Everyone wants and deserves a good deal. But a ‘good deal’ doesn’t mean the cheapest price.

In sales, sometimes we default to providing a discount because in the absence of anything else, the easiest lever to pull is price. We’re trying to create a perceived additional value in the eyes of the customer. But offering a discount has a negative impact for several reasons:

  1. It costs you money. It’s coming off your commission, so is effectively coming out of your back pocket
  2. It’s coming off your quota, so it makes it harder for you to hit your numbers
  3. It reduces the perceived value of your solution.

Discounting does more subtle damage, too. It sets an expectation about price points for future engagements with that customer. Give a 10% discount and that customer will always expect a 10% discount.

Also, it can turn something into a predominantly commercial decision. Vendor A and vendor B have given us a discount, but vendor C has not, so we’ll remove vendor C from the short list.

The real problem with discounts is that it suggests an apples for apples comparison between all of the offerings a customer is looking at. But most often that isn’t the case, particularly in the B2B environment.

When any customer is making a buying decision, price and product need to fit. But there are many other criteria that are just as essential.

  • The quality of your people
  • Your purpose
  • How you manage risk
  • Your professionalism
  • References
  • How you understand customer needs.

It’s the final point that really helps unlock value. Success with meeting customer needs is all about the quality of the discovery phase, then demonstrating your capacity to deliver on the customer’s desired outcomes.

Discover and negotiate, don’t discount

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so is value. If you can understand what your customer values, you’ll be in a very strong negotiating position.

The best salespeople spend much more time on the discovery phase before they consider designing a solution. They recognise that by gathering information, by taking the time to truly understand what their customer wants, it puts them in a much better position when they have a price conversation.

What information should a salesperson gather? Obviously it begins with the customer’s wants and needs. The salesperson should research the customer’s business environment to discover internal and external factors and pressures, as well as risk factors.

What are the customer’s key priorities and why? What can they gain – personally, professionally, and as an organisation – when the engagement goes well? What could they lose if the engagement goes badly?

What are their prior experiences with other solutions and vendors? What worked well and what didn’t? What did they hate?

Tease out the information then figure out what exactly you can do to help provide for their needs. How can you reduce risk and bring greater certainty? All of a sudden, price is pushed to one side, because you have more valuable ideas to work with.

Of course, price will come up. But next time it will be as one ingredient in a far bigger recipe for success.

What sales success feels like

For the customer, when the salesperson is doing a good job of discovery it doesn’t feel as if they’re being sold to. Instead it feels as if they’re being helped, consulted, guided and advised by someone who is knowledgeable and genuinely interested.

Actually, it feels as if the salesperson isn’t focused on the sale at all. But by doing a really good job at each step, the salesperson earns the right to move forward whilst building a relationship of trust.

Success comes from curiosity, intelligent questions, probing for understanding and demonstrating a level of domain expertise.

At the end, when the salesperson puts together a commercial offer, the customer is given all the pieces so they can construct something highly tailored. It ticks all the boxes.

Then, when the customer’s procurement team says they want a 15% discount, the salesperson is in a strong position. They’ve constructed something based on everything the customer needs and if a discount is essential, they can begin discussing which valuable pieces should be removed from the proposal.

Accept that price will sometimes win

In the current environment, some businesses are incredibly financially constrained. Some may be looking for the absolute sharpest price, even if it means a sub-optimal solution.

In that scenario, you need to be aware of that and ask whether you want this business. Is it commercially smart, or would it be best to let this one go?

Even then, if you’ve done your job well there’s a good probability they want to go with you. We think people make rational, fact-based decisions, but a lot of the time they don’t. A lot of the time people decide with their hearts and justify with their heads.

In your own life, why do you go with a particular salesperson? Because you like them and trust them.

As I said at the beginning, everyone wants and deserves a good deal. How we give them a good deal depends on how we understand what they want. If you can construct a perfect solution for their needs, you can be the most expensive and still the best deal.

Cian McLoughlin is the Amazon #1 bestselling author of Rebirth of the Salesman, a regular keynote speaker at sales kick-off’s around the world and one of the Top 50 Sales bloggers in the world for the past 2 years. He is a passionate proponent of an ethical, honest and authentic approach to sales. His company, Trinity Perspectives, is committed to helping sales organizations unlock the latent potential of their customers’ insights with their Win Loss Analysis and Sales Transformation services. To read more of Cian’s sales articles visit www.trinityperspectives.com.au/blog

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