Igniting Workplace Enthusiasm

Sales Is Easy, So Why Do We Make It So Hard?


The object of a sale is to exchange a good or a service for money. The degree to which that money can exceed the variable and fixed costs associated with delivering it, determines the success and longevity of the company. We all know that nothing happens in business without a sale. If that is the case then salespeople have a critical role to produce as much revenue as possible for the firm. There are prices set for goods and services. Goods are tangible items and plotting the costs and the margin of profit are relatively straight forward. Buy low and sell high is an old business maxim. Services are more difficult to price because they are intangibles. In both cases, the value proposition of the price against what is being delivered, is the communication piece that salespeople have to master in order to be successful.

Imagine my surprise, as an expert in sales training, when I meet salespeople who have not spent even one second trying to master the bridging of the gap between value and cost. Sitting in the audience at a speaker event, next to a thirtyish Japanese sale’s guy, I was astounded by a few things he said as we discussed selling over lunch. I was interested in hearing what his sales process was. He didn’t really understand my question because he had no defined process. He had been selling for this firm for seven years so he was an experienced salesperson.
He contacts a lead, gets an appointment, shows up and explains the service and submits a quote, he told me. Really? On the blank side of meal menu, I mapped out the elements of the sales process for him. Prepare for the meeting and focus your intention on one thing – getting the re-order, not just the solitary sale. Build trust through establishing rapport. Create interest by asking extremely well designed questions to understand the client’s needs. Now tell the client whether we can help them or not and if we can, explain the how of our solution. There may be points of insufficient clarity, concerns, hesitations or downright objections to what we are proposing. We need to deal with those before we proceed to ask for the order, and then we do the follow up to deliver the service or good.
He was impressed by this structural approach to the sales call, as he should have been, because he was doing it the hard way. Having a roadmap makes the whole process much easier for both buyer and seller. I then asked him what does he do when the buyer says, "too expensive". His answer had me reeling. With a cherubic mien, he told me he offered to "drop the price". Incredulous, I asked "by how much do you usually drop it?". He quoted 20% as the number. There were four other sales people in that team and if that is how they roll over there, then that is an expensive first response to client pushback on pricing.
Here is the snapper – do you know what is happening inside your team? Are they also dropping the price immediately as their first counter to an objection on the money? If they are then there is a huge amount of firm success and longevity being strewn on the ground here. What a waste.
He was an experienced guy but that was the best he could come up with? Why would that be? He didn’t have any other knowledge about how to deal with that type of situation. Do you think price comes up fairly regularly in sales conversations with buyers? Of course it does, so how could this continue like this, as if it were acceptable. That is the point, in Japan, these types of low levels of sales professionalism are the norm and not the exception. It is tolerated because everyone is the same – hopeless.
He should have said, "why do you say that" when told it was too expensive? Was the price objection genuine, a ruse, sport negotiation, time bound, or irrelevant because they haven’t seen enough value yet to understand the price point? There will be one highest priority element in the too expensive objection. It might be the actual volume of cash involved, budget allocation timings, internal competing project competition concerns, etc. Which one is it – we need to know.
I have been told "too expensive", which I recognise is a short form summary of a host of reasons for not proceeding. When I questioned the why, it was a "budget issue". Now as sale’s professionals we have to dig deeper, "why is it a budget issue?". "Because that number will exceed our budget allocation for that quarter".
That means it is not too expensive after all. It is just too expensive if paid in one quarter but fully capable of purchase if the payments are split across quarters. Except you would never know that, if your response was to drop your price by 20%. Would you be willing to help the client out and split the payments across quarters? I would guess you would prefer that to having to drop your price.
The moral of this story is to take a very detailed look at what your salespeople are doing. Don’t confuse seven years of sales experience with one year of experience seven times. Also, don’t imagine that they have a process, that they know how to explain the value or to deal with objections. Based on what we see in our sales training classes and talking with clients, in japan, the chances of that being the case are very, very low.



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