Discussing Budget for your landscape lighting project

Discussing Budget for your landscape lighting project

By Mike Gambino

Are we a good fit?

The primary reason to bring up the budget issue is to identify early on if a site design consultation meeting is worth making. Even though I collect a nominal fee for initial client design consults. With the cost of gasoline approaching $5.00 per gallon and the increasing cost of small business operation and overhead, that fee most times, barely covers costs. The fee is not meant to be a profit maker however it is very effective in gauging a prospects level of sincerity and motivation and even more effective in discouraging tire kickers, looky loos and the do it yourselfer whose goal is to pick the brain of a professional for free for a few hours.

Many landscape lighters waste a lot of time talking to prospects who can’t afford them. We’ll find out sooner or later if the client can afford our services, so being straightforward and talking budget upfront can help save both parties precious time.

Will the conversation itself be a deal breaker?

Often, landscape lighters will be afraid to start talking money early because it may lead to losing the project. Talking about money isn’t going to prevent us from getting the job – the client not being able to afford us will. If just the fact of bringing it up offends a homeowner and they are turned off enough by it to disqualify you for the project. Then that’s a job I don’t want anyway because if the money is that tight it can lead to all sorts of potential problems and tension that wouldn’t ordinarily crop up otherwise.
Talking budget directly indicates an expectation that a prospect actually has a budget. If they don’t have a budget planned out, or an amount dedicated to the landscape lighting portion of a project, they may truly have no idea about the cost of a quality landscape lighting system. This is not uncommon. Maybe they’ve never done a project like this before.

In most cases, the client isn’t going to tell you their budget outright and this is unfortunate. This is likely because they have a number in mind but they’re afraid to tell you, because they worry you’ll take it all even though it doesn’t work like that. Often they’ll put the question back: “Well, what will it cost?”

This is almost a catch 22 question because there are so many factors involved with preparing a landscape lighting proposal. What good is spending valuable time preparing a proposal for a “soup to nuts” landscape lighting system that has that wow factor for $25,000 when the owner may not want that and will never spend that much money to make it a reality. That is why it’s so useful to at least have a dollar amount range on the table. It just gives the designer a place in which to start putting together a plan that will work aesthetically and monetarily for the owner.

Discussing budget early does present an opportunity to educate the client about the value of our services. It doesn’t hurt to put some numbers on the table and give a range of fees and be specific about the services that come along with each level. Then let the client dictate where their needs put them along the fee spectrum but they should be clear about the value they lose by going down to cheaper levels. Sometimes providing three options across a wide range of fees will get a prospect to open up about what they desire to spend on the project.

This really isn’t so hard. Remember, its business, not personal. Although the client may feel equally awkward talking about money respectfully and gracefully acknowledging that this is an important conversation to have.

After we’ve talked about the specs and the “fun” details, we can then transition to talking about budget. Recognizing that most prospects will actually expect cost to be brought up at this point, being direct is important. Any variation of the following should work fine: “What is your budget? Do you have a budget? What budget have you allocated?”

Home improvement specialists often have a really hard time pushing the conversation when they don’t get an answer. Even if the client says no (“I don’t have a budget”), they likely have some number in mind. By pushing the subject forward it will help me provide what you need if I can get a better sense of where you fall on this spectrum, and if I’m the right person to provide that service.

Avoiding a big red flag

When  someone doesn’t want to talk about money at all, they may say “just give me a proposal.” That may be a red flag about whether or not they’re a good client to work with in the first place. I’ve found that when a homeowner doesn’t want to expend any effort at all in the process of selecting a landscape lighting service provider for their project. They are either not a serious buyer or a motivated buyer and that’s typically where the conversation ends.

This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 20 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to
www.gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .

Blog articles may be published with permission on other websites without editing or removing links.

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