It’s the topic that everyone has on their mind, but is uncomfortable bringing up. The one you know will have to be raised at some point, and you’re shy about broaching it too early.
Male pattern baldness. Fees and pricing.
When is the right time to first broach fee or budget discussions with a prospective consulting client?
At the earliest, you could raise this sensitive subject before you ever meet a prospect or, at the latest, you could specify fees after you submit your proposal. That’s a wide range of possibilities!
For this article, let’s ignore two situations: 1) when the client’s strict contracting approach leaves you no choice on when to talk about budget or fees; and, 2) when your offering is productized and the pricing is published.
Instead, we’ll focus on the typical, non-RFP, high-ticket, custom consulting project.
Clients frequently cut to the chase, inquiring about your pricing about 15 seconds after they’ve described what they want.
You’re probably slower to the punch. As a consultant, you may be inclined to defer any mention of budgets, fees or pricing until after you’ve articulated every detail of your spectacularly compelling approach, and preemptively dismissed every major objection.
Once your prospect is swooning over your capabilities and credentials, he’ll pay whatever fees you suggest, right?
Uh, no. Clients jump in too early and consultants often wait too late.
The ideal time to broach the topic of budgets and fees is before you dive deep into the benefits of working with you and outline possible solutions.
In other words, initiate conversation around your prospect’s budget once he is fully, explicitly attuned to the value of solving his problem, and envisioning the rewards from a successful project.
Fees are not about the value of your services, they’re about the value of your prospect’s outcome!
You venture into the topic by leveraging the Parameters portion of the Context Discussion. You can ask, “Are there any budget parameters?” and, “What were you anticipating the fees to achieve your outcome would be” and, the heart attack question.
If your prospect’s budget is out of line with the project they’re envisioning, you can course correct—long before you’ve spent hours discussing detailed approaches or developing a comprehensive proposal.
You don’t conclude the fee discussion right away, of course. You’re in no position to determine fees yet; all you’ve done is started a discussion that you’ll continue later and conclude during post-proposal negotiations. During the negotiations phase, you can ease any remaining budget concerns and close your lucrative project.
When have you typically started talking about fees? What’s worked or failed for you? Please share below.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.