Five ways customers tell us how to sell – VIABILITY warnings

Listen and look.  The customer’s words and actions can make it very clear what your next best action is.  Customers aren’t bashful about telling us how they want to be sold to.  When we unclog our minds from all the lessons on how we should sell, we can hear those next best actions that customers define for us.

This is especially the case in the area of VIABILITY because at this point we have the customer’s attention.  VIABILITY discussions take many forms but often turn to cost.  However, depending on who is giving the feedback the next best sales action can be very different.  One size doesn’t fit all.  Here are the 5 instructions we’re getting when we hear “Your product is too expensive.”

From a key decision maker who is in our camp – This means there is uncertainty about the benefits the customer will get from buying our offering.  The next best action for the sales person is to revisit the expected results with decision makers, understand where they are uncertain and address that area of uncertainty.  (Note:  Getting feedback from this category of customer means their concerns could be warranted leaving us with the decision whether or not to risk a long-term relationship by selling something that isn’t a fit.)

From a key decision maker who is not in our camp (aka – The Customer Competitor) – These are people who are late to the party and likely refused to meet with us early on.  This is usually someone who wins if the competition wins and their sudden engagement means we’re getting close enough that they’re uncomfortable.  Their goal with the feedback can be to discourage us or help the competition.  Either way they can tell us how we can help them win.  The next best action is to correct any misinformation being shared, getting them included in key meetings or adding a proposal element that is clearly for their benefit.  Basically, give them visibility as an influencer in the proposal.

From a customer coach – This is someone who may not be a decision maker but who clearly wins when we win.  They’ve been helping us all along.  The fact that our coach is raising concerns means cost/benefit questions are surfacing a lot in internal meetings which is an early sign that we may need to clarify or adjust elements of our proposal.  The next best action is to understand where the feedback is coming from and ensure the right information and analysis is delivered to the right people.

From a partner – If a solution or channel partner is saying we’re too expensive it could mean two things.  It could be that their margin is negatively affected by our offering.  Price may be the culprit but it can also be timing, deployment requirements, late changes, etc.  We need to find out.  The second indication is that the competition intends to lower their price or the competition is using our cost as a key selling point with the customer.  The next best action is to understand which issue is being raised and turn the discussion with the customer and partner back to results and benefits.

From a procurement manager – If the feedback is coming late in the process it means we’re close to a win but we haven’t articulated a win for the procurement team yet.  If we haven’t yet engaged them, negotiating price is most often their tool of choice.  The next best action is to share the benefits analysis with the procurement manager with the intent of getting their feedback to enhance the final report for the decision maker.  Good procurement managers will always have new knowledge that we can build into our analysis if they see a win in doing so.  The win, as with the customer competitor, doesn’t have to result in us lowering price.  It may be things like adjusting our schedule, payment terms or, helping them become part of the decision maker’s inner circle. 

The customers know how they want to be sold to.  Listen carefully and they’ll tell us what our next best action is.

©2013 Rick Wong – The Five Abilities™, LLC


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