How to reply when a client says, “you’re too expensive”

“Hmmm, it’s too expensive” or “I can’t afford that right now”.

It’s enough to give you the heebie-jeebies and squirm in your chair. Even the majority of seasoned business owners I know hate having that conversation. I recall the first time I heard it. It was really early days in my business and I wasn’t confident in my abilities and value. I was charging a fifth of what I charge now but it was a stretch for my prospective client and she didn’t hesitate to tell me so.

I knew I didn’t want to discount my services, but I didn’t know what to do and so I just told her, “that’s fine, let me know when you are ready to invest”. She slipped through my fingers and I never heard from her again, despite following up.

Now, three years on, it’s a different story. I’ve learnt about pricing, value and sales and feel much more confident handling the money objection. I’m going to share my learnings with you today.

Before I offer advice on how to reply when a client says “you’re too expensive”, there’s some groundwork that will either help you avoid the issue entirely, or ensure you’re really prepared:

1. Demonstrate value up front

Before you even get on the phone or meet your prospective client, is it clear on your website and in your marketing materials how much value you offer? i.e. – the benefits, results and impact of using your products and services.

If you’re not sure, it’s worth filling out the value proposition canvas for each product or service you offer, and then checking your marketing copy to see if the value is obvious to your prospects.

Tip: Testimonials are a great way of demonstrating the value as well – and can be even more effective as it’s not you saying how great you are, but your past customers.

2. Know that the money objection is usually a cover for something else

When someone really wants something, they’ll find the money for it. That’s why pop star’s concerts sell out within hours of announcing tickets. Their fans will move mountains to get a ticket.

So when someone says they can’t afford it, there’s often a hidden meaning, such as:

  • – I can’t see the value of this
  • – I don’t want to work with you
  • – I’ve found someone cheaper / I prefer

Some probing (using the questions I share later in this post) will help you uncover this and overcome it.

3. Put the price into context

When you’re talking to your prospective client, you want to use the time you have to find out how much time or money they’re wasting on the problem you can solve for them. Or, how solving this problem will directly impact their sales.

This helps you then put the investment in your services into context – as most people are looking to save time or money, or create more time or more money.

For example you could ask them:

  • – How much time do you currently waste on XYZ?
  • – What is value of that time? (e.g. if they can make £100 an hour and they’re wasting 3 hours a week trying to figure out XYZ, you could save them £300 a week which is £1200 a month, which is £14,400 per year)

Putting the investment into tangible terms and ROI is often enough to overcome the objection.

If you’ve done all of the above and are still getting the money objection, here’s what to say:

“You reached out to me because you need help with [insert their key problem]. If money/price wasn’t an issue, would you still want to work with me?”

If they say yes, move on to the next question. If they say no, ask them why?

“Put money to the side for a moment and tell me, what would you have to get as a result of working together / using our product to feel like this is the best investment you’ve ever made?”

This helps you understand what they place value on, and gives you the opportunity to re-affirm that you can create that value through your products and services. Show them how much time, money or stress you can save them.

It might also be handy to share results from clients you’ve helped achieve similar goals.

The final question to ask them is:

“How could you afford/find the money for this?”

This gets them into problem solving mode and thinking creatively about where they could find the money to work with you. If they’ve said they want to work with you, and they can see the value, this puts the ball in their court and more often than not they’ll find the funds.

Finally, if at the end of your conversation, they’re still not a definite yes or no, book in a time to follow up with them, and keep doing so until it is a definite “yes I want to work with you!” or “nope, it’s not for me”.

Jen Smith coaches entrepreneurs in social media.

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