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Avoid Butting Heads with Customers:
Eliminate Price Concerns

By Paul Cherry

You’ve been prospecting this company for ages, and finally got your foot in the door. You’re apprehensive because you’re meeting with the purchasing agent — not the big boss, but it’s a start — and you know you’ll get hammered on price!

The agent shakes your hand. “Tell me what you can do for me — and how much it'll cost me.”  Already, he’s squeezing you on price!  You only want to make him recognize the value of your business solution. He only wants to dance around it, singing, “Sure, value’s important. But how will you save me money?”  To land this sale, flip the record and hear what he's really singing.

Here are six techniques to build rapport with mid-level decision makers and prevent them from getting hung up on price.

Understand his biggest values: For any purchasing agent, this issue runs deeper than price or value. He wants to feel like he matters. He deals with so many salespeople making promises that you become just another face in an increasingly maddening crowd. He’s exerting what little power he has on vendors like you, and keeping an iron grip on that low price is the most obvious way he can prove his worth. His biggest values are:

  • Recognition from his boss and colleagues. He wants to be recognized and rewarded for getting the lowest price, so of course he’ll try to get it. Like all of us, he wants his boss to say, “You just saved the company thousands of dollars!  High-five!”  He wants his colleagues to think, “I want to be as successful as he is so the boss will high-five me, too!”

  • Justification. His self-esteem soaring, our money-conscious front-line manager thinks, “I’ve saved my company money!  I’m valuable!  My job’s safe!”  He’s justified his existence, confirming to his company and his boss that he’s a “keeper.”

Understand their fears: Most people are satisfied with something average. With fears ranging from leaving their comfort zone, to spending more money than the boss wants, to getting fired, they’re more likely to passively avoid what they don’t like than to actively pursue what they want.

Understand what they’re up against: Most people want to do a good job and make a decent living, but they also want to clock out at a humane hour and have time for a life. Meanwhile, they’re competing for resources, clamoring for attention, mired in daily obligations. Consequently, they unwittingly overlook the bigger picture. Show that front-line manager a solution that’ll bring the big picture back into focus. Pitching how you can help his company increase profitability is more meaningful when it directly impacts his year-end bonus. Maybe he’s thinking, “Yeah, like my boss needs to drive another new Lexus while I can barely get around in my ten-year-old junker!”

Understand their need to feel appreciated: When companies keep a narrow focus on increasing profitability, people can slip below the radar. When the company has a great year, the CEO rarely says, “We owe it all to our purchasing agents toiling down in the basement, saving us 5 cents apiece on widgets.” 

Many workers you deal with feel overworked and under-respected. All they ask is that you make them look good. Provide them with solutions that’ll take paperwork off their desks and keep their bosses happy with them, and they’ll be happy with you.

Focus on the lowest total cost: Avoid getting cornered on price by talking about the lowest total cost. Instead of just the up-front, out-of-pocket cost for the company, show how lowest total cost results from on-time delivery, faster time to market, support, quality, peace of mind, ease of use, reduced down time, overhead, and labor.

Utilize questions to uncover what your customers value: Understand what makes customers tick, see what’s really driving them. When you hear “lowest price,” don’t scamper like a squirrel—instead, ask good questions that go beyond the price issue. You’ll find out what they really want and why they want it, as opposed to what they’re telling you they want. Add some of these questions to your arsenal of sales techniques:

  • “Share with me the criteria you use when you’re selecting a _____.”

  • “When it comes to price, quality, service, delivery, performance, customer support, and ease of use, which matters most to you? Which matters least?”

  • Say your customer cited performance as a priority:  “You mentioned that performance is important to you. Would you share with me your definition of performance?”

  • “So that I’ll best understand your needs, can you walk me through a situation in which your standards for performance were not met?”

  • “Let’s assume you’re looking at three potential vendors who meet all your criteria (including price). How would you make your final decision?”

  • “You mentioned that the most important thing for you is price. How does that compare to what engineering (manufacturing, design, production, marketing, fulfillment) thinks is most important?”

  • Let’s discuss what’s most important to your customers.

  • “Think back to when you first chose your current product. What were your selection criteria? Based on what you know now, how would those criteria change?”

  • “Think ahead to three years from now. What do you anticipate will be most important at that time — the initial price of the product? Or the peace of mind you’ll have, knowing you’re getting the necessary support long after a purchase was made?”

  • “Which characteristics of this product are ‘must haves’ for you, and which are optional?”

  • “The changes we’ve discussed would result in an increase in profits. What would you do with that increase in available funding?”

  • “What alternatives to this problem have you considered?”

  • “You have told me that your company has allocated $_____ for this product. How was that amount determined?”

Show your customers your solution will help solve these problems. Get them to define value based on their specific needs, and it’ll be much easier to justify your solution as a smarter investment over lower-priced alternatives. Once you know your prospects’ needs, inside and out, you’ll be able to present your services and solutions as a great value at any price.

Read other articles and learn more about Paul Cherry.

[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis. Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and requirements.]

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