“You’re just too expensive”

A woman with a hammer breaking a piggy bank on a blue background with stacks of coins vector flat design illustration. For the blog: "You're too expensive."Todays article is about what happens when you get to the end of the sales conversation, things are going beautifully and you are feeling excited because you can just see what a difference working with you is going to make to this client.  But then instead of an excited “Yes please!” what you hear instead is:

“You’re just too expensive”

Just like “I can’t afford it”, “It’s too expensive” can be used as a smoke screen.  A more comfortable and socially acceptable way of saying “no thank you” than just telling you straight up.

But really “I can’t afford it” and “It’s too expensive” mean different things and so the way you respond will be different.

I Can’t Afford it:   Isn’t a value judgement about your offering.  It’s rather a statement of the clients perceived personal financial situation in relation to what you are offering.

The client could just as easily be saying:  “I can totally understand why you are priced at that level, and having had this conversation with you I fully understand the value and believe that the difference it will make to my life/business is worth it.  But I don’t have access to the funds right now.”

If you tend to clam up and not know what to say when you hear “I can’t afford it” you might find this previous article useful:  How to handle I Can’t Afford It

“You’re too Expensive” on the other hand is more of a value judgement.  The client is effectively saying one of the following:

  1.  “What you are charging for this is more money than I think it’s worth”

This has nothing to do with affordability.   For example, I normally pay about £15 to have my car valeted.   If I rocked up at the local hand car wash and they wanted £100 I would say – sorry, it’s too expensive, I’ll go elsewhere.  It’s not about affordability because I could easily afford the £100.

      2.  “I’ve been shopping around and other people are charging less, so I perceive you to be too expensive in comparison”

This is why it’s so important to move away from positioning your business in a way that you are perceived as a commodity, so that it is much less likely the client makes a like-for-like price comparison between you and someone else.

As an example, if the car valet service included unlimited valeting at my home, regular servicing, at home breakdown cover,  keeping the car topped with petrol and booking me in for my annual MOT I would easily see the value in a £100 – I might even be happy to pay that every month.

      3.  “I’ve already got a fixed idea about what I’m prepared to pay for this and what you’ve quoted is outside of that range.”

The clients fixed idea may or may not be realistic of course but it can influence their perception of what you charge.

    4.   “People like me don’t pay that much for something like that”.

This is intricately linked with a persons identity and social background.   For example I spend approximately £5,000 per year on alternative healthcare.  I do this because I had a health condition that conventional medicine had no treatment for.   Yet most members of my family would balk at paying even £80 to see a natural practitioner – it’s just not what “people like us” spend our money on.  So there will always be a portion of the population who perceive what you offer as too expensive and would never buy from you, and it’s important you can get to be OK with that.

However this doesn’t mean you should be too quick to give up on a conversation if someone says they think you or you offer is too expensive.

Here’s what to do instead when you hear “It’s Too Expensive”

1. Don’t apologise or justify

If you’ve done a good job of taking the potential client through a well structured sales conversation then you can trust that you have already demonstrated the value.  Lengthy explanations or justifications at this point risk undermining your position or even appearing to argue with the client.  So try not to “react”.   Instead take a breath and:

2. Acknowledge their Opinion

Your client is entitled to their opinion, and if they think you are too expensive then according to their criteria you are.  So directly acknowledge their feelings by saying something like:

“Yes, you’re right.  It can be perceived as expensive especially when you’ve yet to experience this type of work”  or  “when you are used to getting xxxx type of service for a lot less.”

Or

“I totaly understand.  In fact all of my clients think that until they start working with me and experience the process for themselves.”

In fact when I’m speaking to potential new clients about joining me for high level or private mentoring I’m often the one who says first.   “This is a lot of money”.  And because I acknowledge that it’s a big decision my clients know I care about helping them make the right one.

Once you’ve acknowledged them next step is to:

3. Get Inquisitive

Find out more about what has prompted them to think it’s expensive.  Be genuinely curious and this will help prevent you coming across as pushy or frustrated.  Ask:

“Tell me, did you have a specific budget in mind?”
or
“Do you mind if I ask, what were you hoping or expecting I would quote?”

And then

“Why?”

It’s important you find out this information or you can’t have an open honest discussion with the client.

4. Check it’s not a Smokescreen

Before you enter a deeper level of discussion it’s also worth checking in to make sure that the money really is the issue and it’s not a smokescreen.

“Other than the investment does this feel like the right way forward for you?”

By following this line of questioning you’ll end up with a good understanding of where the client is at.   Are they being unrealistic about what to expect to pay for a service like yours?   Is there work that you need to do on better communicating and demonstrating the value and why you are different to other things they might have tried?

And on a final note, it’s worth remembering that not everyone is looking for the “cheapest” option.   In fact in some cases that might disqualify them as your client right out the gate.   I’m currently going through a website rebrand and I consciously steered clear of anyone charging less than a certain amount because I knew I wouldn’t get the end result I wanted.  The project actually went to the most expensive person that I spoke to.  This is because there were factors other than price that were important to me and I understood I needed to pay more to get those things.

It’s never just about the money with your clients either.   So it’s important you identify what is important to them during the sales conversation in order that you can demonstrate why you are worth your fees and you can move the conversation on to being about more than just the money.

I hope you find this article helpful – please let me know in the comments below!

With love & gratitude

6 Responses to ““You’re just too expensive””

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  1. Stephanie says:

    VERY helpful. I just had someone be very shocked at the price I charge for organizing an event – I put in more than 100 hours and it included finding the right people to attend, inviting them, everything. Your post helped me go back and be calm and work through it with them. I did NOT apologize or explain myself excessively, thanks to reading this post.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Stephanie, it sounds like this post came at a perfect time for you! I’m really delighted that reading it helped you handle that client confidently. Sometimes clients simply don’t understand what has to happen behind the scenes to give them the result they want. And usually it’s our job to educate them about that so that they fully see the value we offer. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Bolaji Eyo says:

    Sometimes a client wants to know that you care. I run a bespoke cake boutique and I have clients that once said my prices were too high and have now become loyal customers. Like the example you gave about the car valet service, what other extras do you offer with your product? Sometimes I offer a discount for first time clients and then work hard to make sure they’re blown away with their order, the next time they approach me, they already know what to expect in terms of pricing and are willing to part with that amount for the quality of the product they’re getting.

    • Catherine says:

      That’s a great point Bolaji, because while it’s important that we can communicate the quality and value verbally, in the end nothing can take the place of the client actually experiencing what they get for their money. So I love the idea of discounting the first time to allow people to experience buying from you. Another way to do something similar depending on the business is to offer lower priced products and ways for people to get to know us before investing more fully which also works a treat.

  3. Deb M says:

    Hi Catherine,

    Your advice on how to approach the ‘too expensive/can’t afford it’ response was extremely helpful!! I’m on the verge of starting up my own business, offering creative solutions to clients, and I’m finding the whole pricing thing very tricky!!! Your suggestions not only made a lot of sense, but – maybe even more importantly – feel like something I could actually be comfortable using in conversation with a potential customer.

    Thank you so much!

    ps I’ll keep you posted as to how well it works for me!!!! 😉

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Deb
      I’m so pleased you found this valuable. The whole pricing journey is tricky for all of us so you are not alone. You might find this video reassuring where I shared my own pricing journey – and just how low my prices were when I started out! http://catherinewatkin.com/blog/my-pricing-story/.
      Talking about price and money is something that small business owners shy away from so much, but once you have some guidelines for how to approach it it becomes so much easier. Good luck with the new business!

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