Do you uncover the hidden anchor with a client?

Last updated by Brady Stroud [SSW] 28 days ago.See history

Clients often have an implicit budget or value anchor in their minds when discussing projects. This anchor can be based on a budget set by their business or a perceived value. If you don't uncover this anchor early, it can lead to misaligned expectations and project dissatisfaction.

Understand the Client's Perspective

Clients might not always communicate their budget or value expectations openly. It's crucial to ask the right questions to uncover these hidden anchors.

  • Ask direct questions: Questions like "Do you have a budget range in mind for this project?" or "What value do you expect this project to deliver?" can prompt clients to reveal their anchors.
  • Understand their constraints: Discussing their financial constraints and priorities helps in understanding the flexibility of their budget.
  • Look for cues: Pay attention to any indirect hints about their budget or value expectations during conversations.

Common Types of Anchors

Clients typically come to meetings with one or more of the following types of anchors:

Budget Set by the Business

Often, clients have a budget set by the board or a financial decision-maker within their business. This budget is closely linked to the problem being solved.

Example: If the problem is driving to the shop, but the only solution presented is buying a Lamborghini, and the client doesn't have the funds, this high cost will act as an anchor preventing the purchase.

Experience-Based Anchor

Clients might have previous experience with software or services that set their expectations. These experiences create a benchmark in their minds.

Example: A client who has previously developed software with a specific budget might use that experience as a reference point for current projects.

Techniques to Uncover Hidden Anchors

Using the right techniques can make it easier to identify the client's budget or value anchor.

Direct Inquiry

Directly ask about the budget in a professional manner. This can clear any ambiguities from the start. Be careful, often clients think revealing this can limit negotiations and that if a budget is revealed this will create its own anchor. Clients will either avoid or be misleading within this approach. ::: greybox "Can you share your budget limitations for this project so we can tailor our proposal accordingly?" ::: ::: good Figure: Good example - Directly asking for the budget range :::

Comparative Questions

Ask questions that compare their project with similar past projects. ::: greybox "How does this project compare in scope and budget to others you've done recently?" ::: ::: good Figure: Good example - Comparing with past projects to gauge budget :::

Value-Oriented Questions

Focus on what the client values most in the project. This can often reveal their budget priorities. ::: greybox "What are the most important outcomes you expect from this project?" ::: ::: good Figure: Good example - Asking about expected outcomes to understand budget priorities :::

Indirect Inquiry Techniques

Directly asking a client for their budget is not always effective. There's a fair bit of gamesmanship in sales, and clients may not always be truthful about their budgets and expectations. In these cases, use indirect inquiry techniques to uncover the hidden anchor.

Estimating Size and Value

Clients are less likely to give deceptive answers about the size and value of the problem being solved.

"Can you describe the impact this project will have on your business if successful?"

Figure: Good example - Asking about the impact of the project to gauge its value

Scenario-Based Questions

Ask scenario-based questions to understand their priorities without directly discussing money.

"If this project could only address one major issue, which one would be the most valuable to solve?"

Figure: Good example - Scenario-based question to identify priorities

Historical Comparisons

Clients can provide insights based on their past experiences without directly revealing their budget.

"Can you tell me about a similar project you've done and the key factors that influenced its success?"

Figure: Good example - Asking about past projects to understand budget and expectations

Intelligent Inquiry Based on Client Size

The approach to uncovering hidden anchors should vary depending on the size of the client.

Large Multinational Companies

For large clients, the problems they face and their budgets are typically substantial. However, direct questions about budget can still be met with resistance or deceptive answers. Focus on understanding the scope and impact of the problem.

"For a company of your size, what scale of solution are you envisioning to solve this issue?"

Figure: Good example - Understanding the scale of the solution for a large company

Small Businesses

Small businesses often have strict budget constraints. Directly asking about their budget might make them self-conscious. Instead, discuss the size of the problem and practical constraints.

"What are the key areas where you need the most help within your current budget constraints?"

Figure: Good example - Addressing budget constraints without direct inquiry

Aligning Expectations

Once the hidden anchor is uncovered, align the project scope and deliverables with the client's budget and expectations.

  • Set realistic expectations: Clearly communicate what can be achieved within the budget.
  • Adjust the scope if necessary: If the client's budget is lower than required, discuss possible adjustments to the project scope to fit their budget.
  • Provide value-based proposals: Offer different options that provide varying levels of value and cost, helping clients choose the best fit for their needs and budget.


Uncovering the hidden anchor with clients ensures that both parties are on the same page regarding budget and expectations, leading to a successful project outcome. By asking the right questions and aligning project goals, you can avoid misunderstandings and deliver value effectively.

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