The Secret to Handling ‘It’s Not in the Budget!’

Probably one of the fastest ways to get rid of a salesperson, apart from telling him you’re happy with your current supplier, is to tell him that whatever it is he’s selling, “Isn’t in the budget.” 

For some inexplicable reason, salespeople will accept this as the gospel truth and pack up their bag and leave. At least dumb salespeople do. I know, because I was one of those dummies for many years. 

It’s time for all of us to smarten up.

Buyers don’t always tell you the truth. Some buyers don’t want to hurt your feelings by telling you they don’t want what you’re selling so they take the easy way out and make up the budget tale.

In many cases, the prospect is telling you the truth-there is, indeed no money in the budget for what you’re selling. This doesn’t mean you should stop selling, it just means that you need to dig a bit further into your bag of value to see if you have something that will make the prospect say, “To heck with the budget, I want that!”

Keep in mind that, while many companies actually budget for the purchase of specific items, they spend a ton of money on things that are not in their budgets.

I’ve been known to make a purchase on the spur of the moment for which my spouse assures me that there is no money in the budget. That’s always good for a tense discussion (argument). Am I the only one this happens to?

Our prospects are exactly the same. They purchase things every day that were not in the budget, and some of these things are big-ticket items. So what gives?

What gives is that the not-in-the-budget excuse is a diversion intended to shut down the selling process. It’s the prospects’ way of telling you that they are not interested in what you’re offering.

If They Want It, They’ll Buy It

The simple truth is that people are more inclined to buy what they want, even over what they need. It happens with people and it happens with companies. 

Unless whatever you’re selling represents a huge cost to the company, you stand a reasonable chance of making the sale, providing you handle the sales process effectively – spending enough time digging, probing, and qualifying to help the prospect develop his “want” for what you sell.

Needs Versus Wants

When a person just needs something then usually the sale is a no-brainer and relatively easy. Unfortunately, need-based sales are often price-sensitive sales with the lowest-price supplier getting the deal. Even in a need-based sale, if you can move the person towards wanting what you have, you’ll have an advantage when it comes to budget.

Developing the Want

You can’t just ask the prospect if he wants something, at least not in so direct a manner. You need to lead the prospect to the want stage through effective questioning. 

You will need to develop questions that are specific to your product or service but here are a few generic samples to get you started.

 “If cost wasn’t a factor, what would you be looking for in a…?”

“What would it mean in terms of dollars and cents if we could…?”

“Apart from cost, what’s stopping you from moving forward with…?”

“What are you looking for in terms of…?”

“What features are important to you?”

“What would you like to see happen?”

“How does the problem affect…?”

“What has to happen before you would consider moving ahead with…?”

These are all “open” questions and invite your prospect to give something other than a “yes” or “no” answer. The key to uncovering what the prospect really wants is buried in these more elaborate answers.

Finishing the Job

Once you’ve uncovered or discovered the prospect’s real wants, your job is to see if you can make it substantial enough to outweigh your prospect’s mythical, “It’s not in the budget,” concern.

The secret is not to push your prospect to their “wants” by selling; but to lead him there with your questions. Once your prospect, not you, decides he really wants what you’re selling, the sale is done. Wants outweigh needs and when the prospect truly wants it, budget concerns are minimized.

For more information on sales training and coaching, please refer to The Right Skills.

Salesforce Training & Consulting is a professional sales training firm and registered Consulting Partner based in Toronto, with offices in Boston and Chicago, providing sales coaching, sales management consulting, salesforce implementation, sales training and sales personnel assessments.