I still remember my first sale. I was 20 years old when I called the travel editor of the Toronto Star and asked if he would be interested in a story I had written about a bus trip I had just taken with three friends all over North America. It was one of the scariest things I’d ever done. (The phone call—not the trip.)
The editor gave me an encouraging “Sure, we’ll look at it,” so I quickly wrote the story and sent it in. Two nail-biting weeks later, they published it. Everyone I knew was thrilled—and asked me how much I’d been paid. All the excitement dissipated when I sheepishly admitted, “I don’t know.”
After not hearing from the Star for another week, I called and awkwardly asked, um, if they were going to pay me. The editor said they were sending me $50. Today, I look at that incident as the best kind of lesson—where you learn something important and still get a cheque.
The lesson I learned was that the moment of truth comes not when you sell a prospect on your product or service—but when you’ve agreed on the price. Can you get market value for your widgets? Will you make a profit on your services after you’ve subtracted costs and time? Anyone can get a sale; the art is getting it at your price. And these days, that’s harder than ever, with input costs rising even as more and more customers are squeezing their budgets and looking for deals.
Since my bus-riding days, I’ve learned that getting your price is a three-step process. First, ask lots of questions to understand fully your clients’ needs, wants and pains, to determine what kind of help you can give them (and to assess how big a budget they’ve reserved for you). Then, using the intelligence you’ve gathered, promote the value of the solution you’re selling. Make sure your customer understands how your product or service will meet not just their immediate needs but continue to create new value and opportunities. Only then do you bring up price—and, if you’re smart, you’ll offer options such as gold and silver packages or deferred payment plans, that let customers save money up front without asking uncomfortable questions about discounts.
The shameful secret of business is that while everyone knows this process, it is rarely executed well. Salespeople fail to do their research, or get so excited about their products that they forget to ask questions. Customers do their part by rushing to ask about price before they understand the full value of your solutions. And then there’s the biggest problem: salespeople who get so beaten down on price that they lose all confidence in their pricing. Customers can smell the fear six blocks away.
How do you reassert control over the sales conversation and stiffen the backbones of your sales reps? I recently found a great document to help you and your staff get your mojo back. It’s a freebie “special report” compiled by the weathermen at RainToday.com, a Massachusetts-based website that specializes in selling professional services. Forget that the last three e-books you downloaded were poorly scribbled sales pieces, not worth the paper to print them out on. This 39-page report offers 12 credible sales experts penning their best advice on one simple topic: “The One Piece of Advice You Need to Get the Fees You Deserve.”
Whether you’re selling services, software or sandwiches, these writers offer the reinforcement you’re looking for. Here’s Mark Burton, author of the new book Pricing with Confidence: 10 Ways to Stop Leaving Money on the Table, on beating the discount habit: “To dislodge any deep-rooted attitude, replace it with another. Arrogance—feeling good about your products and services—will help you kick the discounting habit. You work hard and provide great value for your clients. You deserve to get paid for it!”
Here are a few more pointers from “Get the Fees You Deserve:”
n “Apply one of three simple pricing strategies. Know when to price high, when to price low and when to price close to the competition. To create confidence in your prices, strategies must be simple and agreed to by everyone in the firm. Pick a strategy and stick to it.” (Mark Burton)
n “Developing a mutual understanding as to the cost of a critical issue or problem is a mark of a true professional salesperson. It’s the best way to prevent stalls and handle price objections before they ever come up.” (Jeff Thull, president and CEO of Minneapolis-based management consulting firm Prime Resource Group)
n Why not create a Chief Value Officer “in order to centralize the pricing function and make it a core competency within your firm? Someone who understands the value your firm is creating for the client. Someone who is a professional pricer and understands that clients are not price-sensitive, they are value-conscious.” (Ronald J. Baker, founder of the California-based think tank VeraSage Institute)
Want more? Download the report for free at http://xrl.us/oozho. Share it with your staff. Embrace the arrogance.