There is inevitable confusion about price and its impact on winning or losing sales. The confusion over price begins when salespeople believe that they lost on price, especially when their prospective client tells them they went with a competitor who offered them a better price. The “lost on price” is almost always followed by the comforting statement that you were a strong second place, softening the blow and making sure you know it wasn’t your fault. The truth about price is that it is a factor in every deal, win or lose. Your prospective clients are always going to weigh price as a factor.
How You Win or Lose
There is nothing more common than the belief that you lost on price. The other side of that belief is that your wins come from some factor outside of price. You rarely hear a salesperson brag that they won on price, as that would indicate that they created no real value and were not a driving factor in the decision. Price is always a factor, but it is rarely the dominate or single factor in most deals.
- When you win at a higher price, your client perceives the value you create as being more significant than the investment you are asking of them.
- When you lose at a higher price, your prospective clients don’t believe your higher price equals the value you are promising to create for them.
- When you win at a lower price, it may be that price is the critical factor for your prospect, or it might be that your competitors couldn’t justify the delta between your price and their higher price.
- When you lose at a lower price, it is almost certain your higher-priced competitor created a greater perception of value, an understanding that their offering was worth paying more to obtain.
Price is always a factor, but so is the perception of value. Whether you win or lose, the perception of value is still a factor, just like the price. The reason you blame “price” for your losses without also crediting it for your wins is that it absolves you as being the root cause of your loss, something that isn’t necessary when you win.
How to Reduce Price as the Dominant Factor
One of the reasons price may be a dominant factor is because you allowed your client to believe it to be true. You make unforced errors in sales that contribute to your losses. Maybe you had one call with a client and responded to their request for pricing and a proposal by emailing them, believing this approach is all that was necessary. Or perhaps you went through the entire sales conversation without ever addressing the investment, surprising your dream client with your higher price late in the game, a time when it is too late for you to differentiate your offering and the value it creates.
There are ways you can increase the likelihood of winning with a higher or lower price.
- Move the Commitment to Invest Forward: There is no value in surprising people with your price at the end of the sales conversation, especially if you have a higher price. It doesn’t make you consultative to try to build value throughout the process as a way to justify your higher price. The decision to avoid that conversation is mostly fear of being disqualified early in the process. If you want to be consultative, you cannot be afraid to talk about money, including the investment you believe your dream client is going to need to make. In The Lost Art of Closing, I described the ten commitments as being nonlinear, noting that if you have a higher price, you benefit from moving that conversation towards the beginning of the sales conversation. In doing so, you give yourself time to justify the investment, instead of waiting to the end and losing on your back foot.No more pushy sales tactics. The Lost Art of Closing shows you how to proactively lead your customer and close your sales.
- Focus on the Strategic Outcomes: No matter what you sell, your client isn’t buying your product, your service, or your solution. They are buying outcomes. If you want to know why purchasing agents treat what you sell as a commodity is because that is what they buy, even if it isn’t what you sell. When you speak with the “business owner,” the people who need the outcome you sell, you have a very different conversation, one about the value they need you to create. The business owner is trying to invest in results, and their purchasing department is working to ensure they get the best deal. The more you focus your sales effort on the outcomes you are selling, the less the price is a factor. To increase your odds of success, selling strategic outcomes to business owners dramatically increases your likelihood of winning, but also eliminates price as the dominant factor.
- Justify the Greater Investment: One of the questions you need to be able to answer is what makes your offering worth paying more for. If you can’t answer this question, how can you expect your client to be able to explain it? How do you make different investments that improve your results versus your competitors? Where do you apply better or greater resources to ensure your client achieves the strategic outcomes? The more clearly you can explain the need for the more significant investment and how it provides the strategic outcomes, the better your chances of winning at a higher price.
- Defend Your Model: You have to defend your model. Your client is always going to ask about your price. You have to be able to explain the implications of underinvesting in the strategic outcomes they are pursuing. One useful way to look at this is to describe the concessions they are making—and that is mostly unknown to them. Without you informing them of where your industry routinely pulls money out of solutions to offer and maintain a lower price, your prospective client will be wholly unaware—until it’s too late.
While the price is always going to be a factor in every deal, it doesn’t have to be the most crucial factor, and your sales approach will largely determine whether it is or isn’t.