Who Is Selling Whom?

“Our prices are just too high!”

question mark

How many times has a sales manager or business owner heard a salesperson sling that accusation? It is, in fact, so common, you begin to wonder if salespeople ever have anything to sell besides a lower price.

But, as clichéd as “our prices are too high” may sound, there is a much more significant problem behind the frustration that accompanies this all-too-common indictment. The reality is, when someone routinely complains about external circumstances (like pricing), it is crystal clear evidence that in a battle of two salespeople, they aren’t really selling. They are being sold.

Hold up. Two salespeople?

Absolutely right. When you, as a salesperson, sit down in front of a prospective customer, it is assumed – most likely by both parties – that the only salesperson in the room is you. That, however, would be completely wrong. The fact is, your prospects are selling you just as hard as you’re selling them.

The question is, who is selling whom?

Take a moment to put your personal circumstances in perspective. As a salesperson, you spend significant amounts of your time in front of prospective customers, and in those interactions you hear the same objections over and over:

“Your price is too high.”

“Your competitor will sell it to me for less.”

“We don’t have that much in the budget.”

“You’ll have to do better than that.”

“I can buy it for less.”

When you hear these complaints all day long, every single day, it soon begins to ring true. You hear it so often it MUST be true. After a while, the idea drills its way into your subconscious, and you begin to accept the premise – just because you hear it over and over and over. “Your prices are too high.”

On the other hand, for the average customer, a salesperson is a very, very small part of any particular day. It takes just a little while to listen to a sales pitch and authoritatively declare, “Your price is too high!” Then it’s back to work, none the worse for wear. And prospects are completely unaware of the psychological damage inflicted on poor, defenseless salespeople.

To be sure, there are times when your price is, indeed, genuinely higher than your competitor. So what? If your solution provides value or safety or certainty that your customer wants, then he or she will almost certainly pay a little more if you’ve done a good job of presenting those benefits. But not before they tell you – wait for it – your price is too high! That objection (almost) never changes!

The problem is that sales reps become convinced they must reduce their prices simply because a prospect says they must. But, think about it – isn’t that exactly what buyers are supposed to do? Ask for a better price?

Consider the buyer who is not an end user (think purchasing agent). They worry little about the actual performance of the product or service because they assume that what they are told to buy is adequate. Since they are paid to reduce costs and manage inventory, they will negotiate hard for the best price possible. They routinely leave inadequate, unprepared salespeople in a puddle on the floor, fully convinced that their price is undeniably, ridiculously – almost sinfully – too high.

Now consider those buyers who actually implement or use the product or service you are selling. Because of their personal involvement in the solution, they may express more concern about quality or performance or customer support, but they still want to get the best price possible on their purchase, don’t they? So what do they say? “Your price is too high.”

Why? Because asking for a better price works! Period. All a buyer has to do is look sideways at a salesperson and insist, “You’ll have to do better than that,” and the vast majority of salespeople will roll over and bark at the moon. Worse, if the buyer suggests that a competitor is more than ready to take the deal at a lower price, it is a lead pipe cinch that the salesperson will scurry back to the office to beg for price concessions.

Mission accomplished.

Prospects ALWAYS want the best price possible. That means that in a sales presentation, the prospect sitting across from the desk from you is selling you just as hard as you are selling them. They want a better warranty. Quicker delivery. Better terms. More support. In fact, they want it all. And, guess what?

“Your price is too high.”

The problem is that when salespeople approach a selling opportunity unprepared, lower prices are almost inevitable. Unprepared, and unable to make a compelling case for their solution, many salespeople are simply unable to justify their prices, making them an easy target for savvy negotiators.

To make sure that you’re not the one being sold in a presentation, the most important things you can do is differentiate yourself from the competition and prepare a compelling case for your solution. If you do so, and your solution is well-positioned to solve a problem or provide needed value, you will have enormous confidence in standing firm on your price. Believe me, in most cases, if customers really want your solution, they will find a way to buy it.

All you have to do is help them justify the purchase.

In the final analysis, you, the salesperson, are paid to persuade potential customers on the benefits of your products or services. On the other hand, buyers are tremendously motivated to sell you on reducing your price, especially in a weak economy.

The question is, who is selling whom?

Kelly Riggs is an author, speaker, and business performance coach for executives and companies throughout the United States, and is widely recognized as a powerful speaker and dynamic trainer in the fields of leadership, sales development, and strategic planning. He is also the founder and president of Vmax Performance Group, a business performance improvement company located in Broken Arrow, OK.

Kelly is a former two-time national Salesperson-of-the-Year with over two decades of sales management and sales training experience, including the development of two corporate sales training programs in two different industries. His first book, “1-on-1 Management™: What Every Great Manager Knows That You Don’t,” was released in 2008. His second book, “Quit Whining and Start SELLING: A Step-by-Step Guide to a Hall of Fame Career in Sales” was released in May 2013.

Photo credit: Gareth Simpson