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Many salespeople send a misleading message

Bill Lee sales & operations

When you make a sales call on prospective customers, do you ever offer to show them a few prices to help convince them that your company is competitive?

When you sense that a prospect might be interested in doing business with your company, do you ever offer to do a full-blown material takeoff for them complete with prices and specifications?

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Well, you have plenty of company. The most popular tactic salespeople use to get their foot in the door of a prospective account is to flash a few prices or to offer to do a detailed take off.

When you do share prices with your prospect, are you ever guilty of shaving a few points of gross margin off the prices in your price book to make your prices look more favorable than they really are?

If you answered yes to these three questions, don’t feel too badly because this is the way many salespeople approach the possibility of adding a new entry to their book of business.

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They are doing something else that is even worse for the long-term health of a new relationship. They are assuming that their service is equal to or better than the prospect’s current supplier can offer. When you have lost customers in the past, was it more often because your prices were too high or was it because you or your company dropped the ball from a service perspective?

Patience is not a dominant personality characteristic for most salespeople. They jeopardize their relationship with prospects long before they ever become customers by trying to speed up the sales process by bending the truth or ignoring the importance of service integrity.

Rarely will salespeople ever develop a genuine relationship with customers who are doing business with them because of low-ball pricing. Unless your company’s marketing strategy is to have the lowest prices in the market, you are shooting yourself in the foot by luring a new customer into your camp with a benefit you cannot maintain.

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I suggest you change your sales strategy. Win your prospects over by patiently getting to know them and helping them to become more effective businesspeople who own and operate more profitable businesses. This is the source of long-term loyalty. Nine out of ten supplier reps who walk in their door or onto their job-site use price as a sales tool. So be different, bring your prospects tangible solutions to real life business problems they likely struggle with.

When I first became a salesperson, I also led with price. I would prematurely quote prospects largely because I didn’t know anything else to say or do. I didn’t know enough about business to use business acumen as my advantage. I assumed that all prospects used price as their primary criterion for selecting a supplier.

I felt pretty sure my prospects liked me, but I was not at all sure they respected me. In fact, looking back on what I knew about business at that time, I can’t imagine that my prospects looked forward to my sales calls because at that point in my career, I hadn’t learned enough about sales to speak intelligently about the ins and outs of business. I would kill time talking about sports before quoting a few prices and then move on down the road. Here are the words of wisdom that became my guidepost: “What I am to be, I am now becoming.”

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