What to Do When You Hear, “I Can’t Afford You”

If you are like most coaches and consultants, you’ve probably heard “I can’t afford you” way too many times, or “Not now”, or “Later” when you KNOW that the person you are talking with desparately needs you.

It’s downright FRUSTRATING! So let’s fix it.

There are two reasons you might be hearing that. Read on, and I’ll show you how to handle both of them.

Playing in the Kiddie Pool

The first, and most likely reason for most coaches, is from “playing in the kiddie pool.”

What I mean by that is that when you meet people who have locked themselves into a no-win situation, or no-success, situation it’s usually because of something they believe at their core, such as, managing their money by “staying within the budget”.  No matter whether they could get help, their only thought is “not in the budget”.  Gee, you KNOW that you could help them resolve their nightmare an make lots more money, however, it’s important that this probably isn’t an ideal client. He’s stuck in “no action” land. This is a defensive maneuver, survival,  trying to save what they have rather than trying to use your money to make even more.

Imagine a football team playing defense 100% of the time. If they are really good the only thing they can do is “hold where they are”, but most will “slide back” over and over and over, losing ground.

When we are finding an ideal  niche market, I usually ask my clients to divide the market into three areas,

  • low success,
  • average success, and
  • very highly successful

Then I ask them which one of these they’d like to work with and why. Usually the “low success” are those that would never spend money to get ahead, but manage a budget to keep what they have. The result is just like that football team, sliding backward, downward and they will NEVER pick up the ball.

Coaches often think that they can convince those with this belief system to change, and then they can help them. One thing I learned that changed my coaching business was that it takes days or weeks to actually change a deep, core belief. And, in marketing, when reaching out to a new client for the first time, you have about 3 seconds to get their attention, and you will not change a core belief in that time. Thereore, wouldn’t it be better to identify an ideal client that’s not only ready to hire, but is already out there actively looking for someone to take them to the next level?

The difference in the time it takes you to acquire that client is almost infinity for those who are stuck in that belief, to almost immediately for those who are actively searching for someone to take them to another level.

I’ve discovered that the very highly successful have gotten there by hiring help at every step. They are so used to hiring help to move ahead, and if you go after these you have a very high chance of getting hired here. While the “desparate” are that way because they refuse to get help.

So which would you rather work with?

How My Results Changed

I discovered that when I was regularly marketing to $100K and smaller businesses I almost never got a client. When I changed to targeting $500K businesses, or $100+K individuals that my sales close ratio changed to 35% to 40%. When I moved even higher to $1M business, or above $250K individuals my sales close ratio was 50% to 75%.

In all cases, my marketing message was the same. But or the low end, they always said, “Wow, holy mackeral, I wish I could afford you.” In other words my marketing message grabbed them, and they truly wanted to hire me, but their belief about “managing a budget” and not spending held them back.

Moving to the next level of success, the reason I got 35% to 40% close ratio was that they were in the transition stage. They were just starting to learn that looking for ROI was the way to get ahead, but they were slow to convince.

And when moving higher, to the $1M business or $250K inividual, they had already achieved success, and learned that when they needed to move to another level, they had to get help getting there. They were actually out there looking for THE RIGHT person, so they were looking for a consultant or coach. Imagine!

Yes, you might believe that as a coach you should be good at convincing someone to change, however, remember that changing a deeply held core belief takes days or weeks, and until you get them as a client you won’t have the opportunity. And since marketing is about grabbing attention in 3 seconds or less, spend the time where you can acquire a client in that time frame.

Therefore when I started helping successful people and businesses to reach new levels of success it became easy to acquire clients. Less effort, and bigger impacts.

Sales Objections

Let’s say that you are no longer playing in the “low success” area, or what I call the “kiddie pool”. The kiddie pool doesn’t usually hire anyone to help them since they believe that “managing money”, or “managing a business” requires “not spending”. While the very highly successful manages by looking for places where a dollar spent generates 100s to 1000s of times more, and the average successful have just started to move through that thought process. They’ll spend money to get help, but it takes longer to convince them.

And that’s where you might run into typical sales objections. These may still say “I can’t afford you”, but they can be convinced.

There are a lot of different sales objections, “I can’t afford you” as just one of the many. But how you handle sales objections is the same for any sales objection.

Here’s the steps for handling sales objections.

  1. Never argue, find a way to agree.
  2. Clarify what they really want
  3. Educate
  4. Get commitment

Never argue, Find a Way to Agree

This is probably the hardest thing you’ll have to do bu it is the way to totally turn around any discussion. It’s important to understand than when you disagree, you have already started an argument, putting the other person on the defensive. You have lost any chance of reaching this person. he’ll spend more time JUSTIFYING his position, and you will likely end up JUSTIFYING your position, arguing back and forth. It’s a lose-lose situation that you are setting up.

However, we want to always be the friend of your prospect. We want to UNDERSTAND where he is coming from, and that means showing empathy.

So, let’s go back to “I can’t afford you” and how you might agree with your prospect.

  • “Believe me, I understand. It can be difficult to find the money.”
  • “It can be very difficult to spend money when your (business, or life) seems to be going down the tubes.”
  • “I don’t like spending money at difficult times either.”

Those are just a few examples. I’m sure you’ll find even more as you meet with lots of different prospects.

You see, if you said “Gee, at times like these, you really need to find the right place to invest” or something like that, then they’ll just argue with you. But when you start it with “I agree” it opens the door for further discussion.


After agreeing, it’s time to clarify what they really want and then be there to help them get THAT. That makes you their friend rather than someone trying to argue.

So after saying, that you agree that spending money in times like these is difficult. You might ask, “So what is it that you really want or need?”

Or you might as, “If you could actually get ______________ (name what it is they want) without spending much, or as much money, what would that do for you?”

Always think “what do they want and how do they want it?” and then offer that to them. So, we must think, “what do they want, how valuable is that, and if they could have that at a price even less than they THINK your coaching costs, what would that do for them?”

During your original discussion you should have already determined what they want, how valuable that is, how much pain are they in right now, and your main focus from that point forward must be to find a way to help them get that result, that much value, remove that pain, and get their agreement that they want that (we don’t even want to discuss how much your coaching will cost at this point. Keep the focus on them).

Usually, if you haven’t proven how valuable the results you provide will be, that could be one reason that they will tell you that they can’t afford you. Or, just maybe you have done that part well, but they just don’t think they have your fee in any case.

Let’s say that you are talking to a potential client who could want:

  • $100K more income in his business (business coach)
  • $10K more salary within the next 6 months (career coach)
  • $X more retirement income (life coach)

So, you have just stated that you do understand that it’s difficult to come up with that kind of money, so let’s clarify. “How important is it to you to make that extra $100K . . . .  Let’s put that into a level of 1 to 10, 10 being the most important.”

And if they give you a 10, then price shouldn’t be an issue at all. If they give you a 5, then it might not be that important, but now you have a discussion. “What else is important if this is only a 5?”

Sometimes, making that $100K more is the most important thing in their life, and at other times, it is still very important, but they’ve got a big expense coming up that is more important right at this time, so let’s discuss it.

You see, coach, your main focus should be THEM. Your job is to help them get whatever they want, the way they want it. So as you coach them through finding these answers, and the way to get them, they will discover just how important it is to have a coach.

Take the price OFF OF THE TABLE. Work your way through what they want and need, and the obstacles in the way. You will eventually find a way to help them get what they want.

You should also have a series of prices. For instance, one on one coaching might be the most expensive and the most effective fastest way to get there, but group coaching might be half the price and more affordable, or a single 3 week program might be one way of taking just one step toward it that will generate enough income for them to make some money to pay for the rest, or, I have an online virtual coaching program for only $50/month that allows them to work through some things on their own, and still email me for answers that’ll help them get there. So your job is to help them get what they want at the best price. but you are there for them…..period.

So clarify what they want, and what’s in the way, what are the opportunities.


Once you have clarified what they want and a best approach at the best price, then educate them, help them understand those best ways to get those things. share with them some things your clients have achieved before, how big, how much ,how fast.

Get Their Commitment

And finally, if they understand that you are there to help them get what they want the best way they can get it, get their commitment to make a decision, to act on it. But again take you off the table. The first commitment is “Will they commit to acting to resolve their problem”. Once they have committed to resolve that problem, then offer to help them get there.

 Alan Boyer
Helping coaches/consultants reach another $100K to $1M within months

Author of upcoming book, “How to Reach $100K More in Coaching and Consulting within Months”



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