"It's too expensive!"

April 18, 2014

It's Too Expensive, AM-Insider article by Sarah Ritchie

How often have you had a client reject your quote claiming "it's too expensive"? Chances are the comment may not relate to your quote being outside their budget, it may be your client is really saying "it's not worth it" or "I don't perceive the value in that price". 

The most simple solution would be to lower your price, however - in doing so - you would also reduce your overall revenue and the profitability of the job. By altering your client's price perception so that the value surpasses its price, you will more easily win your client over and close the sale.

Let's assume that your client already sees value in the work that you do for them generally (which is why they are still your client). The trick is to then convince your client of the value of this particular proposition that you are making. Human nature dictates that people will find a way to pay for things that they value, and not everyone will value your products or services the same.

Here are some ways you can address the dreaded "it's too expensive" response:

  • Check your pricing: Before you respond to your client, double check your costings to ensure they are accurate. It may be that your client has noticed something you have missed.
  • Check your understanding of the project: Did you interpret the brief correctly? Could you have chosen a more cost-effective solution?
  • Stay quiet: What?! If there is no reason why you should defend your pricing, then sometimes it's better to say nothing at all. By remaining pleasant, and allowing a little bit of silence to creep into the conversation, you may find your client has a moment to reflect and back down on their comment. Be cautious as to when you use this technique - it won't work on all clients (especially the savvy ones!).
  • Ask your client "what makes you say that?": This is a great way to find out more information. If you listen to your client's objections, you will learn a lot about how they perceive your work, and be able to change your positioning or presentation if you need to. You may also unearth some misconceptions which you can address.
  • Talk through the components of the project: It may be that your client does not understand the level of work that is involved to achieve the result they require. There may be elements you need to outsource which could be explained. Was manufacturing involved? Did you need to use special stocks or inks? Is there digital functionality involved that is complex to code?
  • A little education is key: Often our clients think we just have to press the "magic button" and - poof! - the work appears. Most clients know and understand very little of what happens within the design/advertising/print industry (they pay us to know so that they do not have to!). A little time spent on educating your client can do wonders to deepen their appreciation of your services, skills and knowledge.
How to avoid the situation

Your best tactics in the "perceived value" war need to be actioned BEFORE you create the quote. Firstly you need to take a comprehensive project brief to gain a solid understanding of your client's pain-points, concerns, needs and expected outcomes. If you know what the project is intended to solve, you can sell in your solution with greater ease and confidence. A tailored solution greatly increases the perceived value in your client's eyes.

Secondly, you need to ensure that your quote (and proposed solution) accurately reflects your client's needs from THEIR perspective. If they can't immediately see the correlation, they will find it difficult to see the value.

Thirdly, you should try to determine a client's budget before you begin the quoting and planning process. You can pretty much dodge the "it's too expensive" bullet completely if you are quoting within your client's budget.

Are you too cheap?

Be thankful that you hear the comment "it's too expensive" from time-to-time. If your clients never tell you your pricing is too expensive, it may be because you are too cheap! 

Be thankful that you hear the comment "it's too expensive" from time-to-time. If your clients never tell you your pricing is too expensive, it may be because you are too cheap! – Sarah Ritchie


Negotiation is part of the game

An Account Manager is a sales person (a sometimes-uncomfortable thought, but true). You are selling products and services on a daily basis, just most of the time you're selling to people who already want to buy your wares.

As a sales person you need to be prepared to do some negotiating, and push-back is nothing personal - it's part of the game. As long as you are sure your pricing is fair, justifiable and is hitting your client's brief, then you can enter into a price dialogue with confidence.

Like the song says, you "gotta know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em". Know when to stand your ground, and know when to bend. If you have a good handle on your costs, margins and how to keep your client happy, you'll be just fine!


A modified version of this blog post appeared on the Design Assembly website | 25 September 2014.


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