My opinion is that if a client won't give you a number they are not very serious --- walk away
... is incorrect when dealing with truly professional companies. Few as they are, they tend to be the big hitters financially. Not the ones to walk away from IMO.
Well, that's a matter of your opinion. You may be correct when dealing with a commodity product or service, but generally when I work on a project, I am the one who designs the specifications for that project.
I have done work for private sector companies, Government departments (all three levels) as well as public institutions and have never had any of my clients refuse to give me a number to work with. Most will at least give you a range.
Again, if a company is purchasing cleaning for their building or you are looking for someone to assemble X number of widgets to a certain set of specs, thats one thing. In our biz that might be someone hired to simply code a bunch of pages or convert a bunch of documents to HTML.
As I said, I guess it all depends on how one works. Generally in professional design (it was the same when I used to work in Advertising) there is a short list, followed by a capabilities review (affectionately known as the 'dog and pony show'). Once you've passed this phase you talk higher level budget and dollar figures.
Normally, companies don't have the expertise in-house, which is why we are being called in. On some projects you might be called in a given a set of specifications "We want a site with a shopping cart that will process orders, a CMS product cataloge and about ten pages used to market ourselves." At some point working on this quote the question of budget has to come-up if you want to find the proper solution for this company. Do you custom build a back-end or use some sort of enterprise software? Is a third-party hosted solution better for the client?
Even when I was in advertising and acting as a client, I always gave my venders (media sales people) a budget to work with. Where it might be reversed is essentially commodity items like printing where you had a set of specs like 5000 copies on X stock of paper with x colours.
The better question for your argument is are you a commodity or a unique capable solutions provider? How do your clients perceive you?
I guess neither is 'right' or 'wrong' it is opinion based on our own experience.
Mine is that there is a very low conversion rate for simply submitting proposals based on specs and numbers while I have an extremely high conversion rate going through a capabilites process and then developing a unique solution based on a client's budget. As I only have a limited amount of time, it is not worth it for me to chase low conversion leads.
Going back to the architect thing. If you want to build a house, you generally have some idea of the number of bedrooms etc you want.
No ethical or competant architect is going to design a house based on that. Can you afford three bedrooms? I challenge you to talk to any real estate agent or walk into any architect or builder's office --- the very first question will be about your budget. Then they try to find a solution within that budget. Otherwise it is just a waste of everyone's time.