We build businesses. Even little ones.

We build businesses.
Even little ones.

6 Things They Mean When They Say They Have No Money

What if people can’t afford your product?

If you’ve been selling anything for any length of time, you get those emails.

“Oh my God, it’s so gorgeous. I wish I could afford it!”

“I don’t have the money for your Thing but, one day …”

“I’ll be keeping my eye on this until money settles down!”

Today we’re going to talk about where these emails come from, and how to deal with them.

Scary Proposition: They’re lying to you, whether they mean to or not.

The only people who “do not have the money” are people who have no money and no means of getting their hands on some.

That is a very, very, very low percentage of people in first world countries. It is a far lower percentage of people living in first world countries with reliable access to the internet.

And in general, those people don’t send emails like this. They keep their broke-ness quiet, because they don’t have any grand desire to get public about it. More on this at the end.

Here’s what “I can’t afford it” really means:

1. I’ve bought four [things like your product] in the last two months and haven’t used any of them. I’m getting really disillusioned and I’m blaming myself for buying things and not using them. I feel I don’t deserve to buy your thing.

2. My spouse is really pissed off at me because I’ve been spending too much money on the internet/on clothes/on these crazy make-money-online schemes. Your product is not worth making things awkward with my spouse.

3. The last three [things similar to what you sell] I’ve bought haven’t come close to living up to their promises. Now I don’t really trust them, even from you. I think it sounds good right now because I’m excited, but when I actually buy it, I’m going to be really disappointed and mad at myself because I should have known better.

4. My marriage/job/life sucks, and I need some little conveniences to keep me going. (Latte on the way to work. Sending the kids with lunch money instead of lunch. Sending MYSELF with lunch money instead of lunch.) I CAN afford your thing — I do have the money — but if I bought it, I’d have to give up my little conveniences, and I’m not willing to do that.

5. I have another completely valid reason for not buying, but it takes too long to explain and it’s kind of embarrassing. (Examples: I drink too much. I have a feeling my spouse is about to leave me and I need to make sure I have money aside for a divorce and/or alimony. I just came very close to maxing out my credit card, and there’s a big psychological difference between an ALMOST maxed out card and an ACTUALLY maxed out card, and buying your thing would really freak me out.) It’s more important for me to hold on to my money right now.

6. I don’t want to buy your thing but, for whatever reason, I feel the need to justify myself to you. Saying I don’t have the money feels like an inarguable and socially acceptable white lie. I get to feel good because I said nice things about your product, but I don’t actually have to part with my money.

Those people? Plenty of money. They’re just not giving it to YOU, because they have specific priorities that win out at the end of the day.

People who REALLY can’t afford it do one of two things.

One, they do nothing. They know they’re broke, and they accept that part of being broke is not being able to buy things they’d like to have, no matter how helpful owning them might be.

They put your thing on the list of things they’re going to buy when their tax rebate comes in, or they start to save up for it, or they accept that they’ll never buy it. They will very seldom email you to alert you to their plan. They will privately squirrel their money away and when they have enough, you’ll see an order come in.

Two, they will try to find a way. You’d be surprised by how many people do this, and the very creative ways they’ve found to do so.

They could split the cost with a friend.

They could offer to barter.

They could request a payment plan.

They could sell their guitar.

They could cut down on conveniences and luxuries for a few weeks.

I’ve had people offer to get a product now and pay me double its cost after Christmas. I’ve had people take temporary part time jobs to buy consulting. I’ve had people pay me $50 every pay day until they’ve paid off the cost of something.

But an email saying they’d LOVE it but don’t have any money?

Might mean a lot of things, but it doesn’t mean that.

And now, the point of this whole post. What should you DO?

Nothing. Do absolutely nothing.

Do not change your pricing, except maybe to offer a public payment plan, if that’s your bag.

It is very easy to receive these emails and freak out, thinking you’re charging too much for your stuff. (This is particularly true for artists, artisans, crafters and coaches. And authors! Do not drop your Kindle book from $4.99 to $0.99 because people say they can’t afford it.)

There is a difference between “I have no money” and “it’s overpriced”.

If they thought it was overpriced, they would either tell you they thought it was overpriced, or they wouldn’t say anything. They would mentally call you a jerk and go about their day. If they say they can’t afford it, changing the price won’t change their mind.

“No money” isn’t about price. It’s about value.

They don’t currently see it in your thing, and your thing at a different price will probably not change anything. It might. It probably won’t.

Do not stress about your pricing.

Do not write them back and offer them a deal.

Do not be angry at them. (You may privately stew if you like, but try to keep it brief.)

Do not sit around wondering why they send people like you and me emails like this, but not, say, Bill Gates. They have good reasons for emailing you, especially if you already know them. They are trying to be nice.

People will give you ALL SORTS of reasons why they’re not buying. Be nice to them, but try not to pay too much attention to what the reasons are, because odds are, they’re not the real reasons.

But what do I do if I’M the one who doesn’t have any money?

Fair point.

Sometimes you’re on the side of “Dear God, my own cash flow is too scary to even think about looking at., and I need to get more clients/customers fast. How do I turn this business around?”

If that’s you, then check out the Emergency Turnaround Clinic, which absolves you of all pricing woes whatsoever. It’s pay-what-you-can, and you can download it right here.

Naomi writes more things like this in The Letter. Get it for free today. (It also comes with free marketing courses. You can’t move for free here.)