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Price Is NEVER The Only Decision Criteria!

by David Brock on April 15th, 2011

I have to admit being a little frustrated.  Over the past two weeks, I must have done a couple of dozen opportunity reviews and deal strategy sessions.

One of my usual questions, fairly early on, is:  What are their decision criteria and priorities?  100% of the time, the response is Price!  And I wait….. but there’s silence.

“Tell me something new, price is always an issue.  It may be their top issue, but it is never their only issue!  What other things are they going to base their decision on?”  Over 80% of the time, I get blank stares.  “We don’t know, they keep focusing on price.” is the response from the sales person.

Have you asked the question, “Other than prices, what is important in making this decision?”

Frankly, we don’t need sales people if the only issue customers are looking at is price.  We can handle virtually everything through Internet communications or perhaps a few phone calls.  Fortunately, that’s not the case in most of what we do.  Price will always be a key issue in every decision.  But we cannot stop there, we have to understand all the other issues and things the customer is going to consider in making their decision.  The customer needs to understand those as well, so our probing helps them better understand and shape their criteria and priorities.

In fact, price is only important after all the other customer needs and priorities have been met.  No one will buy the lowest price alternative if it doesn’t do the job.  Buyers are smart.  They realize when they make a decision, they are facing a number of trade-offs to solve their problems.  Price is one of those trade-offs.  It’s our job as sales professionals to put help the customer understand everything else, balancing those, the risk, total cost of ownership, the trust and confidence they have in the supplier and many other things against price.

Don’t let price be the only issue you identify.  Don’t stop your probing when the customer replies with that.  It’s their obligation to make Price the first words out of their mouths.  After they say that, respond, “I understand price is a critical factor.  What other issues are you considering in making this decision?”  Wait as long as it takes until you get an answer.

And please, please, please—for those of you who are reviewing your deal strategies with me next week, don’t tell me that Price is the only issue!  I’m likely to go postal!

Whew—thank you, I feel better now 😉

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  1. Dave,
    This reminds me of the “Chicken or the Egg” problem especially for complex products and services. How can a customer expect to get pricing if they haven’t disclosed their perceived issues? I think there is a way through this by using “sample pricing” to address a prospects need for early budget fit. Then, the prospect can hopefully focus his/her attention on solving the problem, not price.

    – Dale

    • Dale, thanks for the comment. Sample pricing is an approach in some areas. I worry, that both the customer and the sales person keep the discussion at pricing and not probe deeper to focus on real business value.

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