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Back to Basics: Cost Versus Worth

"How much will this cost?"

Many salespeople shudder when faced with this question. They stutter, stammer, and hem and haw. Not that you can blame them: This is where the rubber hits the road, when the prospect will either give them the green light to move forward with the sale—or say, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Far too often, salespeople feel uncomfortable talking about the price of their offering, fearing their prospect will put the brakes on the buying decision if the price of their product or service is perceived as being too high. They unconsciously flinch—mentally or physically—when responding, and this hesitation is quickly noticed by the buyer.

Over the years, I have learned the sooner price is discussed in a conversation, the more of a focal point it becomes. If you have not fully uncovered your prospect's problem and determined exactly how your product or service can help them solve a particular business issue, your price will always seem too high. The only exception is if you're the lowest-priced supplier in the marketplace.

The key to responding to this question is to establish the value before you discuss price. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people who sell a product or service fail to achieve this, which means that their efforts to move the sale forward often ends up in failure. The most fatal mistake is to state the cost to your prospect too early in the sales conversation.

Here are few strategies to use in future sales calls or meetings:

First, if your prospect asks the cost question before you are prepared to respond, you need to defer your answer. This sounds easy, but in the real world it can be extremely challenging to execute.

I remember talking to a prospect about coaching services, and one of his first questions was, "How much do you charge?" While the price of coaching is relatively consistent from client to client, each person has different motives for utilizing this type of service.

I knew stating my fee too soon would likely cause my prospect to balk, so I answered with this: "It would be unfair for me to state a price without knowing more about your particular situation. Let me ask you a couple of questions and then we can discuss the investment."

Your goal is take control of the sales conversation, and you do that by asking high-value questions. The specific questions you need to ask will vary depending on the type of solution your company offers. It is essential to invest enough time learning about your prospect's situation so you can effectively position your solution.

This may sound fundamental, but after working with salespeople for the last 14 years, I've come to the conclusion most people simply don't ask enough high-value questions.

In order to establish the value or worth of your solution, you need to learn how the problem they are facing affects the performance of the company. This can be expressed in terms of sales, profits, employee turnover, order accuracy, customer retention or satisfaction, time to market, market share, etc.

Learn to ask tough questions that will help you understand the impact of the problem. Most salespeople are uncomfortable probing thusly, because they believe their prospect will think that they're prying. But personal experience has taught me most key decision-makers respect sales professionals who ask tough questions. Once a prospect expresses a problem, you can ask questions such as:

"How is that affecting…?"

"What impact is that having on customer loyalty, market share, etc.?"

"What is that costing you in terms of lost sales, profitability, etc.?"

"How important is this compared to other projects you have on your plate right now?"

"If we had an appropriate solution, what would that mean to your company or you personally?"

After you have determined the importance and the impact of a particular problem, you can then demonstrate the worth or value of your product or service to your prospect. Not before.

Another challenge with this approach is, it takes time. You need to exercise patience. You have to be able to clearly demonstrate why your offering is worth the investment. If you discuss price too soon, everything you say afterward will seem like you are trying to justify the cost. But when you demonstrate how your product will benefit the company and/or prospect, your price will appear as a fair and equitable investment.

Remember, there is a significant difference between cost and worth. Here's a simple comparison: A low-end, entry-level car will get you from point A to point B. Many people, however, will pay extra to do that drive in a luxury vehicle.

Business-to-business selling is no different. Once you help your prospect see the worth of your product, service or solution, cost will become less of an issue.

Kelley Robertson is the author of "The Secrets of Power Selling." Subscribe to his free newsletter at www.Fearless-Selling.com or contact him at Kelley@Fearless-Selling.ca.