Don’t Be Afraid to Talk Money

Per my previous blog post (hyperlink), refusal to openly discuss matters of money can be detrimental. In this post, we’ll explore six strong money-centric questions that can help entrepreneurs learn more about a client’s budget even with the most tight-lipped client. Not all of these questions work in every situation, but having such questions in your entrepreneur’s toolkit will help when such opportunities arise. This post is an expansion of a WOW from 99 Creative WOWs—Words of Wisdom for Business, a recently released quick-read book for thriving and striving entrepreneurs, biz whiz professionals, recent grads and creative wizards of all sorts.

Here are six direct questions entrepreneurs can ask of potential clients. Granted it may seem easier to pose these questions to clients with whom they have established relationships, but new potential clients can just as reasonably reply to these questions.

First, ask the most obvious question:

  1. Will you share the budget you have to work with?If you do not ask, you will never know.
  2. If clients will not share their number overtly, try a less-direct approach: I’m sure that just as you have clear specs for the rest of this assignment, you must also have a set pre-approved budget for this work. Would you share a range with all potential bidders in order to ensure you receive estimates within that range?When clients resist, and they might, you’ll be ready to follow up with the value of corralling the estimating process by helping to ensure that many weeks of bidding time are not wasted.
  3. What are the top three factors you will consider when making your final decision?I’m sure budget is in there; will you please rank these three. This answer will give you a sense of the client’s true priorities.
  4. While you’ve said you cannot share your budget with all bidders, based on your experience with this type of assignment, is the budget sufficient enough to deliver everything in the RFP as it is described?If you sense hesitation or even when receiving a direct response, ask if it would be helpful for your client to also receive some value engineering recommendations. When the answer is yes to this question, you have shown your awareness of the challenges they face, offered to add value to this process, and potentially differentiated your proposal from the others. Even if your client takes you up on your offer to make cost-saving recommendations and then shares this request with the other bidders to keep the playing field level, you’ve still set your company part: you’ll be associated with this strategy going forward. Be sure to follow up on this question by asking the client to identify a few areas where value engineering is most reasonable to explore. As examples, if your client has extra time in the schedule, perhaps a different staffing strategy could lower prices; if a component could be cut or adjusted, or if materials could be modified or functionality could be modified, these kinds of questions not only give you a sense of where to focus, they also allow your knowledge to shine through.
  5. It will be extremely helpful for us to understand how you prefer to work when it comes to money. Without sharing specifics, would you share a few best and worst past experiences you’ve had with vendors about money?We want to be sure we can adapt our direct financial strategies to the experiences you’ve had up to now. Even when clients cannot share specifics about their current budget, they’ll often share past stories. By listening carefully to past experiences, you’ll understand your client’s hot buttons—to avoid them and provide a positive experience.
  6. Lastly, entrepreneurs can often glean information about money by NOT making money the focus of their question. If all three bidders came in at exactly the same dollar amount, how would you choose the right supplier for this project?If this answer does not align with question 2 above, you’ll know a bit more about the client’s current clarity about the work, the bidders, and the budget.

Try practicing these questions. The more comfortable you are incorporating them into your business conversations and business language repertoire, the easier it will become to actually ask them!

Do you have questions to add to this list or experiences to share about how you manage challenging money talks? Post your comments below.


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