A common lament among participants in my sales training classes is that their competitors are buying the business by offering lower prices. So when I ask them the question above, most immediately raise their hands.
That’s when I ask my follow-up question:
Why would they need you?
I love working with companies that have higher prices than their competition, for two reasons. The first is the simple fact that they would not need me if they sold on the basis of the lowest price.
If you’re a sales professional, they would not need you either.
I’m not against companies competing on low prices. It’s a perfectly valid business model that has lifted Walmart and Amazon to the top of their respective industries, so it must make sense. But how many true salespeople do either of those companies have?
What makes you valuable as a sales professional is the knowledge of what customers need and the skill to help them discover it. That’s hard work, and that’s where you earn your keep.
Comparing prices is easy; anyone can do it. Price is highly visible; costs are hard to see, and effects are almost invisible at the time the decision is made. Thinking ahead to the consequences of a purchasing decision is hard.
You justify your position as a sales professional by getting the customer to think deeper than price to total costs, and then even deeper to consequences. Your challenge is to help customers discover for themselves why the higher priced decision will result in better outcomes—in fact, often it will mean lower costs in the long run. It’s a challenge because the differences are not immediately obvious, nor is the value of those differences apparent without a lot of joint discovery and insight.
Saving money is easy; making money is hard. You justify your position as a sales professional by working together with the customer to show them how more money invested now will pay off in better outcomes and greater profits down the road.
Add in the fact that thinking is hard work, especially for busy people who have a lot of matters waiting for their decision, and it’s no wonder that buying on price is the default mode for so many buyers. You justify your position as a sales professional by doing the hard thinking to make it easier to make the right decision.
There is a lot of thinking that has to go on by both sides to discover the best long term solution, and if your customers don’t have the time or desire to do the hard stuff, two things may happen. One is that the thinking does not happen, and the easiest decision is made. Both sides leave money on the table. That leaves the only other option: you have to take responsibility for the hard stuff if you want the deal—you have to work hard to make it easy for the customer to make the right decision.
Selling is an honorable profession when practiced right, and professionalism is mainly about two things: client focus and specialized knowledge. As a professional, you have a dual client focus to the needs of your customers and your employers. When the customer insists on a lower price, the threat to your employer is obvious—but the threat to the customer’s interests is sometimes even greater but not obvious at all. You earn your true value as a professional when you do the hard stuff that meets the needs of both parties.
Here’s one final easy-hard comparison to think about: Win-lose outcomes are easy; win-win outcomes are hard. But the good news is that if you do the hard stuff to create win-win outcomes, you will continue to raise your value as a sales professional and that’s a win-win-win outcome!