The Challenge Some clients are motivated by their dreams, and others are constricted by their budget. Neither is necessarily right or wrong, says Jack Hauber, a sales coach with the Sandler Sales Institute. But it's important to understand which characterization fits your prospect in order to understand how, or even whether, you can work with them.

The Third-Party Story Most people won't tell you whether they're in the budget camp or the dream camp, and asking them straight out can put them on the defensive. Hauber recommends using a “third-party story,” which goes something like this:

“For some clients, the price is important, but if we have a different idea we think they might like, they would like to hear about it,” Hauber says. “Other clients care just as much about their project but are more concerned that we keep it within their budget.”

Emphasize that either approach is OK, Hauber says. Your goal is to “show that you've dealt with both types of folks, and you don't want to talk them into doing something if it isn't high on their list, but you certainly don't want to limit their dream either.”

How One Remodeler Does It With remodeling projects sometimes topping $1 million, Gilday Renovations in Silver Spring, Md., generally declines prospects who are very focused on price. Joe Gilday, marketing director and project consultant, says that one red flag is when prospects — even those with big dreams and a good budget — want to know what their exact costs will be. Not only is it impossible to know until the work is well under way, but, he says, “down the road they'll be asking you to justify your prices” and otherwise quibbling with every expense.

Gilday says he lets the prospect take the lead in revealing whether they might be a good match. He follows their agenda, asking many questions about why they want to do something, to identify what's “really important” to them.

His best clients are those who follow the dream “and will absolutely push their budget to achieve it.” Their excitement grows as the design process unfolds and new ideas emerge, he says. But he stays away from mere dreamers who have a long list of goals but an unrealistic sense of their costs.