In our recent white paper The Ultimate Guide to Sales Negotiations, we discuss how people often view the negotiation process as adversarial. They think that, for one side to win, the other must lose. This frequently arises from the mistaken notion that a negotiation is all about money. While we certainly cannot dismiss money from a sales negotiation, and one must always be cognizant of discounting and pricing, there are other things to address. Of course, a discount can be a tempting solution to achieve a quick sale, but this may not be advantageous for longer-range goals, like building relationships or maintaining certain margins with accounts. Rather than lower their price, the best sales professionals know it’s better to sell value and provide more for the cost. When negotiating, here are eight ways to add value:
Understand the Customer’s Needs
For many customers, the knowledge they have selected the right solution is more important than price. This often comes from dealing with a sales professional who understands their needs. The best sellers research the customer, their organization, and their industry and are prepared to discuss strategies to address these needs. Here, it is essential sellers don’t jump ahead in the process and present solutions before they reassure the customer. Most buyers will gladly pay a few dollars more for the security of a seller who gets them.
Along with understanding needs, sellers should present options. As all customers are unique, one-size-fits-all solutions may not work. They also send the wrong message and can come across as arrogant, “This is what we sell; this what you’ll get.” Options make customers feel valued and appreciated. Think of the difference in presentation, “For customers who want a little more, we have the deluxe package. For those who don’t need as much, we have the standard, which we call ‘the classic.’” Ideally, you should also provide customizable solutions that combine features to fit a customer’s unique needs.
Know Your Competitor’s Offers
Value does not exist in a vacuum. It must be judged in relation to something else. Sellers should demonstrate they know their competition’s products and services, how they work, how much they cost, how long they last, and the incentives provided. Without knowing these things, customers will lack a genuine understanding of the seller’s solution. They can walk away thinking all products are essentially equal, so they can just pick the least expensive. Remember, too, that any comparison to a competitor should not be disparaging. Their products don’t have to be inferior for yours to be the better value.
All sellers know, some customers just want to feel special. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re hard to please or even difficult to work with. Often, they just like knowing they’re doing their due diligence, exploring options, being cautious. For these, it helps to be more flexible. This can be something simple, like checking in frequently or adding a personal touch. Or it can be extra, like rearranging your schedule at the last minute or redoing the shipping manifests—for the third time. Often, these things can’t be quantified in price alone.
Having the best products and services doesn’t mean anything if you can’t get them implemented and ready to use. Of course, part of this is shipping, and sellers need to be aware of the myriad of options to find the best value. However, it can also be organizing and empowering the team needed to bring your solutions to life, like identifying the right people and creating a work-flow process. This can be complicated by tech requirements, but the sooner your solution is up and running, the sooner your customer can start seeing the benefits.
Greater Customer Support
No matter how reliable a product, customer support is essential. This goes directly to a customer’s “what if” concerns that can keep them up at night. For most, the larger the purchase, the greater this fear. To address it, sellers should ask how much a customer would pay for peace of mind. Customers want to know that someone will answer their calls and be able to help. Of course, in B2B sales, customers are not negotiating with their own money, but when their livelihoods are tied to their budgets, they know the value of great customer support to the overall price they pay.
Along with customer support, warranties are a great additional value. The best sellers know they are only one highway closure, severe storm, or act of God away from a broken promise. That’s why warranties exist. In a negotiation, sellers should go point by point with buyers to illustrate how they provide value over the long run. Present them with a list of if/then scenarios that cover their bases. Remind them how warranties protect their investment. Most buyers will see for themselves how warranties add value and offset concerns over cost.
Ideally, all sales negotiations should work toward forming long-term relationships. However, this can take time. In an initial sale, there can be trust issues to work through, with buyers and sellers testing each other. Sellers can support this process by emphasizing their history of integrity. Those sales professionals with a track record of case studies and testimonials do more to show who they are and what they can do. This forms the trust needed to develop partnerships that add value to agreements. Once built, this bond pays for itself in future considerations.
In a world where so many decisions are fueled by cost, it’s easy to see how a sales negotiation can be adversarial. Sellers want to be fairly compensated for the goods they provide, and buyers need assurance they will see a return on their investment. However, greater value can be obtained by working together and building relationships. In each step of a negotiation, sellers should stress the long-term benefits they can provide. After all, the expense of a something must be weighed in relation to value, and there’s no substitute for the comfort and security of dealing with a partner. For additional information, check out The Ultimate Guide to Sales Negotiation.