Small Business

“How Much Does It Cost?”: How to Answer Your Clients’ Tough Questions

Alan Berg


Note: the following is a guest post by Alan Berg, an in-demand professional speaker, business consultant, and author.

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Why do prospects almost always ask “How much does it cost” first?

As I travel around the country, and around the world, this is one of the questions I get asked most often.  There are so many important things that our prospects need to know, yet so many seem to ask about price before getting to the other details.

Why is that? We all know that price is not the most important factor, but prospects will still ask about price first. I spoke about this at WeddingWire World and many other conferences.

I contend that they ask “how much” because they don’t know what else to ask. If they did, then they would ask the more important questions first. So often they don’t even tell you the details that you need, such as (for wedding vendors) the date of the wedding, or the location, yet they ask you how much it costs. It’s not that they’re price shoppers, or that they can’t afford your services, you can’t tell from the question (everyone needs to know how much it costs at some point and no one wants to overpay). This isn’t limited to weddings, by any means.

We all ask “How much…?”

We’re all guilty of it at times when we’re the customers. When I needed window tinting on some windows in my house to protect my piano from sun-UV ray damage, I emailed 3 companies and asked them “how much.” It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford it. It wasn’t that I was price shopping (at least not at that point). It was simply that I didn’t know what else to ask. Once I got my education (from the first person I met with), I could ask better questions.

Many, if not most, inquiries come in through email these days and “How much does it cost?” is often the first, if not the only question. So, how do you handle that? What are some ways to deflect the question?

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Say: Thanks!

The first thing you should always do is thank them for their inquiry. They’ve just put you on the menu. I like to point out to my audiences and clients that, in this economy, if they’re not shopping you on price, they may not be shopping you at all. Think about how many other companies there are that probably didn’t even get on their list. Be sure to acknowledge that. It’s a privilege to get a chance to communicate with them.

Then you should start a conversation with them. Whether it’s in email, on the phone, a live chat, at a bridal/trade show in person, or in your office, you’re having a conversation, so keep it conversational. Don’t write it like a formal business letter, or as if your high school English teacher is looking over your shoulder. Write it as if you were speaking it to them. Use your “voice”, because that’s the voice they’re going to hear when they actually speak with you.

Tell them that you’re going to tell them

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Next, acknowledge that you’re going to tell them how much it costs… as soon as you get some more information about their needs. Then continue the conversation asking a couple of questions at a time. Don’t bombard them with everything, all at once. You wouldn’t do that on the phone or in person, so don’t do that in email.

Should you try to get them on the phone? Of course, very often they’re at work and can’t call you. Should you try to get the appointment? Of course. But if they want to continue the conversation via email, be prepared to do it. Actually, be better prepared than your competitors.

Email tips

In my presentation on emailing with prospects I offer these emailing tips:

  • Mirror their tone – casual or formal
  • Mirror their energy – upbeat or reserved
  • Mirror how much they write – if they send you 3 sentences, don’t send them 5 paragraphs
  • Don’t send attachments they didn’t ask for – do you open unsolicited attachments?
  • Don’t answer questions they haven’t asked – it’s a basic rule of selling
  • Be careful what you write, nothing in email is private – enough said

Remember that it’s a conversation, so keep it conversational and let your personality come through. Keep in mind that they put you on the menu, so be genuinely thankful that they’ve given you a chance. Lastly, put yourself in their shoes. What would you want if you were the customer? If you do that, it’s hard to go wrong.

Want more? Read Alan’s previous post on optimizing your website for customers first, and check out these example marketing videos from real businesses.

If you’re interested in having Alan speak to your group or conference, do a website review or private training for your sales, marketing or management teams, email or visit his official website.