Even for people who have been in business for a long time, it can be uncomfortable to ask new clients about money. Everyone on both sides of the table knows it’s a conversation that needs to happen. But until that “trusted adviser” relationship is established, your clients may be a bit guarded when it comes to talking about the purse strings.
But it needs to be done, and the more strategies you have for getting a client to talk about his or her budget, the more easily the conversations will go.
Allison Roberge is an account executive at Sogeti USA. She says she uses an interview-style approach to get clients to be comfortable to open up about their budgets. The more open they are, she says, the more likely you are to get the “real” number you have to work with as soon as possible. For Roberge, her method is not blunt.
“I don’t always ask about budget directly,” she says. “Instead, I ask business-driver questions like ‘how has the business been preparing for this? Do they understand and see the value in it? Is there an executive sponsor for this project?’ And does it have CIO support?’ I learn so much by interviewing the client and asking questions.”
Roberge says these questions often give her plenty of other important information aside from intel on the budget. She also learns valuable details along the way about the project specifics, inner workings of the company, and how much support there is coming from C-level players.
Don’t misunderstand: Roberge doesn’t recommend pussy-footing around budget talks, especially clients you have already established a rapport with. But when you have a new relationship with a client, take the money talk a little more slowly. You’ll learn more and you won’t seem like you’re only looking out for your own bottom line.
“If you have a great relationship already established, a budget conversation is welcomed and expected by your client,” Roberge says.