Avoid Being Seduced by Empty Promises

Published on August 29, 2017

The act of seduction is not always about romance and sex; it happens in sales all the time. I remember going after a deal many years ago where the buyer was trying to seduce me into lowering my price in exchange for more business the following year. But guess what? I said no! I had fallen for this trick when I started out in sales and the reward never happened. In fact, the relationship deteriorated because I felt the buyer took advantage of me. I wasn’t going to be seduced with empty promises again.

As a Sales and Leadership expert, I have observed that discounting your price in exchange for future business or for other reasons is never in your best interests. Here is why:

  1. When you charge a lower price in exchange for a promise, it creates an expectation (as it should). When the expectation is not met, you get upset and the relationship heads south.
  2. When you discount, it is hard to raise your price to normal ranges later on. People almost always object to price increases, and you have already set your value with the discounted price. Just think how hard it is for you to increase prices when your actual costs are going up. It’s one of the hardest things for a sales exec to do.
  3. You train people on how to buy via your actions. If someone asks for a discount and you give it to them, you have just trained that buyer to keep asking for discounts, and her expectation is to get one.
  4. By discounting you are negatively impacting the value proposition you are selling.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t discount in exchange for volume. That’s perfectly reasonable. But the volume should be there at the beginning or the client should sign an agreement that calls for the increased volumes and for prices going back up if the volumes are not met.

The trouble is that sales execs, entrepreneurs, and providers of professional services are usually not disciplined enough to reject the seduction. They are particularly vulnerable if they are feeling pressure because their numbers are down, commissions are lower than expected, inventory levels are too high, or they have a weak pipeline and will take any deal that will close. But giving into that seduction offers only short-term results.

Tonight as I write this, 60 Minutes is running a story on the Cook County Jail in Chicago. The sheriff, Tom Dart, who runs the jail, instituted chess lessons for the inmates. When asked how this would help to reduce crime, Sheriff Dart explained that many people get in trouble because they only think about their initial actions without looking ahead to the consequences. Chess helps inmates think several steps ahead before they make a move that can cost them dearly. The inmates see the value and have thanked Sheriff Dart for helping them learn this critical skill. Imagine how much crime would drop if more people thought about the consequences before committing a crime.

The same goes for sales and influence. If you are truly out to Impact! your markets, customers, and employees, think ahead before offering a discount or other concessions. What will the consequences be?

You control your destiny—no one else does unless you allow them to. You have the power to act in the best interests of both the customer and yourself. Don’t put yourself at risk by promising things you cannot deliver or by accepting empty promises.