How much will it cost?

Often, in my role running a global customer support organization, I would have to bring something to my bosses that I thought we needed to do to keep customers happy.  More often than not, there was a cost associated with it.

Inevitably the question was asked, “How much will it cost?”

I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I knew enough to answer the question they needed an answer for, instead of the question they were asking.

What my bosses really wanted to know is, “What will it cost if we don’t do this” – even if they didn’t realize it.

So I prepared my answers to the “How much will it cost?” question as answers to “How much will it cost if we don’t do it?”  Money lost is always somehow more important to a company than money spent (I imagine it has a lot to do with taxes – you can write off money spent in a lot of ways.  Not so much with money that wasn’t made!).

There is a huge difference in telling your girlfriend that she “has a face that would stop a clock” and telling her, “when I am with you, time stands still”.

Two ways to impart the same information – just like telling my bosses why what I was suggesting would either make them money, or keep them from losing it, instead of telling them how much it will cost. 

Never focus on how much it will cost – car dealerships and mortgage companies know this – that’s why they focus on the monthly payment, and not the total dollar amount.  If you have an idea that ends up making or saving you more money than it costs to implement, then you probably have a good idea – one worth pursuing. 

But sell the entire idea – don’t get stuck having to try and explain the cost – instead clearly explain the benefit.


  1. What excellent advice! I am learning to uses this advice on a more regular basis. In my exciting new role as an IT department, I do get called on to evaluate a number of things and this is truly how smaller organizations have to think, not just in terms of how much cash is going out of the account right now.