Hanley Wood

Business Strategy Blog

Tom Rousseau, Executive VP, strategic marketing services

What Does 'I Have No Budget' Really Mean?

Tom Rousseau Hanley Wood recently offered our customers a Summer Integrated Program to drive higher sales conversions for our advertisers. The program consisted of three platforms: content development, print and demand generation (guaranteed leads). That’s right, we guaranteed a certain level of sales leads from our editorial driven database. These buyers will raise their hands and say, “I am interested” and “I have opted-In” to register for a content offer that we serve up to our targeted audiences for our advertisers.

We tracked the responses from our customers who were presented this Summer Program. More importantly, we tracked the reasons why our advertisers did not participate in this specialized program to help them increase conversion and close more sales. Here are the topline answers from 126 Hanley Wood customers:

  • Cannot participate, no Q2 budget left—20%
  • Timing not right, no immediate need—20%
  • Interested and socializing within our company—17%
  • Too expensive—15%
  • Only planning for 2014 right now—12%
  • Not interested whatsoever—9%
  • Other: Go see my agency, moving to new CRM, cannot pass leads on to sales, sales not involved with my marketing team—7%

What is the story behind the above answers and percentages?

The key takeaway from the above data is:

  • More than 55% of the respondents, (that’s right, more than half of our customers’ answers) were center around, “I have no budget right now.” That answer has to rate all time as the fastest way for a customer to get rid of a salesperson.
  • 29% of respondents stated timing, no immediate need, or not interested in the program. So bottom line, you can look at it two ways: we did not send the valuable offer to the right decision maker at the company who wants to drive sales, or one-third of our customers felt we were not relevant or compelling enough to provide 10-20 minutes to review the value of the program.
  • 17% stated we are interested and socializing within their company. Of that 17%, five companies (or 28%) pull the trigger and leverage Hanley Wood’s premium owned and operated editorial database to drive more marketing qualified and sales-ready leads this summer for their sales teams.

Let's spend some hang time and look under the hood at the largest response, "I have no budget." When you hear no budget, it usually means one of two things. Either the prospect is being very honest (which we know all customers are) and truly has no access to funds, or they don't know what you do, don't care what you do and are trying to blow you off. What customer does not know is that if you tell a sales person you have no money they will hang up and go away. Or even simpler, send you an email that reads something like this: "I do not have any budget right now; call me in January of 2014."

Tips. Tools. Techniques. How to handle the “I have no budget” objection.

Here are a couple of tactics to think about when you hear this number one objection by your customers. First and foremost you have to determine before you send the email, make a phone call, or have a face-to-face meeting that you can indeed solve a pain point that the prospect is feeling. If you can’t identify their burning issue, why did you send the offer in the first place? Please do not be one of the thousands of salespeople who constantly send out email offers to their customer contact base hoping to get a bite. Confirm before you make your offer that the person on the other end of the conversation is a decision maker or at least an influencer.

Lower-level marketing people do not have the knowledge of the general budget or secret slush funds that decision makers do, and who can move those funds over to execute your program. If you hear, I do not have a budget, simply ask yourself, does this person have access to the budget in the first place? I bet 50% of the folks we offer this program to are not responsible or empowered to make a budget decision. If you have communicated in a simple but compelling message that this offer does map to the customer pain, and they agree with you, then you can move on to ask other key creative questions. You have to be ready with qualifying questions to immediately ask the customer when you hear the “I have no budget” message.

Qualifying Questions for You to Carry in your Bag

  • Are you meeting this quarter’s goals and objectives?
  • Do you have to achieve a certain goal by end of Q4? If yes, do you not feel that this program needs to be agreed to now, and production start immediately to meet your boss’ goal and deadline for Q4? v
  • Do you qualify or have a definition for marketing-ready and sales-ready leads?
  • Your advertising budget is gone—what about custom research? Do you buy market data to insure you’re marketing and selling to the right markets? What research do you use to make business decisions?
  • Our program provides defined ROI—we guarantee leads, you do not pay for them until they are delivered. Your risk management with Hanley Wood is very low. We guarantee the leads and you do not pay for them until you have them sitting in your pipeline for sales to contact.
  • You’re planning for 2014 in August? Why not invest in a pilot lead program in Q4 and look at a couple of hundred sales leads from our editorial driven database that can be used to profile your best buyers for next year? Implement a program in Q4 that takes the risk out of your decision making for next year by using customer data from a Hanley Wood specialized program. It is a research program not an advertising program that also can, and will, drive sales in Q4.
  • Do you want to profile your 2014 audiences and buyers? Their titles, employee size, geographic area and other valuable market data that can be captured in our demand generation program for Q4?
  • Considering this is a ROI program, can we look at your current approved programs you’re running and compare what ROI/metrics or KPIs you are looking for in your set programs for the year? If we can prove we offer more ROI, would you consider moving that other approved program funds to the new ROI Program?

When the Consulting Part of Your Job Really Starts

At the end of the day when you hear the “I do not have any budget line,” that is when you really need to go into overdrive around being a private investigator. Creative questions, lots of them, will peel the onion to the real reason why your customer feels you are not relevant or compelling. Sooner than later, by being creative with your questions and listening hard, the customer will start to share their pain and burning issues with you. They want and need your help. You just have to approach it from a problem solving point of view and help them help themselves in their jobs. Once that happens, you earn the right to map your insight and solution to their needs, and more importantly, establish true value to their cause and job.

So the next time you hear from your customers—no budget, bad timing, not interested in you whatsoever— remember most likely they do not know who you are, or what the value is of what you are representing. Lastly, you have to get into the measurement and metric conversation game with your customers. It is not the Mad Men show; it is the Mad Metrics show in today’s business world. If you want to earn the right to have your customer shift already approved plans to a new one with you, then you need to talk the talk around the measurement they value the most.

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