"How much will this cost?"
Many sales people shudder when faced with this question. They stutter, stammer, and hem and haw. This is where the rubber hits the road and when the prospect will either give them the green light to move forward with the sale or say, "thanks but no thanks". Far too often, sales people feel uncomfortable talking about the price of their offering fearing that their prospect will put the brakes on the buying decision if the price of their product or service is perceived as being too high. They unconsciously flinch-mentally or physically-when responding and this hesitation is quickly noticed by the buyer.
Over the years I have learned that the sooner price is discussed in a conversation, the more of a focal point it becomes. If you have not fully uncovered your prospects problem and determined exactly how your product or service can help them solve a particular business issue, then your price will always seem too high unless you are the lowest priced supplier in the marketplace. The key to responding to this question is to establish the value BEFORE you discuss price. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people who sell a product or service fail to achieve this which means that their efforts to move the sale forward often ends up in failure. The most fatal mistake is to state the cost to your prospect too early in the sales conversation.
Here are few strategies to use in future sales calls or meetings.
First, if your prospect asks this question before you are prepared to respond, you need to defer your answer. This sounds easy but in the real world it can be extremely challenging to actually execute. I remember talking to a prospect about coaching services and one of his first questions was, "How much do you charge?" While the price of coaching is relatively consistent from client to client, each person has different motives for utilizing this type of service. I knew that stating my fee too soon would likely cause my prospect to balk so I said, "It would be unfair for me to state a price without knowing more about your particular situation. Let me ask you a couple of questions and then we can discuss the investment."
Your goal is take control of the sales conversation and you do that by asking high-value questions. The specific questions you need to ask will vary depending on the type of solution your company offers. It is essential to invest enough time learning about your prospect's situation so you can effectively position your solution. This sounds fundamental; however, after working with sales people for the last fourteen years, I have discovered that most people do not ask enough high-value questions.
In order to establish the value or worth of your solution you need to learn how the problem they are facing affects the performance of the company. This can be expressed in terms of sales, profits, employee turnover, order accuracy, customer retention or satisfaction, time to market, market share, etc. Learn to ask tough, high-value questions that will help you understand the impact of the problem. Most sales people are uncomfortable asking deep, probing because they believe that their prospect will think that they are prying. However, personal experience has taught me that most key decision makers respect sales professionals who ask tough questions. Once a prospect expresses a problem, you can ask questions such as:
"How is that affecting...?"
"What impact is that having on customer loyalty, market share, etc.?"
"What is that costing you in terms of lost sales, profitability, etc.?"
"How important is this compared to other projects you have on your plate right now?"
"If we had an appropriate solution what would that mean to your company or you personally?"
After you have determined the importance and the impact of a particular problem, you can then demonstrate the worth or value of your product or service to your prospect. Not before.
Another challenge with this approach is that it takes time. You need to exercise patience. You need to be able to clearly demonstrate why your offering is worth the investment. If you discuss price too soon then everything you say afterwards will seem like you are trying to justify the cost. However, when you demonstrate how your product will benefit the company and or prospect, your price will appear as a fair and equitable investment.
Remember, there is a significant difference between cost and worth. Here is a simple comparison. A low-end, entry level car will get you from point A to point B. However many people will pay extra to do that drive in a luxury vehicle. Business-to-business selling is no different. Help your prospect see the value and worth of your product, service or solution and cost (or price) will become less of an issue.
About the Author:
Kelley Robertson, author of The Secrets of Power Selling helps sales professionals close more deals in any economy.
© 2009 Kelley Robertson, All rights reserved.