Trouble Justifying the Price
The sales challenge
I recently talked to a sales manager about a coaching session he had with a sales rep. The sales rep was having a good sales call. The client had a problem they could solve. The conversation was positive and engaged.
Then the inevitable price question arose.
The client said, “How much does it cost?”
The sales rep gave them a range, $25K-$50K, and the call immediately crumbled.
Fortunately, this salesperson’s manager did not take over the call, as all managers tend to do when a sales rep is in trouble. This allowed the manager to do some sideline coaching on how to discuss price without turning the conversation negative.
Note to managers: On coaching calls, if you take over, you never see what happens when you are NOT there.
There were two sales moments of truth that were critical:
Sales Moment of Truth #1
The manager observed that the client had described a surface problem. But they had not gone deeper to:
- Establish the impact of the problem on the organization.
- Quantify the cost of the problem.
The manager suggested that a more detailed need diagnostic, including quantification of the status quo, prior to discussing price, may have helped.
The salesperson did ask two questions:
- Please describe you current situation.
- Can you be more specific?
He did not ask:
- Is there an instance that you can share that would help me understand?
- How long has this been on your radar?
- What have you done to try to address it?
- Did you make significant progress?
- Is the overall impact on the organization significant, or minor?
- Is it fair to say it is hard to financially quantify it?
- Where is it in your personal stack of priorities?
The customer was left at step 2 in the diagram.
While the salesperson had started a Need Diagnostic conversation, he had not gone far enough.
Building the business case
In the Need Diagnostic, the customer is building the business case.
Your job: Ask questions
Their job: Build the business case
If you do your job, it makes their job easier.
If you try to do their job, they don’t like it.
The salesperson didn’t use anti-suggestions, like:
- Based on our conversation is it fair to say this isn’t a top priority for the organization?
- The impact is minimal?
- You haven’t mentioned any need for speed on this project. Is that because there is none?
- Is it fair to say there’s no cost associated with this situation?
- If the cost can’t be determined, how will you get a solution funded?
- For you personally, this is not a front-burner issue?
If you become skeptical, they try to convince you.
Anti-suggestions create a role-reversal.
Your job is to draw out enough insight so the business case becomes clear to both you and the buyer.
When you ask, “Is the cost associated with this significant, or relatively minor?”
They may say “minor” and that helps you appropriately disqualify them.
If there is a significant cost, since they feel no sales pressure, they will be more willing to discuss it with you.
Anti-suggestions will disqualify the buyer, or get them to convince you that there is a solid business case.
You may still face price resistance, but now you have their words, their logic, their numbers, all on your side.
People don’t argue with their own data.
The more the buyer is focused on the cost of the status quo, the less he is focused on price.
The less he is focused on the cost of the status quo, the more he is focused on price.
Sales Moment of Truth #2
The manager made another critical observation:
He said to his salesperson, “I don’t think it would have mattered if you said $5,000 or $5,000,000. It was the way you said it.
If you don’t believe your price, then they won’t.”
The buyer responds more to the feelings you generate, than to the number.
Temerity: a slight tremble in your voice, a change of pitch, shifting eye contact, over-talking and over-justifying, will sink a sales call.
Style is more important than substance.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Talking about money is uncomfortable, and many salespeople avoid it entirely by sending a quote later. Congratulations to this salesperson for having the guts to talk about money. Now he just has to do two things.
- Help the buyer build the business case.
- Put the price on the table with conviction.