Are You Following the ATM Rule?

There’s something you must do in your first conversation with every prospect.

You need to talk money.

You don’t necessarily need to quote a firm price. And you don’t need to get into every detail of your pricing structure.

But you need to bring up money during the conversation.

Otherwise, you have no idea how your prospect is thinking about the value of your work. Or what kind of budget he or she is working with. Or how the person is thinking about the project.

Here’s how I do it. Once the prospect and I have discussed the project goals and scope, I’ll have a pretty good idea of how savvy the prospect is. Based on that, I’ll approach the issue in one of two ways:

a)    If the prospect is savvy (a corporate marketer, for instance), I’ll ask, “What budget are you working with?”
b)    If the prospect is not very savvy, I’ll give a ballpark figure, assuming I haven’t already done so.

In the first scenario, there’s always a good chance that the prospect will throw the question back at you. He or she might say something like “Well, I’m not really sure. What do you typically charge for something like this?”

If that happens, quote a ballpark figure. Here’s what I say:

“Katie, my fee to write a five-to-10-page white paper like the one we’re discussing is between $3,000 and $5,000, depending on the actual length we decide on, the number of interviews required and the amount of research necessary. Once I know a little more about your project, I would send you a quote with a fixed project fee. My fee includes all background reading and research, any interviews with subject matter experts, content and copy strategy development, title development, creating a detailed outline for your approval, the actual writing of the paper, any meetings or calls related to the project, and up to two rounds of requested revisions. Is this fee range within your budget?

Notice that I’m asking the money question again.

Why? Because I’ve just given the prospect what he or she wants — an idea of how much I charge. And once I do that, it’s easier to ask for something in return.

The response gives me a good idea of what kind of prospect I’m dealing with. And I can proceed accordingly.

Plus, if we’re too far apart, I want to know that now — not after I’ve spent hours talking with the prospect and putting together a quote or proposal.

This “always talk money” (or “ATM” for short) rule will save you a lot of time. And it will put more money in your pocket by helping you focus on prospects that are a better fit.

ATM: a very fitting acronym for a very important step in the client-intake process.