell to, because I recently bought one.
On the other hand, if you offered me a good deal on a house, I would probably go for it, even though it is way more expensive than the car.
Regardless of how much you try to sell me the car, I will still go for the house, because it is a bigger priority than a second car at the moment.
I Don’t Have Confidence in Your Product or Service
If a prospective client went through your website or marketing material, decided to reach out to you regarding whatever products or services you are offering, but still claims that they don’t won’t be able to afford it, there is a high chance that they don’t have confidence in your product or service to do what you claim it will.
The reason behind this is that the language you are using to sell to clients does not really resonate with the client’s problems or goals.
After going through your website or marketing material, a client will reach out to you because they think your product or service can potentially solve their problem.
By reaching out to you, they want to ascertain whether you actually have the capability to solve their problem.
If they later claim that they cannot afford it, it means that, after reaching out to you, they felt that your product or service either cannot solve their problem, or that the value they stand to gain from your product or service is not worth what you are charging for it.
I Don’t Trust You
Sometimes, you might have done a good job of selling the features and benefits of your products, but then, for some reason, the client feels that they cannot trust you.
Lack of trust is usually brought about by how you project yourself to prospective customers.
The client might feel that you are too desperate for clients, they might feel that you are being too pushy with your offer, or they might be afraid that they won’t get adequate attention in case they happen to have an issue with your product or service after purchasing.
I Don’t Trust Myself
This might sound funny, but sometimes, clients will stall from purchasing from you, not because they don’t have confidence in your products or services, not because they don’t trust you, but because they don’t trust in themselves.
Everyone experiences doubts at some point in life, and your prospects are no exception.
For instance, if you are selling a fitness program, a prospective client might be afraid that they might be unable to follow through with the program, which means that they won’t gain the benefits of the program.
If you are selling an internet marketing course, they might not trust themselves to do all the hard work, in which case they won’t see a return on their investment.
In this case, by saying that they cannot afford you, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have the money to purchase what you are offering.
It means they cannot afford to waste the money, because they don’t trust themselves enough to put in the hard work and gain from the investment, in which case they will have actually wasted their money.
You are Selling the Wrong Thing
Customers might also feel that what you are selling is expensive because they cannot see its value.
This could be caused by the fact that you are selling the wrong thing.
In many cases, sales personnel focus on selling the features or specifications of a product or service.
However, this is not what prospective clients care about. They care about the problem that has led them to seek your products and services in the first place.
Therefore, focusing on all the amazing features and specifications of your product does no good if you cannot show them how these features will help them solve their problems.
Therefore, features are the wrong thing to sell. Instead, you should focus on selling benefits and outcomes.
In all the above situations, it is clear that the price is usually not the client’s main objection.
However, a client cannot tell you that what you are selling is not a priority, or that they don’t trust you or have confidence in your products or services, or that they don’t trust themselves, or that they cannot see the value of what you are offering.
In this case, claiming that they cannot afford what you are selling is the easy way out.
If they tell you the actual reason why they are stalling, you will come up with an argument to counter their objection.
However, if they claim that they don’t have the money for it, you cannot challenge it.
You won’t ask them to show you their bank statements or their budget for the month. If they don’t have the money, they don’t, and there’s not much you can do about it.
This is what makes this such a good excuse. It allows the prospective client to avoid committing to a purchase without putting themselves in an awkward position.
However, just because a client has said that they cannot afford whatever you are selling does not mean that the conversation has to end there.
A smart sales person knows that they can still turn the conversation around and close the sale.
So, how do you respond when a client says that they cannot afford your products or services?
HOW TO HANDLE A CLIENT WHO SAYS THEY CANNOT AFFORD YOU
When they encounter clients who say that a product or service is not affordable, the first thought that hits most sales personnel is that they should lower the price.
However, this is the wrong move.
Not only are you playing into the client’s excuses, but you also confirm to the client that the price you gave was indeed high.
Instead of giving a price reduction, here’s what to do instead.
Show that You Understand the Client’s Concerns
When a client says that they cannot afford whatever you are selling, don’t try to argue with them that the price is fair, or even feel mad at them because you know that they might be using this as an excuse to cover up for another objection.
Instead, empathize with the client and make it clear that you understand their concerns.
You can do this by saying something like, “I know you have to work within the constraints of a budget, so I definitely understand your concerns about the price of our service.”
While some clients will claim that they cannot afford your product or service as an excuse to cover up for another objection, there are some who will actually mean it.
They might be willing to buy but feel that the price is out of their budget.
It is your responsibility as a sales person to determine whether the price is their real objection or whether they are stalling.
To do this, you have to ask the prospect some questions.
Below are two questions I like using to determine whether the price is the prospect’s main concern.
- What is your budget? – This is a direct question that cuts to the chase. If the client really wants to purchase the product or service but feels that the price is too high, they will give you a quick answer. If it takes the prospect a while to come up with an answer, or if they give a price range that is unreasonable, then they are just probably stalling. As they answer this question, you should also observe their body language, since it will give you useful clues as to whether the client wants to buy.
- If I offered you the product/service at this price, would we have a deal? – After you ask the first question, some prospects will give you an imaginary budget, even if price is not really their main concern. To ascertain that price is indeed their main objection, ask them this question. If the prospect says that you’ll have yourself a deal once you work on the price, you are now sure that the price is their main objection, and you can work out on a solution that will help deal with this. If the client answers in the negative, you can follow up with more questions to uncover the real objection.
Show Your Product’s or Service’s True Value
If, after asking the above questions, you discover that price was not the prospect’s real objection, it means that the prospect does not think that that the value of your product or service is worth it, or they don’t consider your product or service to be a top priority at the moment.
Therefore, what you need to do is to demonstrate the value of whatever you are offering.
To do this, you need to show the client what they stand to gain by purchasing your product or service, vis-à-vis what they stand to lose if they don’t make the purchase.
Here’s the thing. While a lot of clients will be aware of the challenges they are facing, many of them will not have done the math to see the actual cost of those challenges.
Without knowing what the cost of these challenges, quantifying the benefits to be gained from what you are selling also becomes a bit difficult.
So, how do you show the value of what you are selling in quantifiable terms?
Let’s assume that you are selling an automated content marketing solution worth $5000. Initially, all the prospect sees is the $5000 price tag.
However, let’s assume that your solution will help the client increase sales by 40%.
If the client currently makes sales worth $10,000 per month, it means that every month, they are leaving an extra $4,000 on the table, which they would have been earning if they used your solution.
Once you show them that they are losing $4,000 in sales every month, they will see why it is worth paying $5,000 for your content marketing solution.
Simply put, instead of focusing on the price of what you are offering, show the client what they stand to gain from your product or service, in terms of extra revenue, profits, cost savings, time savings, and so on. In other words, show them that what you are offering is an investment, rather than an expense.
Give an Alternative Option for the Purchase
If you have ascertained that the prospect is willing to purchase what you are offering but cannot genuinely afford it, you can still close the sale by offering the client alternative options for purchasing your product or service.
For instance, you could offer customer financing, where you allow the client to purchase your products or services and pay in monthly installments. You could also offer a price adjustment.
Note that there is a difference between a price adjustment and a discount. Whereas a discount simply means reducing the price, a price adjustment is a two-way transaction.
For instance, you might reduce the price in exchange for a massive first order or a long term contract.
This makes the price adjustment a win-win situation.
The client gets a better price, while you get more sales.
Keep in mind that customer financing and price adjustments will depend on your business as well as your prospective customer.
If a prospect is still stalling after these four steps, then it means that they probably don’t want or need your product or service, at which point there is no need to continue pursuing the sale.
HOW TO MINIMIZE THE CHANCES OF HEARING “I CAN’T AFFORD YOU”
While I have shown you what to do when a client says they cannot afford you, wouldn’t it be better if you never had to deal with such situations in the first place?
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to reduce the chances of clients saying that they cannot afford you. These include:
Ensure You are Selling to the Right People
If a lot of prospective clients are claiming that they cannot afford your services, there is high chance you are not selling to the right people.
Sure, the people you are selling to might be within your general target market, but you need to distill the target market even further and determine which specific segment of the market you are selling to.
Remember the example I gave earlier on? I might be within the general target market of car dealers, but regardless of how much they try selling to me, I am not very likely to buy a car from them if I recently bought another one.
One way to make sure that you are selling to the right people is to develop a buyer persona.
You also need to have a system in place for pre-qualifying prospects.
This can be something as simple as asking prospects a couple of questions.
Ensure Your Content Shows the Value of What You are Offering
We saw that the other reasons why prospective clients claim that they cannot afford you could be because they don’t trust you or they are not confident in your products or services.
They don’t believe that they will get their money’s worth.
To overcome this objection, your content and marketing material needs to clearly show the client the value of what they are getting.
What impact will your products or services have on their businesses or lives? What are the expected outcomes?
If the prospects clearly understand from the outset what they stand to gain from your product or service, they are unlikely to complain about the price.
Ensure Your Products/Services are Appropriately Priced
Very often, when clients say that your products or services are not affordable, it is usually about the client or the language you use to sell to them. In some cases, however, your pricing might actually be too high.
There are two ways your pricing might be too high:
- The price is too high for your audience: Sometimes, your pricing might be too high for the market segment you have chosen as your ideal clients. However, this is more of a product vs. market match problem than a pricing problem. If that is the case, you have two options – you can either focus on attracting the kind of customers who will afford what you are offering, or you can introduce a new product that is matched to the needs of and is affordable to the customers you are currently targeting.
- The price is too high for a fair exchange of value: Prospective clients might also feel like your price is too expensive if the results to be gained from using your product or service are not worth the money you are charging for the product or service. In this case, you might have to reduce the price to match the value of what you are offering, or you could increase the quality of your product or service to make its impact on your client’s lives or businesses commensurate with what they are paying for it.
While most sales personnel dread hearing the phrase “I can’t afford you,” the phrase does not necessarily mean that the sale is lost.
Neither should you respond to the phrase with an automatic price reduction. Like we saw, this is usually an excuse that has nothing to do with the price.
Therefore, whenever a client says they cannot afford you, show that you understand their concerns and follow up with questions that will help you uncover their real objection.
If their real objection is not price, you can respond by showing them the true value of what you are offering, or the outcome they will get from using your products or services.
If price is their real concern, you can offer alternative options to help them complete the purchase.
Finally, focus on minimizing the chances of hearing the dreaded phrase by ensuring that you are selling to the right people, ensuring that your content and marketing material shows the true value of what you are selling, and ensuring that your pricing is appropriate.
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