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Sales Strategies

What to Do When a Client Says, 'I Can't Afford You'

Hint: The answer is not to lower your price.
What to Do When a Client Says, 'I Can't Afford You'
Image credit: Thomas Barwick | Getty Images
Guest Writer
Founder of JennyShih.com and Make It Work Online
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Ask any entrepreneur what words strike fear into their hearts, and "I can't afford it" is near the top of the list. This phrase is a huge letdown, especially when you know in your heart you can help a company solve a problem and get the results it wants to hire you for.

Related: The Ability to Sell Will Make or Break Your Company, So Stop Underselling It

When faced with this response, your knee-jerk reaction is likely to lower your price, but to do so would be the wrong move. The reason? "I can't afford it" is almost always a lie. But, don't be mad at your prospect for using it.

The truth is, even you've used this lie. At some point or another, you told yourself you couldn't afford something, but then you rationalized, justified and moved money around until you got your hands on what you really wanted, whether it was a nice purse, fabulous shoes or that fancy cheese from the hoity-toity grocery store.

Or you said "I can't afford it" when someone was trying to sell you something you didn't want or think he could deliver on. After all, it was easier to tell a little white lie and let you both off the hook than risk hurting his feelings.

Related: Want Higher Response Rates? Start Treating Your Sales Prospects Like People.

In both instances, when you said "I can't afford it," you were lying, even if you didn't have evil intentions. Your prospects are doing the same thing, and understanding this is essential to making more sales, because when someone really, really wants something, she'll move mountains and find a way to afford it.

Here's what to do when your prospects say they can't afford you.

As a business owner, it's your job to spot when your clients are using the "I can't afford it" objection as an excuse, so you can respond accordingly.

The first step here is obvious: Listen for this objection.

The second step is harder: Don't take their words at face value. Sure, sometimes people honestly can't afford something. Their house is being foreclosed on and their credit cards are maxed out. But, their financial situation is not your business, even if they try to make it so.

The third step is to decode their real objection and respond accordingly. The good news is objections usually boil down to just three options.

Objection 1: "I don't believe in your services or results."

If potential clients read every word on your website, spent time on a consult call with you and still says "I can't afford it," they're likely unsure your offer is the right fit for them. Although it's possible they simply aren't a good fit for your services, often their disbelief stems from a problem with how you're describing what you do. It could be that the language you're using to describe your services is full of jargon and doesn't connect with your prospect's true challenges and goals.

Related: Low-Hanging Fruit: Why You Need to Be Selling to Those Dormant Customers

Objection 2: "I don't believe in you."

If your language is clearly hitting the mark but the prospects don't want to commit, it could be that they don't believe in you. This one can sting, but it's important to look at how you're showing up in this interaction. Are you unintentionally projecting energy that puts your client off, such as pushiness, desperation, need for approval or lack of confidence about your offer or your ability to deliver? Your prospects will sense these things, even if they can't put their finger on it directly, and they won't want to sign up.

Objection 3: "I don't believe in myself."

All humans experience moments of extreme self-doubt, and your prospects are no different. When they think about hiring you to make big changes in their lives, they could be feeling insecure or anxious that they won't be successful. This inner self-doubt creates an insecurity about their ability to make a good decision about hiring you.

Don't lower your price. Clarify the value, build trust and offer reassurance.

Now that you're clear on what your prospects are really trying to tell you when they say, "I can't afford it," here's how to decrease how often you hear it and how to respond when you do.

First, you need to set yourself up for success so you hear this objection less and less. Your job here is to clarify the value of your work. To do that, ensure you're using the exact same words your prospects are using to define their problems and desired results -- not jargon -- and write solid offer copy that conveys the benefits of working with you and demonstrates the results you help clients achieve. These two things will inherently justify the cost of your services.

Related: 4 Reasons Why Raising Your Price Is a Brilliant Marketing Move

Second, you need to know how to respond when you hear this objection. You'll do that by building trust and offering reassurance.

You can build trust with wavering prospects by acknowledging their concern with genuine empathy. Then, get really curious. Ask questions to understand their situation and the results they're looking for better. Listening closely to their exact words and mirroring them back is simple and highly effective in ensuring people feel heard and understood. The more you seek to understand and serve them -- not sell them -- the more quickly you'll cultivate trust.

If your prospect is wavering due to personal insecurities, ask yourself what you can do to offer reassurance. Often, this can be done by offering examples of past client success; other times, prospects will need some coaching to believe in themselves -- though there are always individuals who simply aren't ready to make the transformation your services are designed to facilitate.

Lastly, remember that your job as a business owner is to stand behind your prices, prove the value and stay out of your clients' wallets. The quicker you understand what you're in charge of, the faster you'll close sales and fill your calendar with perfect prospects who are dying to work with you, turning potentially destructive situations into wildly positive and prosperous ones.

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