October 24, 2014

Answering the “How Much Does it Cost” Sales Question

how much does it cost sales question

Maybe you can relate. You’re at a business event, someone asks what you do and you tell them. Then comes, “Nice. How much does it cost?”

Or, you get a call or email from someone who found you online, and there it is, “How much does it cost?”

If your business has a set fee structure, then you can quickly and easily respond, if you choose. For other more service-type businesses (creative services, marketing, etc.) the answer isn’t so simple and often depends on project specifics.

For many smaller, creative service-type businesses it may also depend on the current workload and even the desirability of the client or project. Regardless, I will say that any price you give will be too much if the person asking doesn’t fully know, understand, and believe in the value of your product. This bares repeating. Any price you give will be too much if the person asking doesn’t fully know, understand, and believe in the value of your product.

I would even venture to guess that about 95% of the people asking the question don’t fully know, understand, and believe in the value of your product or service. That’s the problem and it often poses a major dilemma for business owners who provide custom, high-level, or creative services.

Do you sacrifice high, customized quality for a cookie-cutter approach that allows for a defined, but often more low end, fee structure? Or, do you stick to your guns and focus on the type of clients who value high, customized quality – and can afford it?

For those who choose the later it probably won’t matter how you answer the cost question coming from the type of person described earlier, because whatever you say will, most likely, be too much. So, rather than spending time and energy trying to convince those price shoppers that your product is worth it, you may want to focus that time and energy on getting more (qualified) prospects to know, understand, and believe in the value of your product.

How you do that could be the focus of an entirely new article. But, I’ll offer some parting thoughts for now.

Certainly, referrals from trusted sources are one of the best ways. Additionally, good press — if you’re lucky enough to get it, good marketplace exposure (if you do good work, and it’s visible, smart folks will always want to know who’s behind it.), talks and presentations (especially in front of the right audience), and lastly – great marketing including lots of smart, engaging, video.

Talking Photo via Shutterstock

14 Comments ▼

John Follis


John Follis John Follis heads up Big Idea Video, creator of short format, high concept video that captivates and persuades prospects. According to Forbes, 76% of marketers expect to invest in video this year and make it their #1 marketing strategy. John Follis honed his talents as Creative Director and Co-founder of Follis/DeVito/Verdi, one of Madison Avenue’s most successful, award winning ad agencies.

14 Reactions

  1. Nice thoughts on sales thru the whole article.
    Also, the last paragraph sum it up all.

  2. It is hard to answer that question if you don’t have set prices. My grandfather owned his own business. He didn’t have set prices. They varied depending on the customer. We lived in a small town so it was probably easier to charge people because he knew what they could afford and what his time was worth. (He was a mechanic) Some good advice here. Nice post.

  3. Even the underlying connotation of the question is inherently a problem. The very phrasing implies that this will be a cost in their mind. My best clients understand that marketing (heck, any “cost”) should be an investment where you get more out than you put in. Then the question of how much it costs is correctly framed in the context of how much return it can generate.

    • I hear what you’re saying: cost should be seen as an investment where you get more out than you put in — aka ROI. Of course.

      The problem is that ROI is never ever a known factor. All that clients will know for sure is what they’re spending. Which is why the issue of cost, how you present it, and creating a clear strong perception of value are so important.

  4. As an artist, if someone were to ask me how much it costs to perform at a particular event, I’d need more information about the event itself and what was required of me before quoting a fee – and that’s what I’d tell them.

    • We do a similar thing. If we’re asked about performing in our home city, we offer a range of prices, and tell the potential client that it will depend on the details (how many shows, how long we’ll be there, etc.). In those cases, the minimum is a little higher than the least we would ever consider, and the high is the most we think it would be fair to expect. If we’re talking about a gig that involves travel, we tell them that travel expenses would have to be factored, and that’s it’s too difficult to quote a price on the spot, but that we’re sure we can work out something to their satisfaction.

  5. John, you are so correct. It’s all about establishing value that’s relevant to your prospect and their specific situation. Yet, you’ll never know which offers, programs, services, or products are best suited for them — if any — without first asking a few questions and listening carefully to what they say. That’s the only way to help others solve their problems. The prices we share always depends on our prospect’s answers.

    Here’s one way to think about it. When your prospect asks about pricing upfront, you’ll do a dis-service to them if you don’t say. “It depends. May I ask you a few questions first to determine which service makes the most sense for your situation?”

    • I concur with Ron Stein. You are doing the client a dis-service if you dictate a price. Products and hard merchandise may fit well to hard and fast prices but the services industry typically comes without a fixed price structure as John says. The client can qualify the needs of the service and extent to which they require it. This will dictate a starting point for “a Price”. Then the price can be fine tuned to meet their needs according to the service required. Too many salespeople drop the ball when answering the question” How Much” but a trained and rehearsed pro will see the error in their method as soon a the question is poised.

    • Appreciate the supportive feedback, Ron.

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