The dreaded budget conversation

Close up of desk with caluculator, binder, pen, laptop and glasses.

Everyone can admit it … the first thing you really want to know when talking to a client or a prospective client is their budget. The issue though? It’s not always something that clients want to reveal, especially not right away. This leaves many builders questioning whether or not they should even bring it up during initial conversations. But this step is necessary, as it is important information that you need to know, especially if you and the client want an accurate estimate for whatever project you are taking on.

Of course, there will be some clients that come right out and tell you their budget … but that’s definitely not going to be the case with everyone. Even though these people are meeting with you because they want something done, doesn’t mean it is easy for them to let go of a large chunk of change. So, you have to find a way, sometime during your initial conversations, to comfortably bring up the budget topic. Yes, you are walking a fine line … not wanting any clients to think that the $$$ is all you care about or dealing with clients that are worried their budget isn’t big enough for you to be interested in. Every client is different, so either way, your job is to approach the subject in the best way possible.

How can you tell when it’s the “right time” to bring up the budget? Use your intuition or maybe think of how you’d feel on the other side of the table. It might not hurt to show a client your portfolio of work, telling them the prices of those various projects. If you’ve tried to have a genuine conversation with this client, they will probably tell you if one is more or less than they were planning on spending. And maybe that will help you narrow their budget down to a range of some sort. Does this sound like a lot of tip toeing? Well, it kind of is. Both parties are aware of the fact that some type of budget has been laid out but no one wants to admit it. And no one wants to be the first to bring it up. So, if the portfolio strategy doesn’t get the budget conversation started, try continuing on with your meeting. If your client starts talking about the “when” of the project and diving into other real project details, it sounds like it’s time to talk budget. But remember … use your intuition. Spend your time listening, asking questions and listening some more.

The best tactic to use throughout these conversations? Honesty. Or maybe we call it transparency. Either way, being open with the client about needing to know their budget to ensure your best work is something they will appreciate. This will help to build trust and once you start to build the trust, conversations can flow more freely. Your client will have no problem talking to you about budget once they feel that you are really there to help them, not just there for the paycheck. And hopefully what comes from these initial conversations is a great working relationship and a very successful project.


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