I’m sure you’ve heard it. You may have even said it… “We’re not the cheapest.” This statement bothers me. It’s bothered me as a customer. And it has bothered me as a business coach. In this blog post, I will share some insights to this seemingly innocuous statement that may be killing your small business. You will learn the source of price anxiety and how you can overcome price objections with your prospective customer.
The Sales Call
If you’ve set up a sales call with a prospective customer, you want them to buy your stuff. At some point, your prospective customer says something about your price. They may say, “that’s more that I was expecting.” Maybe they say, “I will need to get some other bids.” Or They say, “I’ve received better prices on the internet.”
You respond with, “We’re not the cheapest.” Or “You get what you pay for.” Or “Our quality is much better than others.”
Your prospective customer may not say anything in response. However, I will tell you what they are thinking. They’re thinking, “I can get better value elsewhere.”
What’s going on with you?
There is a natural tendency by salespeople and small business owners to be sensitive about price. We’ve all been there.
As a salesperson, you may have been hired to sell for a company. You are trained on the features, functions, and benefits of the stuff you’re selling. You’re then taught the sales process. Maybe you’re taught how to handle objections. You’re then given a price sheet to estimate the price you deliver to your prospective customer. Sweat starts rolling off your forehead as you wonder, “how on earth will I get a customer to pay THAT for my stuff?”
You then go on a sales call. Things are going great. You’re following the sales process. Your future customer loves you. You put together a proposal, just like you were taught. You present the proposal to the customer…. Hoping they will have some lapse of judgement and sign on the dotted line. Instead, they come up with a price objection. All you can do is respond with what your sales trainer told you, “we’re not the cheapest, but we have much better service and quality than others.” Your face turns red as you see the response from your prospect.
The Small Business Owner
As a diligent small business owner, you completed a business plan. You calculated what your widgets will cost. You estimated how many widgets you plan to sell. After all the math, you arrive at the price you must charge to make a modest profit. Sweat starts rolling off your forehead as you say, “I wouldn’t pay THAT.” You realize you have no choice. If you charge less, you’ll lose money.
The sales call happens, and sure enough, the customer comes up with the price objection. You’re convinced that your product is crap…. your price is too high… you must have made a math error… maybe your competition can get supplies for less… Then it happens, you say, “We’re not the cheapest.” Then you follow this admission up with platitudes like, “we are local”, “we give better service”, “we have superior quality”.
Price objections are the most common objection for a prospect to avoid buying your stuff. Here are a few of the sources of price objections.
Your prospect is formulating a price in their minds before you ever visit them to prepare a cost estimate. If it’s a home project, Mr. & Mrs. Smith sit down at the kitchen table and decide, “we have an extra $250 to replace our kitchen sink.” You quote them $550 to replace their sink. Their preconceived price clashes with your quote, and they react. Preconceptions come from an internet search, a low-ball bid, thin air, or any number of places.
All products and services have a perceived benefit in the eyes of the prospect. A business coach I know charges $60,000 for a single year of coaching. By itself, this seems outrageous when other coaches are charging $10,000 for the same thing. The one difference is that this coach guarantees his clients will achieve $20,000 per month revenue by the end of the first year. If you cannot equate the benefits that you offer with the price you're quoting, your prospect will naturally object to your price.
This seems obvious. Your prospect has received a lower price for the same widget from your competition. The reaction is very similar to the preconceived price. They have established a price in their mind based on your competitor’s proposal and react when you present a higher price.
This may sound odd to some and familiar to others. Some will react with a price objection as a matter of habit. They're convinced that there is always room for negotiation; and believe a price objection reaction is step one in their negotiating process.
There is a natural tendency for the general buying public to think they will be taken advantage of by a more knowledgeable supplier. This is especially true if you’re the only one providing a quote or bid for a high-priced item.
What Can You Do?
There are many things you can do to successfully work through price objections without sweat pouring off your forehead or turning red in the face.
It’s not Personal
The first step when faced with a pricing objection is to know that your prospect’s reaction is NOT personal. Your prospect may show an emotion of anger, frustration, or disappointment. This is not a personal attack… even if it manifests itself as one.
Price objections are the most common objection. Instead of worrying about someone asking about price, create confidence in your price. This can be done several ways:
Know your competition’s price and quality
Know that you're getting competitive prices from your suppliers
Understand how your price is calculated so that you know how to negotiate
This knowledge should give you confidence in your price and that you are offering the best price possible.
When salespeople say, “We’re not the cheapest.”, they believe that this implies their product is of greater quality than their competition. I’ve already discussed why this message is NOT the message received by a prospect. Instead of saying that you’re not the cheapest, communicate why your product is superior to competing products. Avoid platitudes like, “better service”, “better quality”, “local company”, etc. The specific benefit needs to translate into great value for your client. All companies say that they have better quality and service.
Here is a specific benefit: “Many widgets use plastic for critical components. We use stainless steel. The cost of stainless steel is triple the cost of plastic. The benefit to you is that our widget will last a lifetime; and their widget breaks within 6-months. The advantage to you is that you’re not replacing the widget every six months.”
Let’s face it, different customers have different means to pay; and have different quality expectations. If you only offer a superior option because you feel anything less is beneath you, you will lose customers who can’t afford your top-shelf product. Most businesses want to serve multiple clients who have different financial means.
If you offer a Bronze, Silver & Gold option, you are giving your prospect a choice. This choice tends to serve as an education tool. You can describe the advantages and disadvantages of each option. This is the best way to articulate quality; and can often avoid your prospect feeling like they need to obtain competing quotes.
If you show your prospect a $500, $1,000, and $1,500 option; and a competitor only quotes a $500 option, your prospect will guess that your competition is quoting the Bronze option to try to win their business.
Planting Price Seeds
Salespeople are taught to avoid giving out a price until you make your final proposal. While this may have some merit, it often backfires. Preconception is a powerful tool as we described above. As you’re talking with a prospect at the start, throw out some numbers to prepare your prospect for your final quote. If you use this tactic, it's wise to estimate high or use ranges. A statement like, “the type of sink you want typically runs between $300 to $700.” This will start your pricing discussion with your client early. You may either avoid doing extra work to draft a quote; or they may change their price expectation so that they aren’t shocked when the price is higher than their $250 budget. They may even be pleasantly surprised with your quote is $550 for the sink they want.
Sell with Integrity
Whether you’re a business owner or a salesperson, NEVER sell a product or service for more than it is truly worth. If you’re nervous about presenting price to a prospect, you either don’t understand the value of your product or service; or you are trying to cheat your prospective customer. Cheaters only prosper for short amounts of time, and they have trouble sleeping. Educate yourself on the value you offer and present your price with pride and confidence.
React with Curiosity
The most important tool in answering any sales objection is to “probe”. Probing is responding with curiosity instead of judgement. As we’ve discussed above, your prospect has several different reasons for objecting to your price. Here are some possible inquisitive responses:
“It seems like this was higher than you were hoping. What price did you expect?”
“Tell me more about X” where X is a mirror image their price objection.
“What can I do to help you understand the value we offer?”
Any reaction should be empathy and curiosity, instead of defensiveness and judgement.
If you follow some or all these recommendations, there’ll be no need to say, “We’re not the cheapest.”
I hope you’ve learned a few things about responding to price objections in this blog post. If you’d like to learn more about how I coach my business owner clients, please visit my website at www.mmbizcoach.com.