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How To Deal With Customers' Phrase "You're Way Over The Budget We Had Planned"

A common issue experienced by contractors, especially those in the painting business, doesn't involve the actual on-site work. The problem lies in the communication and business management aspect: unreturned calls, unanswered estimates, or unacknowledged designs. What follows is a parade of relentless follow-ups, emails, and messages that often end up in a vortex of non-responsiveness. When the elusive customer finally does get in touch, their response is a letdown: "You're way over the budget we had planned." It's a frustrating loop of wasted time, effort, and resources.

This issue isn't exclusive to newcomers in the business but also haunts seasoned contractors, leaving them baffled. This article aims to explore and explain this common pitfall, and provide strategies to avoid it while optimizing your sales process.

A Tale of Recurring Contractor Frustration

A contractor recently shared his frustration on a Facebook group. He had spent hours on a site visit, offering his well-honed expertise and unique ideas to transform a backyard into an incredible oasis. He touted his experience, awards, and reputation, hoping to close the deal.

He then put together an extensive proposal, revising it multiple times to accommodate the potential client's requests. He even arranged for samples to be delivered to the site, and further broke down his pricing structure. The end result? More follow-up, more ghosting, and the all too familiar reply: "That's way over our budget."

Contractors often find themselves engaged in exhaustive design, estimation, revising, itemizing, and rethinking, all for the ultimate disappointment of being told their price is too high. This is not only discouraging, but also draining and counter-productive.

The Solution: A Solid Sales Process

To tackle this common problem, you need to adopt a solid and consistent sales process. A well-defined sales process puts you in control and allows you to steer the conversation rather than being led by the potential client. Instead of finding yourself stuck in someone else's buying process, you get to dictate your sales process, saving your time and effort from being wasted on a deal that is unlikely to materialize.

The first step in any sales process should be proper pre-qualification. This involves having an open and honest conversation with your prospect to understand their expectations, budget, and timeframe.

Motive-Based Selling

A key concept in effective pre-qualification is understanding the client's motive, which is rooted either in pain (a problem they need solving) or pleasure (an enhancement they desire). As a salesperson, it's your job to uncover their motive and align your sales pitch accordingly. An honest conversation about their buying process, needs, expectations, and budget will prevent your time from being wasted on a prospect who is just window-shopping or has no intention of hiring you.

Talking About Money

A significant area where many contractors falter is discussing money. It's crucial to speak about costs confidently and realistically with your clients. If the client senses you are uncomfortable discussing prices, they might take it as a lack of confidence or transparency on your part.

Growing up, talking about money might have been taboo – it was seen as impolite to ask people how much they earn or how much they paid for something. However, in the contracting business, you need to discard this mindset. The client knows they have to pay for your services, and you know you need to be paid. So, have an open discussion about it.

When you understand the client's motive and can connect with them on their terms – talking about what they find important, not just what you believe is great about your service – the money conversation becomes easier.

Maintaining Control of the Sales Process

The final aspect of avoiding the "You're way over budget" scenario is to subtly maintain control of the sales process, even while making the client feel they're in control. This might sound tricky, but with the right word track or sales script, it's quite achievable.

One technique to apply is "bracketing," where you anchor two different price points and ask the client which suits them better. For instance, you could describe a high-end, all-inclusive service package and its associated cost, and then a more modest package with a lower price. After painting both pictures, ask the client which conversation makes more sense for them. This puts the ball in their court and sets a realistic expectation about your pricing.


To summarize, if you want to avoid the frustrating cycle of wasted time and effort leading to "You're way over our budget," focus on these key aspects:

  1. Have an open, honest conversation about the client's needs and expectations.

  2. Talk about money confidently and realistically.

  3. Maintain control of the sales process while making the client feel they're in control.

The next time a lead comes in, slow down, use these strategies, and try to get a "no" before you invest a lot of time. The goal is to use your time effectively and maximize your profits.

Navigating common pitfalls and optimizing your sales process may seem challenging, but with patience, practice, and consistency, you can improve your client interactions, reduce wasted time, and increase your revenue as a painting contractor.

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