Avoid Butting Heads with Customers:
Eliminate Price Concerns
By Paul Cherry
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!
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.
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
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.”
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.
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,
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:
with me the criteria you use when you’re selecting a _____.”
it comes to price, quality, service, delivery, performance,
customer support, and ease of use, which matters most to you?
Which matters least?”
your customer cited performance as a priority: “You mentioned
that performance is important to you. Would you share with me
your definition of performance?”
that I’ll best understand your needs, can you walk me through a
situation in which your standards for performance were not met?”
assume you’re looking at three potential vendors who meet all
your criteria (including price). How would you make your final
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?”
discuss what’s most important to your customers.
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?”
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?”
characteristics of this product are ‘must haves’ for you, and
which are optional?”
changes we’ve discussed would result in an increase in profits.
What would you do with that increase in available funding?”
alternatives to this problem have you considered?”
have told me that your company has allocated $_____ for this
product. How was that amount determined?”
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.
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about Paul Cherry.
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