What to do about “I Can’t Afford It”

What to do about “I Can’t Afford It”

Here is a common scenario:  

My client Linda was having a great sales conversation with a potential client for her Big Leap Programme and it was clear just how much this lady would benefit from working with her. But when she asked “would you like to book your first session?” the client said.  “Oh, I would love to…. but I just can’t afford it at the moment”.  And Linda’s heart sank – not because she needed the sale, but because she could see just how much this new business owner would benefit from increased confidence in her pricing and her value.

So Linda asked me “what should I do when that happens?”

And you know, when someone asks me that, if I’m honest, it’s not really a very easy question for me to answer.

You see, while I can give you some advice about what to do when a client says “I can’t afford it”, it is also a bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted (to use a uniquely British proverb) and then chasing the horse around the field for half an hour – yes, you might get him back in the stable eventually, but it would have been so much easier if he had never got out in the first place.

So that’s why my first piece of advice in dealing with “I can’t afford it” is to encourage you to commit to mastering your sales conversations so that you simply don’t hear it as often.

So that’s where I’m going to start:

How to Prevent “I Can’t Afford it”

1.  Connect with your Value. 

A large part of the dynamic in a sales conversation is to do with the energy between you and the client.   And so it doesn’t matter how good the rest of the conversation is, if you are not 100% convinced of the value of your service and the transformation that you provide in relation to what you charge, the client will always pick up on the energy of that.   After all, if you don’t believe it why should they?

2.  Communicate your Value 

Once you’ve got in touch with your value – on a really deep, internal level – the next step is to learn to communicate really clearly the benefits someone will get from working with you, and the impact that will have on their life, business, relationships or happiness.   The decision to work with you might be the best one they ever make,  but if you can’t help demonstrate that for them they might never get to find out.

3.   Follow a Structure 

It is having a structure to your conversations that allows you to really get to know the client, and to know the exact moment to present the value of your work, and in such a way that the client really hears you and “gets” the difference you can help make.  When you learn to do this really well you will be much more likely to hear a “Yes please!, when can I start?” than an “I can’t afford it”. And this why the “7 Steps to Yes!” system is at the core of all my programmes.  If you want to start practising this yourself you can sign up for free at the top right of this page.

How to handle “I Can’t Afford It”

So OK, what if you’ve done all of that to the very best of your ability and the client still tells you they can’t afford to work with you, then what? 

While there is no magic bullet to guarantee you can turn it around at this stage (like I said, I would far rather teach you how to not get this response in the first place), here are a few suggestions that I’d encourage you to try:

1.  Don’t let it be the end of the conversation

First of all, don’t let your heart sink and just give up and end the conversation.   “I can’t afford it” doesn’t automatically mean it’s a “No”.  If you really are committed to serving your clients in the highest way possible then I encourage you to make a decision right now that you will never again let those words mark the end of a conversation with a potential client.

2.   Find out what the real concern is 

When a client says I can’t afford it they are usually saying one of two things:

1.   I really would love to work with you, but I haven’t got the money

OR

2.   I’m just not convinced but I like you and “I can’t afford it” feels more comfortable than just saying “No” to you.

So your job is at this point is to establish which of these it is.   You do that by asking them directly whether the money is the only thing stopping them, or whether there is anything else that might be causing them to hesitate. 

If you’ve developed a good connection by this point then your client should be happy to share what is really behind their “I can’t afford it”.

3.   Address the real concern

There are all sorts of reasons that are nothing to do with money that might cause the client to say they can’t afford to work with you.   It could be that they haven’t fully seen the value in working with you, or there is some concern or confusion about your service, or some emotional resistance (nearly everyone fears change on some level).

Then when you know what that is you have the opportunity to address it and you will often convert an “I can’t afford it” to a “Yes!” at this stage.

4.   Don’t be afraid to “talk money” 

If you’ve identified that the client really does want to work with you but they just don’t have the money for it, then you will serve them best by exploring this with them – with their permission of course.    Naturally, there will be times when a potential client simply doesn’t have the funds.  But with a little courage on your part, and some gentle questioning around priorities, or coaching around resistance, you will be amazed at how often a client who “doesn’t have the money” will decide to reprioritise their spending to work with you.  But this must always be their clear choice – no coercion or pressure tactics please.

So next time you hear the words “I can’t afford it”, make sure you ask just that one further question – you might be pleasantly surprised at how things turn out!

Do let me know in the comments below won’t you?

With Love & Gratitude,

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  1. Louise R on November 18, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Great post Catherine, lucid and insightful as ever.

  2. Lorna Campbell on February 1, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Sometimes people are just living on the edge and don’t have the money or ways of getting it, but know they need help. A dreadful place to be and I know.

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