One Thursday afternoon I was relaxing in one of my favourite coffee shops when I suddenly found myself giving my undivided attention to the conversation that was taking place at the next table. Some kind of transaction was clearly taking place and I was curious to see and hear where it would lead.
The person sitting with his back to me was saying, “No, it’s far too expensive. There’s no way I’m going to pay that much.” He then asked, “Is that your best price?”
The other person, facing both the buyer (and, without knowing it, me as well), rather than defending his position (and his price) said, “Well, maybe not. I’m sure we can agree on a price.”
It took milliseconds for the price to drop to the level which the buyer had in mind and the two had a deal. Both seemed happy but, in my estimation, the price wasn’t the only thing that fell sharply; with it sank the seller’s trustworthiness as well as his company’s profitability.
My experience has shown me that average and unprepared salespeople tend to drop their prices without a second thought. Great salespeople, in contrast, are Trusted Advisors who aim to prove that the price they are quoting represents great value and the product/service will help the buyer solve problems. Their detailed knowledge of what they are selling gives them confidence which, in turns, manifests itself in their intonation and body language, elevating their performance into that of a trusted advisor rather than a salesperson. Dropping your price is the easy – and lazy – way to sell. It doesn’t have to be that way and it should not be that way.
Stand by your price
In the early days of my career as a speaker and a trainer, I was approached by a highly respected company and asked if I could address their team. When they asked me how much my services would cost – something that I avoided answering until the end of our meeting – I named a price which, I knew, was three times that of most of my competitors. Not surprisingly, they then asked me to provide them with some testimonials. At the time, many other less expensive speakers were quite high-profile and very experienced. I told them honestly and directly that this would actually be my first ever experience of addressing a crowd… but I had been practising for it non-stop over the previous 10 years! The Head of Sales clearly saw the spark in my eyes and the confidence in my overall stance and manner and he decided to give me the chance. Yes, he paid three times the amount that my experienced competitors were asking for but, thanks to that opportunity (and that well-rehearsed delivery that went magnificently well), he and his staff were delighted and my career as a speaker and a trainer in 16 countries began.
If you want to be a Trusted Advisor, you should
Listen more than you talk
Trusted Advisors know why they have two ears but only one mouth and they listen intently, gathering and extracting data and information that they can use – like great lawyers – to build their case. They are on a mission: one that starts by identifying their customer’s needs and then discovers how those needs can be best served through their products and services.
Reply with questions and statements
Trusted Advisors understand that price is a battle fought in the customer’s mind and is probably going to be the first or second issue raised. When asked about prices early on in the selling process (before they have had the chance to prove the value of the product/service in question), they will never bluntly reply with a figure. In my seminars, I often advise that salespeople should respond by telling their customer, “It doesn’t cost anything if it doesn’t fit your needs.” With adequate time to explain the connection between the value and the price, Trusted Advisors will always make the price seem less significant.
Prove value before you mention the price
Price has a direct correlation to value: the higher the perceived value, the higher the acceptable price will be. Trusted Advisors do not feel a need to discount because they believe in what they are selling and so they know how to promote the value of their product or service and its particular usefulness to the customer. Most of us have a fixed budget, of course, but our resistance to paying melts away when we are convinced that we are buying something whose value is far greater than its price. I suggest you read one of my all-time favourite books, “The Ultimate Sales Machine” by Chet Holmes.
Walk away if you must
More than 20 years ago, my father gave me a priceless piece of advice that has withstood the test of time. He told me, “If you feel you have to make the sale, then the customer has the advantage. If you don’t feel that it’s necessary at all costs, then you have the advantage. Be willing to walk away from a deal. You might lose the sale but you will enhance your reputation and appear even more trustworthy.” I have seen the truth and wisdom of these words over and over again.
It has been said that customers will walk away if they fail to see the value in the price they are being asked to pay. Trusted Advisors demonstrate that value. If a company were to reduce by 50% the discount that it allows its salespeople to offer customers, this would have two results: (a) Half of them would fail and (b) the other half would soon be on the way to becoming Trusted Advisors. They would stay up longer at night, studying not only their own company’s products and services but those of the competition too. Where possible, they would go so far as to check out their prospective customers on social media and learn a few things about them in preparation for their meeting.
So, if you are in sales, you need to work hard on becoming a Trusted Advisor by getting to know everything about what you are selling and finding the way to show your customers that you have a great value product or service that will make their lives better.
If you are not in sales, I hope you will bear the above tips in mind when you next go shopping. If the salesperson has not yet graduated to becoming a Trusted Advisor, you may find yourself a bargain – but make sure that you have studied what you’re planning to buy so that you know it’s right for you.