At some point, if you’re in business for more than a couple of weeks and you’re actually putting yourself in the game by 1) talking with – and making offers to – potential clients, and 2) focusing on bringing the best value to your ideal clients more than just being the cheapest option, someone will probably tell you you’re too expensive.
Man, do I absolutely get that when you’re starting out, it can be hard to hear and anxiety-inducing, but these days I think that being told you’re too expensive every so often is a just a regular part of being in business.
You see, after more than 15 years of presenting proposals, talking to clients, and making offers, I’ve been told I’m too expensive a lot – perhaps HUNDREDS of times. And that’s just counting the people who have given me feedback, forget all the people who may have checked out my website or proposal or requested info at some point who stayed silent and never took the next step because they figured my services were too expensive.
But being told I’m too expensive doesn’t mean I haven’t won and worked with many, many incredible clients over the years and enjoyed a fully booked practice.
In fact, I’ve learnt that being told you’re too expensive doesn’t even mean someone won’t be your client!
No matter your price point, you will be too expensive for some people. (Sidebar tip: If no one ever tells you you’re too expensive please, please raise your prices right now!)
I firmly believe – if you’re pricing your services right – many potential clients may let you know you’re too expensive for them right now.
In this post, I’m going to share some of the main reasons why I reckon potential clients may let you know you’re too expensive, and share my favourite ways to respond in each scenario.
To begin, here’s what you must NEVER to do when a potential client says you’re too expensive:
Panic. Immediately and dramatically drop your prices. Desperately beg them to reconsider. Cry. Get defensive. Offer to do the work for free. Assume they are saying ‘You’re an imposter’. Assume it’s the end of the conversation.
Instead, know that when a client says you’re too expensive it can mean a couple of different things. Context is king. And keeping the context in mind can help you decide on the best response to run with. Do your best to focus on facts rather than projecting self-doubt. Feedback from your potential client on the reason behind their comments can be a gold mine. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, go deep and take note.
One more thing before we dive in: You NEVER need to explain yourself or your pricing. Especially if you have fresh leads coming in regularly, you never actually have to respond to someone who reckons you’re too expensive (beyond saying ‘Aces. Thanks for letting me know. Have a great day!’)
Now, read on to discover my favourite ways to respond when a potential client says you’re too expensive if…
You are legitimately too expensive
CHECK: Ask yourself, ‘Do I believe in my prices?’
ACTION: Thank them for the feedback and, if needed, do your own research to satisfy yourself that your pricing is solid.
While your prices being objectively way too high can be THE reason, I reckon that’s not what’s usually going on when a potential client tells you you’re too expensive.
There’s space for every price point in every market. For example, I bet you could find web designers charging $400 for a complete website refresh, and other designers charging $40,000 for essentially the same thing. Without too much effort you could probably also find great business coaches charging $50 an hour, and others charging $100,000 for their packaged services.
Whatever your personal opinions/triggers on those prices, neither price is objectively too expensive. Unless you’re working in a heavily regulated industry (and most coaches and creative entrepreneurs/freelancers AREN’T), there is no ultimate authority saying what is and isn’t too expensive. Instead, pricing is just one part of your positioning in the market, and the most important thing to focus on is alignment.
With that in mind, it’s more likely that:
Your potential client is not actually your ideal client
CHECK: Ask yourself, ‘Are they actually my ideal client?’
IF NO: Let them know you may not be the best fit and offer to recommend someone else better suited.
IF YES: Help them to see the value of your services.
ACTION: Refine your marketing copy, marketing activities and qualification process to better reflect, connect with, identify and engage your ideal clients.
I like to be as pro-active as possible about this upfront. I’m not for everyone. That’s why I take time on my services/sales pages to paint a picture of what it’s like working with me and the kinds of people I do my best work with. You can check out my sales pages here: The Betty Booked Out Formula and Purposeful.
Your potential client is price shopping
CHECK: Ask them: ‘Are you looking for the cheapest price?’ and/or ‘ Are we talking because you’re comparing my pricing with someone else?’
ACTION: Proudly own your prices (after all, you do great work!).
Price shoppers are not my clients, and I have a feeling they probably aren’t yours either. I’m not the cheapest option and that’s intentional. So, if pricing is someone’s top decision-making variable, we will never be a fit. And as a rule, I don’t spend time trying to convince people who are never going to work with me that they should.
By the way, I don’t believe in EVER trying to push or convince people to spend more than they want. I bet you and I both know someone (maybe even ourselves? *sigh*) who decided to go with the cheaper option first and then learnt the hard way that cheaper upfront can often end up way more expensive (or time-consuming or ineffective or frustrating or…) down the track. My experience is that – when we’re in a price shopping state of mind – we usually have to learn this for ourselves the hard way.
I’ve learnt clients that try to squeeze me at the outset don’t improve when we start working together. Trust your instincts here.
BTW: Some great people – women who would be PERFECT clients – legitimately can’t afford to work with me right now. They see the value, and really really want us to work together, but just aren’t in a place to invest at that level in their business right now. These people AREN’T price shoppers. These are people I stay in contact with because I want to support them and their success, however, I can. And often, these people become my favourite clients down the track. (See ‘You are legitimately outside of your potential client’s budget’ for more.)
Your potential client cannot see the value
CHECK: Say, ‘I absolutely get that price is important to you and you want the best value. When you’re thinking about your personal ‘value’ equation, what else is important to you?’
ACTION: Explore what motivates them and their top decision-making factors beyond just price.
Practice makes progress, so keep asking your ideal clients questions and hold the space to explore what comes up.
When a great potential client can’t clearly see the exceptional value of working with us, the responsibility lies squarely with us. We owe it to ourselves and our ideal clients to understand what’s most important to them and to communicate how we can help. When you’re confident you’re connecting with someone who’d be a great client, clearly communicating the value of your offer in this way is all about how you lead your Discovery Session with them… and that, lovely lady, is entirely within your control.
Hosting great Discovery Sessions that you legit love is a skill you can learn.
You are legitimately outside of your potential client’s budget
CHECK: Ask ‘Did you have a budget in mind?’
ACTION: If possible, let them know what they could get for their budget. Consider down selling them into an offer better suited to their budget.
If your potential client’s asking about prices, they’re in a buying mood, so I reckon it’s a-ok to ask if they have a budget they must work within.
It’s important to be respectful of people’s budgets. Rather than push people to extend their budget, I like to let them know what $XXX will buy them. And while I’ll do my best to help them solve the problem they’re seeking support on, as a rule, I usually don’t discount my time. Instead, in the past, I’ve done this by breaking a bigger project into phases and/or proposing an associate does more of the work with my oversight and/or designing a strategy that the client can roll out in-house and/or suggest training programs or workshops rather than 1-on-1 support etc.
Your potential client is using ‘Too expensive’ as an easy-out
CHECK: Ask, ‘On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you that you can achieve your goals?’
ACTION: If you sense self-doubt or fear, check in and talk about it.
This will usually come up if a great potential client lets self-doubt ABOUT THEIR OWN ABILITY/READINESS creep in and/or have been talked out of their dreams by a well-meaning risk-adverse loved one. When they say ‘you’re too expensive’, often what they’re really saying is ‘I’m scared to make a change’. Heart-breaking, right?
Here’s my take on this: It’s never my job to push or pressure anyone to invest in my services. Instead, I focus all my efforts on helping potential clients make the very best decision for them – whichever way that decision goes. And so because my focus is on supporting someone make the best decision for them, that can involve being sensitive to fear.
You know, sometimes the idea of making the change in my life can be scary as fuck. Even when I really REALLY want something and even when I can see the immense value in your service, fear can stop me in my tracks, sabotage me and keep me small in a thousand little ways. And sometimes in those moments, it’s easier for me to tell you that you’re too expensive than face my fears…
The same is true for many of your potential clients. And when I get the vibe that a potential client is struggling with fear, I’ve found the best approach is to lovingly call it out, acknowledge what a mofo fear can be, create a safe place to talk about it and be super respectful about whatever comes up.
(BTW I don’t have any research to back this up, but my gut tells me we’d all be blown away if we knew just how often our potential client’s fear and self-doubt was the reason behind hearing the ‘too expensive’ call.)
I hope you found this post really helpful! Next time a potential client says you’re too expensive, remember it doesn’t have to signal the end of the conversation. Be willing to ask questions, learn more and stay open, and you may find they become a client after all!