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Is Price the Real Reason You Lost the Sale?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015
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Stop for a moment and ask yourself: “Why did I lose the last few major deals I was working on?” If your answer is “price,” I’m going to challenge you to broaden your thinking. 

Price is the number one answer sales reps give for losing out on opportunities. However, when you peel back the onion, you find out that there is more to the answer.

Let’s consider a recent deal you just lost. Answer the following questions—honestly: 

  • What was the customer decision process?
  • What concerned you most about the decision process? What did you do about it?
  • What aspects of the customer’s decision process were you able to leverage in your favor?
  • What did you do to leverage your champions throughout the decision process?
  • What was said or done to make you believe your champion was really YOUR champion?
  • Who were your adversaries, and what was your strategy to neutralize them?
  • How did you leverage your champions to win over your adversaries?
  • What were the top three key influencers or critical-decision criteria?
  • Of the key decision makers, whose criteria mattered most?
  • What was your customer’s perception of your ability to meet their criteria as opposed to your competitor? 

Case in point: While working with the sales team of a Fortune 1000 product manufacturer, we asked the question, “Why do sales reps lose deals?” Not surprising, their number answer was “price.” We set out to validate that response. Maybe there was a chance that the pricing strategy of the product wasn’t correct. 
So, we presented a few questions to the customer that elected to purchase the competitor’s product. Our questions focused on two areas: customer’s decision criteria and the key decision makers in the process. 

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The first question we asked was, “Other than price, what other criteria was important in making your decision?” They told us the top five criteria they agreed upon were post-sale support, reliability, ease of use, safety, and price. 

We then asked: “When comparing my client’s solution to the competitor you chose, which of these criteria did you feel the competition was better matched?” Their response surprised us all. They said reliability and ease of use were the two most important criteria, even over price. In fact, they said they couldn’t afford to make a large investment into a product that wasn’t going to be reliable. They went on to say that if the product wasn’t easy to use, then their staff would not use it and productivity would not improve. 

The next question we asked them was: “Other than you, who was instrumental in the decision process?” We were given three names. We asked the same question to two other key decision makers and discovered “price” was never the most critical decision criteria. 

When we took this feedback to the sales rep and their manager, they were surprised. Even more, they were disappointed. They had industry reports proving that their product was the most reliable product on the market. They had references that could speak to the ease of use. 

More importantly, they found out that the information they received from their champion regarding who was involved in the final decision wasn’t correct. Unfortunately, this is a common scenario. Many sales reps don’t know the decision criteria, don’t know which criteria are most important to the customer, and they make too many assumptions, including that their champion is always right. 

Experienced sales reps often make too many assumptions. If you or your sales reps can’t effectively answers the questions that were listed in this blog, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your strategic opportunity planning process. 

About the Author
Steve Gielda is the principal partner at Ignite Selling, Inc., a global sales training and consulting company and author of Premeditated Selling: Tools for Developing the Right Strategy for Every Opportunity. Steve has spent more than 20 years helping Fortune 1000 companies in the healthcare, manufacturing, distribution, and IT industries to improve their sales performance. His emphasis on building and maintaining strong relationships and his focus on driving business results is what sets him apart with his clients. Steve began his career in sales with Lanier Worldwide, a document management solutions company, eventually becoming a regional manager. He was also vice president of sales and channel management at CTN, an office equipment manufacturing and distribution company. After CTN, Steve worked as a senior sales consultant for Huthwaite, helping to create unique sales training solutions for his clients. Most recently, he was a franchise owner with the Advantage Performance Group consulting and learning firm, and an active partner in building the business of Sales Momentum, a customized sales training organization.
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