Several years ago Lanorris, an experienced blue collar sales inspector with a large national company, shared with me his account of responding to a lead in the small town of Americus, Ga., where a frantic homeowner had a face-to-face encounter with swarming termites. Like most folks in that situation he called three companies to come and provide estimates. Although Lanorris says he conducted a thorough inspection and assessment, and gave a complete presentation of his offering; the homeowner didn’t buy from Lanorris, but rather from a small, one-branch business with much cheaper prices.
That’s not the end of the story, as six months later in the fall of that year, Lanorris was asked to go back to Americus and meet with that same homeowner who had experienced an October termite swarm. Understandably the homeowner was livid as well as fearful. Lanorris discovered that the customer never received a contract, had no idea what materials were used, how they were utilized, or how much was applied. The homeowner admitted they made a decision on price alone and quickly realized they made a huge mistake. They became Lanorris’ customer that afternoon, although the investment to switch was hundreds of dollars more than what they paid six months earlier to the cheaper company. The best part of the story is that they are now happy, completely satisfied, and termite free.
Unless it’s your first week on the job, you’re already aware that less skilled sales people tend to sell on price. They aren’t great at probing to learn their prospects real needs. They sell services and products that aren’t constructed as well, have fewer performance functions, and are backed by less support.
One way these folks increase their odds is by doing everything possible to shorten homeowner’s evaluation and buying process timeframe. If you think about that for a minute, if you have a cheaper product that doesn’t function as well and isn’t supported like the premium providers are, you might nudge a lot of buyers into making a quick decision, by racing to show up first and then concluding your incomplete presentation by offering some type of “today only” discount. By pushing for a quick “now” decision you increase the likelihood that the inferiority of your offering isn’t discovered, and that the better value offered by competitors with stronger support and more comprehensive installation and service is never seen by the homeowner.
The key to selling premium products or services against el cheapo competitors is to expand the buyer’s competitive evaluation and decision process. This is the only way they will get exposed to the greater value and lower risk stuff you offer. A more complete competitive evaluation will also ensure that your homeowner will avoid a B.O.H.I.C.A. (Bend Over, Here it Comes Again), similar to what happened to Lanorris’ prospect mentioned at the beginning of this post.
So how do you accomplish this? Why not help your prospect understand how to evaluate both yours and your competitor’s proposals in terms of product functionality and performance, along with their service and support capabilities. Of course, you won’t be successful doing this unless and until you have built some measure of trust with your prospect so they are convinced that you are truly concerned with them making the best decision for their home or business by helping them evaluate and protect their best interests.
When you accomplish that posture, share with your prospect that over the years past customers have typically asked four basic questions as they navigate the decision making process. Tell them you will provide and answer those questions for them, and recommend that they ask each vendor/provider being considered to answer them as well.
- Provide written specifics of your solution. What makes you think this plan is the best one for me?
- How will you support me? Include your service call policy and any regular QA checks (provide proof).
- What’s my total cost? Are all the required accessories included in your quoted price?
- How much risk am I taking doing business with you? Please provide copies of all warranties.
Presenting these questions, and being able to provide strong answers to each of them is the best way to prove you are the lower risk, lower total cost and most effective solution for your customers, even when you have a higher price. But even when your price appears higher than the competition on the front end, make sure they know that everything you include is necessary and will ultimately save them money and more importantly reduce their risk.
In conclusion, a great statement to memorize and recite several times during every sales conversation goes like this, ”We provide the lowest overall cost of ownership over the life of the service/system.”
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