What does it cost?
“What does it cost?” is not a helpful question. It’s not that it’s wrong so much as it’s limited in the information it’s able to deliver.
“What does it cost?” isn’t asking about the value of what’s being offered and how it will allow the asker to overcome a problem that’s causing them to suffer.
“What does it cost?” is the same as asking “How many calories does it have?” Neither speaks to the goodness or flavour of what’s on the table.
Still, “What does it cost?” can be an illuminating question. If you look beyond the obvious, you will see some valuable insights about the asker and the person being asked.
Here are some things that this question reveals about a person asking it, which they may or may not be aware of:
They don’t see what you have to offer as that different from what other people have to offer. So the price of your services will sway them in deciding who to buy from.
They are on a race to the bottom as they search out the least expensive way to solve their problem.
They have limited funds to allocate to solve their problem and are unclear about how what you have to offer will give them a return on their investment.
Here are some things that this question reveals about the person being asked it, which they may or may not be aware of:
You are not distinct enough from your competition. If you were the only one able to solve that particular problem, the price would be less of an issue. But if you’re one of many making the same promise, it’s harder to argue that someone should pay more for your services.
You have not adequately communicated the value of what you have to offer. Even if you are distinct, the people whom you seek to serve don’t understand this so they aren’t as willing to pay your rates.
You have not set up the conversation to be about value and not price. This set up includes the things you generously give away for free, the moment someone engages with you and/or your work, and how you guide the conversation when you’re in it.
When someone asks you “What does it cost?” use that opening as an opportunity to talk about value instead.
Do the emotional labour required to understand their situation, pain points, and desired outcomes. Help them understand how what you have to offer will serve them long-term. How it will change their status, financial situation, and/or ability to feel respected, valued, and worthy of love and belonging.
And if they’re on board with everything you discuss and the promises you make, then tell them what it costs.
If they’re not on board, there’s no need to talk numbers. It’s a moot point and a waste of everyone’s time.
You can be transparent about this process too. Tell them that the best way to figure out if you should work together is to talk about the relationship and results you’ll be co-creating first and the money second.
If they want to move forward to working with you, then the question will change from “What does it cost?” to “How do we make this work?”
In that moment, the person you’re speaking with is invested in solving the problem of being able to pay for your services so they can experience the change that they’re longing for.
So, how do you communicate the value of the work that you do?
How can you position yourself as the only one—or one of few—who can solve a particular problem for a particular type of person?
What could you add and/or take away from how you present your offer to move the conversation from “What does it cost?” to “How do we make this work?”
And when someone comes to you looking for the least expensive way to solve their problem, can you have the courage to say “What I have to offer isn’t for you” and walk away?