I have my strategy session clients submit a prep form before we get on the phone for their session. One of the questions on the form is, “Describe your ideal client.” On the last five forms I received the ideal client was described as “Women/men/business owners who can afford to invest…”

I’ve got news.

They can never afford you.

I don’t care what business you are in – if you are selling a product or a service, or if it is cheap or expensive. No one is sitting around with a pile of money that they are waiting to spend with you.

It’s only when they connect with the benefit of what you are selling in a way that is beyond a transaction that they will be willing to invest.

They buy for their reasons

Do you know the reasons your prospects buy from you? What is the bigger “why,” that is the true benefit in their life? If you design websites, what does your client really get from you? Is it more sales and profit? Is it the peace of mind that comes from finally getting it off their to-do list? Is it personal pride and enthusiasm about their brand that really drives them even more than money? You’ve got to know the motivation of your people.

When you describe your ideal client, it should never be about what they can afford. It needs to be about what they believe.

Paint a bigger picture

Before you even talk to a prospect about what you offer, you need to paint a picture of what might possible for them, eliciting their personal beliefs through questions. And when you share what you do, you want to tell the story of why it matters to you, and why they would want to be a part of it.

“The market for something to believe in is infinite.” – Hugh McLeod

You have to do the work to understand what the bigger picture is for your clients. There is the tangible “what you do” that you’re selling, but more important than that is what it means to them in their life.

If it is a piece of jewelry they buy, sure, they have to like the jewelry, but more than that they buy the story behind it, or the value they place on buying art from you because you resonate with their value system.

If you’re selling a service, they are not just buying the service, but they are buying the point of view from which you offer your service. They are buying into your stand in the world.

“In a nutshell, consistently put out messages and actions that come from your core beliefs, and people with those same beliefs will find you. Forget the market testing to see if people will respond to your core beliefs. That’s not authentic. More than anything what people want is to trust you, and they will trust you if you act from your core beliefs and do so consistently. People – potential clients, customers, readers of your books, buyers of your art – will recognize their commonality with you accordingly.” – Simon Sinek quoted at trackingwonder.com

What it really means

When someone says they can’t afford you, it simply means you haven’t helped them to see a possibility that is bigger for them than the pain of parting with the money. From time to time you may encounter someone who literally does not have money. More often then not, they simply do not have the money prioritized toward what you offer. Your job is to help them see the big picture that will make it worth it to them to reprioritize the money to get what you offer. People are more creative than you give them credit for. When they want it, they will do what it takes to find the money.

Help them afford you

Once you get them to see the possibility of what doing business with you will mean for them, you’ve already helped them to afford you. Now help them to see how this investment will pay off, and how choosing not to invest will keep them where they are. I teach my clients that before you ever offer your service, you need to be clear about what they want, and the pain they are currently in, and the gap in between. Being present to that gap will motivate them to afford you.

You also need to be willing to talk about the money.

One of my mentors gave me this tip. Ask them, “is it that you don’t have the money at all, or you don’t have the money for this?”

Most of us are uncomfortable talking about money. You’ve got to be willing to speak directly about money. If you offer a service that you know is making a big difference in people’s lives, I believe you will have the desire to help them find a way to have it. That doesn’t mean lowering your rates, it means asking them, from a place of standing for what’s possible, how they can get creative and find the money to invest with you.

Helping a person to “afford” something they previously believed they couldn’t “afford” may be the biggest gift you can ever give them. It’s life changing.

Be the change you want to see

You’ve got to invest in yourself. If you are unwilling to invest in yourself, you haven’t had the breakthrough and you won’t be able to stand for your clients having a breakthrough. Be the change you want to see in the world.

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