It was the only sales opportunity in the pipeline as we approached the end of the year. It would put us over the team budget. The pressure was on and you can say the customer saw it in our faces. They knew the position we were in. A customer can smell desperation in a sales person like a dog can smell fear in a pedestrian walking by.
We delivered the proposal to the customer. Then came the final page – the price.
The customer looked at the number intently. Time passed slowly; it seemed like 30 minutes as he analyzed the situation.
Then, we broke the silence. Our sales person said the 6 most expensive words in sales:
“Where do we need to be?”
Bingo! We just lost control because whoever talks first loses.
Michael T. Bosworth, John R. Holland and Frank Visgatis are authors of the book CustomerCentric Selling, Second Edition. I highly recommend this book and their approach to sales and adding value.
They believe, “Buyers expect discounts. Sellers expect to discount to get the business.” So when the seller says “where do we need to be?” it leads the buyer to draw the following conclusions about the seller:
- They are not controlling the discussion.
- They have already acknowledged that discounting is necessary and appropriate.
- They have wide latitude and authority to discount.
- They are not a strong negotiator.
The seller has just diminished the value of their offer. They have given the power over pricing to their prospect. And guess what? The prospect will always suggest a price well below what they’re willing to pay.
What went wrong? And, what about value?
The whole purpose of a proposal is to demonstrate how this solution will help solve their problem. Will it increase productivity or market share, or decrease costs or save time? The value conversation has just been sabotaged by the issue of low price because you’ve given your competition a foot in the door just by offering a better price.
The authors mention some common mistakes salespeople make in trying to win the business.
Which, if any, of these mistakes are you making?
- The most common way to get buyers to sign earlier than they want is by enticing them with discounts.
- Salespeople attempt to close non-decision makers. This can be demeaning to a “buyer” who in fact is merely a messenger. Many people can say no; few can say yes.
- Ideally, negotiating should take place after the decision to buy from a particular sales person.
- Many salespeople have difficulty tolerating silence while negotiating.
- Many salespeople get defensive.
- Salespeople compromise their power by saying things like, “That’s the best I can do for you.” This statement alone can make it impossible to close that day. Smart buyers ask who within the organization can do better-and pointedly instruct the seller to bring that person to the next meeting.
- Sellers who are behind quota should not negotiate large transactions without the involvement of their manager.
More sales close when you lead with your value and hold your ground.
Your prospects feel your confidence and are more likely to be drawn to your offer. Customers want value and yes, price is important. But, big value is what will ultimately win you the business – that’s why they agreed to meet with you in the first place!