An enormous part of training salespeople these days is helping them to differentiate themselves from everyone else. This is accomplished by effectively applying a consultative sales process: Executed correctly, the salesperson has a conversation with a decision maker that is unlike any conversation the competition has had. It uncovers the compelling reasons for spending money, changing vendors, buying a product or service and, as important, buying it from you. That creates urgency, an incentive for a prospect to self-qualify, so that you don’t have to pull teeth getting a prospect qualified. The end-result should be a prospect that is willing to spend more to do business with you, and a sales cycle that is not based on winning the price war.
One of the salespeople I was training recently told me that he met with a customer that had moved their business to a competitor because of price issues. It sounded like they were getting what they were paying for:
- Paying more for freight,
- Finding variations in the product,
- Stocking more inventory than necessary because of availability problems
So far so good. The salesperson had done enough to at least uncover some issues and, while these aren’t compelling reasons, additional questions would lead us to these. To keep the story short and get to my point, let’s assume that the salesperson did enough right to continue moving the opportunity forward. At some point, he completely screwed up.
What he should have done …
He should have asked, “How important is it to have continued availability of quality, local inventory?”
The customer would have said, “Extremely important”, the salesperson would have said, “Tell me how that would affect your business”, and we would have gotten closer to the compelling reasons.
Then he could have continued with, “And, in order to solve this problem, get local, as needed, quality inventory, and eliminate your enormous freight costs, are you willing to pay a little more for my help and solve this problem?”
What he did instead …
He asked, “If you had access to local delivery, through a distributor, and the price was competitive, would you consider looking into this?”
Forget for a minute that the call to action was horrible – “Look into this” instead of “Pay a little more for my help and solve this problem”. That wasn’t the worst of it. The horror of this question was that the salesperson introduced an unnecessary criterion – competitive pricing – for doing business with him. What’s wrong with that?
- Even if you wanted to be the low priced seller, and they don’t – and you shouldn’t either – if you don’t have a competitive price, you don’t get the business!
- He didn’t need to offer competitive pricing, because he sold value! He identified the problem and offered a solution to a problem. That is the value someone will pay for and he undermined it by bringing the customer’s attention back to price!
I hear an awful lot of salespeople complaining that they can’t sell in their business unless they have the best price. The reality is that there are only four reasons why price becomes an issue:
- The salesperson made it an issue (experience)
- The salesperson accepted that it was an issue (non-supportive beliefs)
- The salesperson didn’t know how to prevent it from being an issue (tactics)
- The salesperson was foolishly calling on purchasing instead of an actual decision maker who owned a problem or an opportunity (strategy)