Clients often look shocked when I tell them I have no price list at a trade show. It intrigues them and they frequently stay for an interesting and fruitful conversation.
There is a mountain of information available on how to sell, and yet somehow, the price and pricelist are still the most common tools used by sales people. Obviously, this approach means the rates keep dropping and sales margins keep shrinking to almost nothing.
I’ve been involved in thousands of sales conversations, some face to face and others over the phone. Sometimes I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve picked up some useful tips along the way that taught me to provide real value to my clients. Allow me to share them with you.
Find out about your client
It should be obvious that you need to ask questions. However, we usually only speak about ourselves, our products and our services because we are very familiar and comfortable with these subjects.
Actually, the brutal truth is that clients are not too interested in us. They care about their situation and worry about their competitors. Get them interested by showing that you know their market. Talk about similar clients you already have and that you can help them, too. Move onto asking questions about their company needs, frustrations, targets, dreams, etc. Show them you know your stuff by asking good, knowledgeable questions that open them up. Hold back with your opinions at this stage. Keep asking, listen carefully and write down as much as you can so you can reference it later.
Step into your clients’ shoes
As the conversation continues, start to rephrase what you heard and repeat it to make sure that you understand it all correctly. You can also ask for more detail until you feel you really know your client’s situation. Focus on what they need and what they are aiming for. Try to imagine what your client is feeling, follow his train of thought. Basically, try to see things the way he does. Continue for as long as you are learning and the client wants to talk.
Offer concrete solutions
Process what you have learned and think about specific solutions that your product or service can provide to help your client fix their problems or achieve their goals. Present your ideas and watch if he thinks they would work. Discuss in detail the areas where your solutions would achieve the greatest wins relevant to his situation. The more you find to agree on, the closer you are to closing a sale.
Paint a new reality
In your discussion allow your client to show you how your suggested solution would help him. Guide him into visualizing it. Go ahead and share your success stories of other clients in similar situations and how your product helped them. Ask your client how his work would improve if he used a particular part of your offering. When selling a car to a man with 2 children, who has had an accident in the past, your question could be, “Would a powerful car that can overtake a big truck really quickly make you feel more secure?” If he answers positively, then you know he wants a car with a big engine. “When you are very busy and a new rush job comes in, would you like it to start automatically through a web portal?” Your client’s answer will show you his attitude towards a client web portal and automation.
Understand how much it is worth
It’s crucial to understand what the value of your offering is to your client. However, most salespeople are reluctant to ask their clients about specific amounts, numbers, and targets. May I suggest that you try to get this information by asking for it directly. If your conversation has been interesting so far, your client might be quite willing to share it with you. You could also try to guess the number (based on similar clients) and see what the reaction is. This normally opens people up and they might even share more details of how they calculate this value.
Lower your client’s risk, not your price
As you work your way to an offer and start negotiations, use your previous discussions as a source of information to provide a solution that shows how well you have understood your client’s needs. Use the data you have gathered about how much value your solution provides to show that your price is a great ROI. Throughout your negotiations, use all the knowledge you have gained to point out how much you are lowering the risk of project failure. As a rough guide, if your price is X, your client is actually gaining 10X. That’s why lowering the risk of failure to achieve their goal is far more convincing to them than lowering your price.