Debbie Mrazek

The Customer Said They Can’t Afford It – How to Salvage the Sale

Tomas Knopp/

What do you do when the customer says they can’t afford it? If they say they have no money and can’t afford to buy, what then? Sweaty palms? Anger? Dread? Nothing? I will assume you do NOT run out of there screaming!

There is nothing more uncomfortable than working on an opportunity, feeling like you have presented a great solution that the customer is going to find easy to say YES to… and then they say no, we don’t have the money.

When Customers Say They Can’t Afford It, It’s Not Over…

Hold on, let’s take a step back. Do they really not have enough money? Maybe, but more often than not they do have money – but you have not made a case for them to give it to you!

Think about what you’re selling. What does it cost? That may be a lot of money to you, as it has to do with your checkbook – but not with theirs. So don’t put your standard for “a lot of money” onto the client’s perspective.

Three Go-To Tips to Use When a Customer Says They Can’t Afford It

So, let’s back up. What are the real reasons they don’t buy, and what can you do about it?

Are You Really Listening to the Customer?

Most often, the reason customers do not buy is because we have not listened well enough to understand what their priorities are on spending money, and how to remove their fear of spending it with you.

There are times of course when the customer will say it’s because of lack of money, when they don’t want to tell you the truth such as “we’re going with someone else.” They get away with this because people often will not try to continue the conversation after they hear the client say they have no money.

Are You Asking What the Customer Needs?

Remember, when you get an opportunity, always begin with questions about the client! What do they need? What are they trying to accomplish? What’s not working with their current supplier? What new thing are they trying to create? To garner as much information as possible, ask all the who, what, why, where, when, how questions until you cannot think of any others to ask. When you’re asking these things, be certain you are REALLY listening to the answers, and not just listening for what you want to hear.

Try using a FAB (Features, Advantages, Benefit) statement when you’re creating your solution for what you can do. Understand clearly – and practice with others – on how you articulate features, advantages, and benefits. You may be clear in your head about what they are, but the way you describe them might be clear as mud to others. You want to make sure they hear what you’re really trying to say.

Features – Describe the product, offer, service, and what makes it special
Advantages – What the feature accomplishes that is unique and different
Benefit – How your advantages offer a benefit

Sometimes They Can’t Afford It, but Still…

It’s true that sometimes there does end up being no money. Something had to be done on a project and budget had to be reassigned; they lost money last quarter and need to hold back for a quarter, and so on – but again, more often than not we haven’t made our case powerfully enough for them to easily say yes.

When They Can’t Afford It, Don’t Let the Conversation End There

So, next time you go in to present your solution so you can receive the order, be certain you have really listened for understanding. Don’t just listen until it’s your turn to talk. Ask questions and assure them that you’d really like to do business with them. As part of gathering information to create your offer, let them know you want to be engaged with their success.

And if the answer should be no money… remember that NO is the beginning of a conversation, not the end! Know that your persistence could benefit both parties – your client-to-be and your brand. If you’re still certain that they are the perfect client for you, figure out what you did wrong and begin again. Good luck!

When a customer says they can’t afford it, what’s your first response? How do you refocus and turn the conversation around? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Debbie Mrazek

Debbie Mrazek, author of the Field Guide to Sales, is a sales coach who delivers a sales prescription that really works. She teaches individuals how to transform their talents into s-a-l-e-s.

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