The First Battlefield in the Price War

Not the best weapon to carry into battle

Not the best weapon to carry into battle

One of the major reasons my clients hire me is to win the price war. They want weapons to help their salespeople win the daily battles for their customers’ minds, because they’re tired of losing deals to competitors who undercut them on price, or of winning deals that eat away at their profits.

Their target battlefield, the territory they want to dominate, is the customer’s mind, and their strategy is to create differentiated and quantifiable value. It’s not easy, but because of the inflated impact that even small price cuts can have on profitability, it’s a crucial battle.

But, for any sales professional to stand a chance in that battle, there is an even more important battle that has to be fought first. It’s the battle for the minds of their own salespeople.

Just about every sales class I teach contains a small group of doubters, the ones who have preemptively given up. They tell me that the only criterion their customers care about is price. They lament the deals they have lost—not because of anything they did wrong—but because their competitors came in with a lower price. They hurt their own companies with “friendly fire”, directing most of their sales efforts internally: trying to convince their managers to shave a few points off the margin to put the big deal over the top.

The problem with that type of thinking is that it’s self-fulfilling. If they don’t think they can compete, they’ll be proven right—even though they’re wrong. If they don’t think their solution is worth more than what the competitor offers, they’ll be proven right—even though they’re wrong. If they think there is no difference between what they and their competitors offer, they’ll be proven right—even though they’re wrong. And if they ride into every sales battle with the white flag already flying, they will lose.

There are two reasons I know they’re wrong. First, they haven’t tried everything: there are about fifty questions they haven’t yet asked, techniques they haven’t tried, and buttons they haven’t pushed yet[1]. Second, on occasion I’ve had the opportunity to talk to the salespeople from their competitors—and they’re saying the same thing they are!

My favorite question to those doubters is: “Would you take the deal the competitor is offering?” Most answer no, and those I can work with.

A few answer yes, and they are the ones who should find another job—just not in sales.


[1] I’m not making up that number for dramatic effect. I’m writing a book on winning the price war and having trouble limiting the number of techniques and ideas to keep it at a manageable length.

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