Proven techniques for revealing your clients needs and budget

Here are some phrases that I’ve successfully used to…

  • Establish the client’s requirements
  • Discover how much they are willing to pay and
  • Get them to sell themselves on taking you up on your offer.

Memorise them and use them.

“Is there any reason you don’t want to learn from computer manuals?”

Home users will quite often say, “I find they’re written for computer experts.” This is encouraging for you because it shows they are not really giving themselves much choice but to get some training. It also helps bolster their desire for getting outside help.

There’s a well known expression in selling…

If a client says it, its true.
If you say it, they can doubt you.

By getting your client to verbally confirm why they need computer training, it helps you get the sale.

“Why do you want to learn XYZ software?”

Find their reasons for wanting their training. They might say “The computers been stuck in the corner for 12 months and hardly gets used. We want to get the most out of it.” It is very common for home users to say that. Business users also come out with something similar from time to time but, the business users need more tangible reasons to get some training i.e. there is a specific problem they are facing and it needs an immediate solution.

Once you know their reasons, you can target your sales presentation towards these “hot buttons”. For example, you could reply: “Most people end up using only 5% of their computers with the remaining 95% going to waste. That’s a terrible waste of money.” Nearly everyone agrees with this turn of phrase. I’ve heard them say it so many times themselves. They all seem to think they’re using 5% of their machine. I don’t know where they get that figure from. In my opinion its more like 0.0005%!

“What’s in the budget for this?”

When estimating a price for software development for a small or medium sized company, sometimes the client has no idea how expensive it can be. They think the likely cost could be $1,000 when it may be nearer $10,000.

There is nothing more frustrating than spending a lot of your valuable time drawing up a software development specification to find the clients price expectation is way out. Getting a specification done for a typical project could initially take 1 – 2 days if you include client meetings. It is a waste of everybody’s time if you don’t give them a clue as to what this sort of thing costs.

Ask them what they have budgeted. Sometimes, to my amazement, they actually tell you. “We’ve got up to $4,000 for this.” This response tends to happen more for the larger companies as their IT departments may have already given them an idea as to the likely cost. Or, your contact has already had software development done for them before and they know it is costly.

Most small to medium sized companies will say something like “We don’t know yet. We just want you to tell us what it will cost.”

Respond with: “Do you have any expectations over price?” They say no.

You say: “Have you ever had software developed before?” They say no.

You say: “Well, the reason I’m asking all this is that quite often clients don’t have realistic expectations over what custom software development costs. And we don’t want to waste your time if your expectations differ dramatically from the actual likely cost.”

They say: “We haven’t got much of an idea but its certainly not rocket-science.” I don’t know why but so many people seem to say rocket-science. It’s their stock phrase.

You say: “Just to give you an idea, our average project costs around $8,000. Were you aware that these sorts of prices were charged for programming?”

If they say, “Yes, we know” then fine, proceed with your quotation.

But if they say “That’s much more than we thought. I was hoping for something nearer $800” then either they are negotiating or their expectations are way out. Establish which it is – if you can – and then decide if your time is worth chasing business that is unlikely to amount to anything.

Generally, a one-man band is much less likely to find software development affordable. There are exceptions to the rule but your general market is companies with 4 or more employees.

When it comes to training, companies generally have a better idea over the cost. A large company usually sends its employees on several training courses and the typical costs are known. Medium sized companies may also have an idea because they tend to use the services of professionals in their everyday business. However, smaller companies tend to expect more for less money. They have to for financial reasons.

“Have you had much computer training done before?”

This questions lets you know whether they have employed professionals in the past and therefore they have an idea of what it costs. They say: “Not much. We had one guy in about 6 months ago but he’s moved on to a full time job now.” You say: “What training did he do?” They say: “He did a couple of days on Word and a couple of days on Excel.”

This is EXTREMELY valuable information. You now know they are looking, most likely, for training by the day. When I first started, I used to advise about 3 hours training at a time. I ended up doing so much travelling for 3 hours work and the travelling was unbillable.

Also, when the client learnt a lot in 3 hours they used to say “Well, we know most of what we need so we won’t book any more training on this area for a while.” I was shooting myself in the foot every time.

If you get a gem of information like this, make them think that training by the day is the norm. You are much more likely to get one days worth or more if you do.

You will notice that many of these questions lead the client to open up and volunteer more information, which in itself is extremely valuable. Use this to good effect.

“When were you looking to have this XXX done?”

This phrase lets you establish their urgency, which can also affect your billing rate. If someone is urgent to get something done they are more likely to pay a premium than someone who has no time pressure and can shop around at their leisure.

Imagine someone has a network problem. They said they want some help with networking. You ask them when they want it done. They say immediately! You say “Fine, we can certainly help you with that this afternoon. We charge $100 per hour for emergency network support.”

If they said they wanted help sometime in the next 4 weeks you would say:  “Fine, we can certainly help you with that. We charge $55 per hour for network support…”

By asking when they were looking for help, you have upped your hourly rate by $45 per hour. Nice!