Nailing the New Biz Phone Call

If you find yourself taking a lot of potential new business calls, but get frustrated when many of them don’t end up working out because of budget... keep reading!

First, let me clarify for you guys the process that potential clients go through with us so that you have some context: 

  1. They either email us directly, or get in contact via the link to a questionnaire on our website.

  2. We reply to them via email and ultimately set up a phone call.

  3. If the call goes well, we’ll craft a proposal deck.

  4. If they like the deck and want to move forward, we’ll write up a contract.

So this phone call is usually one of the very first interactions that we have with this potential client. We’ve had many many many of these calls and, in the beginning especially, we would often hang up frustrated. So many clients who request our branding services don’t understand the value of what we provide and therefore we aren’t on the same page when it comes to the investment.

The frustration doesn’t so much come from a client not wanting to invest, but instead from that wasted time talking about the project and then ultimately being let down when they feel they can’t afford to work with us.

We’ve figured out two things to do to make sure this situation doesn’t happen…

1. Ask about budget BEFORE the call.

We do this in our questionnaire, because the only thing more important than bringing it up in the first place, is HOW you bring it up.

Notice how we don’t have an option for $4K – $10K. That’s not necessarily because we won’t do work for less than $4K, but for two other reasons.

  1. We want to put out into the world the work we want more of, as well as the type of budget we’d be excited to work with.

  2. We want to be clear that we believe our services are valuable. If we had $0 or $100 within an available range, that would subliminally communicate that some of our services are only worth that much. Which is just not true. (And I’m 100% sure that’s not true for any of your services either!)

To be clear, we know that 99% of people who fill out this questionnaire will choose the $4K – $10K option. The point of this is to set the expectation and be transparent with our clients up front about what we charge.

However, many clients will fill out $4K – $10K even if their budget is lower. SO, that’s why this next step is equally important.

2. Revisit the topic of budget FIRST THING on the call.

After some small talk of course, be sure to ask about the client’s budget again by saying something like, “I noticed you filled out  $4K – $10K as your budget in our questionnaire. Does that still reflect a comfortable range for you?” 

This may seem like overkill, or you may be hesitant to talk about money right away and so blatantly. But if you’ve ever been backed into a corner by a client on the phone… you definitely understand why this is important. If YOU don’t bring up the question of money first, then THEY will. 

The problem with that is designers rarely have a set rate or package price that works for every client. Pricing depends on so many factors:

What is the scope? How tight is the deadline? How much time will it take? How valuable will it be to the client? What space is the client operating in? How much experience do you have designing for their industry? How will it benefit your portfolio? What is your relationship to the client? Will they be a great source for referrals? How much other work do you have on your plate? How much do you actually want to work on this project? ... to name a few ;)

So therefore, if a client comes out and asks how much the project will cost, it puts you in a tough spot. If you say a big number, you may scare the client away and lose the project. But if you play it safe and say a low number, then you may get yourself into a contract that only benefits the client and not you. After all, your business needs to be profitable.

Throwing out a big number without backing it up with your well-thought-out, well-designed and well-researched proposal can seem like a huge investment out of context, and therefore be detrimental.

If you ask up front, then you both get on the same page, and you’ll have all the information you need to decide if it’s a project you want to work on. 

If a client beats you to the price question, what should you do?

If they beat you to the punch, or they dance around the subject of their budget and won’t give you a straight answer, try your best not to say a number. Tell them the truth! That every project is different and you’ll have to learn more about their needs and then do some research and craft a proposal for them. If they press you on it, they probably wouldn’t be a very fun client to work with and you may benefit from letting them go.

*The Big Take-Away*

Ask your clients about their budget before the call, and then reintroduce the topic at the beginning of the call. Allow yourself the power to decide whether working with this client and budget is something you want to do.

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