Sales Challenges: How to Get From Price to Profit
You book a flight to Los Angeles. You board the plane. The plane lands. You disembark, walk into the terminal and ask, “How do I get here?” Frustrated, you fly home. A day later, you board another flight for LA. Once again, you are shocked to find yourself in the city of Angels. You fly home even more frustrated. Why does this keep happening? You don’t want to be in LA. You want to be in Boston.
Airplanes are pretty good about reaching their destination. The airlines, for all their faults, tiny seats and surcharges, have an almost flawless record of arriving at the intended airport. You are virtually guaranteed to arrive at the city named right there on your ticket. The only way to end up in a different place is to book a different flight.
Makes sense, right?
Why, then, are you surprised when the destination of your “I can save you money” sales call is as consistent as landing in Los Angeles over and over again? Every time you connect with someone and your offer is accepted, it ends up that your price is too high. No sale.
To figure out why you keep ending up in LA is easy. You retrace your steps until you get to the part that needs to be changed. If you do a better job of planning your trip, you can reach a different destination. Otherwise … well, you know.
5 Steps Leading to Failure
Let’s use that same thinking to figure out why you consistently end up disappointed as a sales rep.
Step 5: The buyer says, “Your price is too high.”
Step 4: Just before that, you made a presentation and ended it with, “Here is my quote.”
Step 3: The stage prior involved the buyer handing you something to quote on.
Step 2: That happened after you asked, “Can I give you a price on something?”
Step 1: And at the beginning of it all, you started the process by calling the buyer and saying, “The purpose of my call is to introduce my company and talk to you about how I can save you money on your printing.”
Makes sense, right? Your goal was to win business by dazzling the prospective customer with a “Wow!” price. That approach might have worked in the ’80s (okay, it did work and I know it did because I sold print in the ’80s) but the price ship has sailed.
See these five steps on a timeline for a second. Envision a chart with Step 1 on the far left and Step 5 on the far right. Step 1 is full of hope, but Step 5 delivers the reality of this dead end. You are in a price-based conversation, given there is always a lower price out there, and you are headed for disappointment. But, hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you’ll get lucky and win the order. Congratulations! But don’t expect a high-five from the boss when you announce that, by stripping all profit from a job, you’ve opened a new account.
Different Approach for Success
You need a different approach. You need a different message. Only then can you arrive at a different place and expect a different outcome.
Change #1: Your New Flight Pattern
In order to end up in an ideal (read: profitable and repeatable) situation, your first step is to move up the food chain and away from purchasing. You want to go where the decision-makers are, not the order takers. You want to be evaluated based on the merit of your ideas and not the numbers next to the dollar sign on that proposal.
To achieve that and to get from price to profit, you need to move from sell to solve. You need to consider business needs and not print needs. This change of focus results in shift from specs to purpose, from quantity to solution.
The good news is, you already have the template for success. When calling on a buyer, whether consciously or unconsciously, you think to yourself, “Buyers are interested in low prices, good quality, and on-time deliveries. They want good communication and reliability.” Next, you direct your comments and general sales approach with those qualities in mind.
Let’s take that same thinking and apply it to your new BFF — the decision-maker. The job title might be president or VP of marketing or product manager. It’s at this level new profit opportunities for the company are considered.
It’s here where the direction of the company is determined. This is the conversation you want to be in. This is your new destination. You just need to know what to say that speaks to those needs.
Okay, now that we have made the first necessary adjustment and you’re making a sales call on a higher level contact, let’s talk about using a higher level approach.
Change #2: Your New Itinerary
Do you remember when you were a kid and you’d ask for a treat, only to hear your mother say, “What’s the magic word?” Wouldn’t it be great if magic words were the key to success here, too?
All you’d need to do is figure out the sales version of “pleeeeeease,” and doors would open. You’d be sitting with that decision-maker thinking, “The only thing that would make this better is if there was ice cream, too.” Well, I can’t help with the ice cream, but what I can do is give you a template for the words that will magically get you that appointment.
If the flight that ends in, “Your prices are too high” launches with, “The purpose of my call is to save you money,” then the profitable sale requires a new purpose. You’re going to need a new message. What can you do to help them solve a problem? Launch a product? Make a trade show successful?
It’s using, “I sell” language that brings attention to the wrong area. By switching to, “I solve,” you change the narrative. It’s also a lot more welcoming on the other end. Think about it as a consumer: let’s say you walk into a car dealership and the salesman walked over and said, “I can sell you that car or that car or that car.” You reply, “but which one is right for my needs?” It’s like you’re talking two different languages.
Conversations with decision-makers need to be about ideas for driving revenue. Tell them stories about how you’ve helped others. Ask them questions about their plans or their markets. Peruse their website and look for clues as to where they are headed and what their challenges might be. Find out what really keeps them up at night, and then make it your goal to convince them that you have the answers.
Without question, it is harder these days to make contact with a potential customer than ever before. It’s also far more likely your, “I can save you money” sales call will be deleted before the client hears the second syllable of the word, “money.”
Customers are looking for new ideas. They want help with growth. They want a fresh approach. They are in the tower acting as air traffic control with planes hovering all around. Yours is one of them. Make a better call to a better contact with diligence, pleasant persistency, and you will be cleared for landing.
Bill Farquharson is a respected industry expert and highly sought after speaker known for his energetic and entertaining presentations. Bill engages his audiences with wit and wisdom earned as a 40-year print sales veteran while teaching new ideas for solving classic sales challenges. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault, are available at salesvault.pro.