“We Don’t Have The Budget”

“We don’t have the budget” strikes fear into the hearts of all sales people. Asking for budget is one of the standard BANT qualifying questions. No budget, we disqualify and move on. But in doing this, we walk away from huge opportunities.

In fact, a huge number of sales result in situations where there has been no budget.

If we are embracing the Insight Selling, many times we are making the customer aware of opportunities to grow, opportunities they may be missing, ways to improve their business they may have never thought of. The very issue that they have never thought of these things before means they’ve not budgeted for them. So we get the customer all hot and lathered, but with no money to spend? What are we to do?

Even if we engage the customer later, they may be interested, they may want to change, but they may not have budget. They may have tried to get budget and been turned down, they may not have anticipated the need, or they may be facing new problems they didn’t budget for.

Whatever the reason, the absence of a budget to change comes up far more frequently than we’d like. I even tend to think the notion of “Do you have a budget for this,” tends to be an outmoded question.

As sales professionals, our job is to develop business justified solutions for our customers. Everything we sell has to produce value for the customer–measured in hard business terms—ROI, Payback of whatever. Without a business justification that meets the customer financial and strategic hurdles, a deal just won’t get done. Even if they do have budget, if we don’t produce a business justified proposal, the deal shouldn’t get done—it’s a bad solution for the customer.

It’s this business justification that helps us and the customer deal with the, “We don’t have a budget,” issue.

In qualifying, perhaps the more appropriate question is, “If we can develop a business justified solution (meeting your financial and strategic hurdles), will you fight for the funding for this investment?”

The answer to this question, and the subsequent drill down are critical to qualifying every opportunity. We no longer let the lack of a budget be the limiting factor. Instead we look at the customer willingness and ability to get funding for a project. In asking these questions, we have to understand:

  • What types of projects is the company investing in? If our project isn’t aligned with the company strategic investment objectives, then our customer is not likely to get funding, regardless of the power of the business case.
  • What’s our customer’s track record of fighting for and getting funding? Do they know how to sell internally? Do they know how to align support within the organization?
  • What are the financial and strategic hurdles we have to meet to produce a powerful business case? These are critical to determine in qualifying. We have to know the target, we have to feel confident that we can meet the target. If our solutions typically produce a 15% ROI, and their hurdles are 20%, we might be facing a very difficult sale?
  • What similar projects have gotten funded in the past 12-18 months? We want to verify that customer and the company does put their money where their mouths are.

Absence of a budget should not stop you. The willingness and ability for the customer to fight for funding is what’s critical.

This issue also is very critical to our selling process and the customer buying process. What activities does the customer have to undertake to have funding available when they make a decision? Are they reviewing the issue with management? Are they lining up support–even before the business case has been completed? Are they taking the actions they need to get funding allocated? They may not know they should be doing this–they may be waiting until the business case is completed. This is where sales professionals create great value, as well as assuring that funding will be available when needed.

As a parting thought–perhaps a customer having a budget might be a red flag or a warning sign. It means they’ve been thinking of the issue for some time, long enough to reserve money to invest. It may mean they’ve been researching alternative solutions, it may mean they have some favorites. It may mean you are late to the party and disadvantaged. You have to assess this, but maybe having a budget might be a disqualifier. They may be so far along in their decision making process, you don’t have a chance.

Stop letting lack of budgets stop your sales efforts. Focus on the customer’s willingness and ability to get funding to make a change!

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