We met for a beer, and “How much” was their first question. It came immediately after we said our “hellos”, and it made me annoyed at myself. I got another “comparison shopper” who acted as if consulting services were a damn commodity. It made me groan inaudibly. Great vetting, Filip.
A conversation turns into negotiation as soon as someone mentions the price, but the context changes dramatically depending on when this happens.
If a client asks about your price in the first few minutes of your meeting, it’s a bad sign. They think they know what you can offer, and are trying to cut to the chase and see how “competitive” your offer is.
If that happens, you either steer them toward your bog-standard offer with a non-negotiable price or say I’d be happy to discuss pricing once we dig into the specifics of what we’re hoping to achieve.
If the same question is asked towards the end of your conversation, it’s a great sign. They heard enough to know they need you, and are now actively exploring if there are any hidden barriers to working with you.
Context matters, of course. If you are able to quickly express your value, early price inquiries don’t have to be a bad sign.
Timing of the pricing question is something best not left to fate.
Drafting your responses to both early and late price inquiries is a great way toward being able to steer the sales conversations to your benefit.