Have You Justified Your Value Lately?

Published on March 2, 2004

Picture this. A buyer for a customer you have been dealing with for 20 years calls you and questions why they are paying so much more for your product when the competition is offering it for less. They request you come in and explain yourself. When most salespeople get this kind of call, they usually go through some of the following emotions:

  1. Anger- Why does this customer force me to go through this exercise every so often? Don’t they understand the value we have to offer?
  2. Fear- Just hearing the customer is looking at cheaper alternatives immediately gives the impression you are about to lose the business.
  3. Confusion- Your mind starts wandering through all of the reasons you can think of that led to this situation. Most of these thoughts are not based on reality, just your perception, which, in most cases, is not correct. You feel the need to ride to the rescue of your company and completely dominate the meeting with all of the reasons why the customer should continue to use your products and services.

Rodger Ekstrom went through a lot of these emotions when he recently received such a call. But Rodger did not allow his emotions to taint his response. Instead, he removed all emotion so he could logically sit down and plan out his response. He realized that yes, the competition was coming in with lower prices, but not necessarily with the same product. When you combine his product with the value added services they offer, the actual value proposition is much higher for the customer versus what they would be getting from the competition.

Rodger knew he must get a meeting with all of the buying influences. He managed to get the following people from the customer to attend the meeting: The owner, sales mgr, yard mgr and buyer. Instead of defending his price, he started the meeting by asking what, if anything, has changed for the customer. He asked the owner where his company was going and the challenges it faced. From those answers, he managed to re-align the direction of the customer with the value proposition he had to offer. Rodger also asked the owner how they want their customers to think of them. The answer was being the best at what they do. This allowed Rodger to connect himself with the customer by being the vendor that supplied the best products and services to a company that wanted itself to be considered the best in the industry. Leaders like buying from leaders.

Finally, Rodger asked one last question: Do they sell their products for the cheapest price? The answer was no and the reason was they had value to offer.

Having turned this situation around, Rodger not only succeeded in keeping the business, but he actually increased the revenues by capturing a bigger share of the customer’s business. The next time a customer challenges you on price, don’t limit the discussion to price. Otherwise, you have no room to go but down. Re-visit the customer’s goals, their challenges, and position your value proposition to powerfully address these goals. And most importantly, don’t let the emotion of the situation impact your response. Remove the emotion and logically attack the situation. As Milton Gralla, one of my mentors said, “The only time you are guaranteed to have 100% of your customers attention is when they call you with a problem”. Rodger solved his customer’s problem, and like Milton, he did it so well that the customer was open to expanding the relationship.

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