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Don’t Make This Rookie Mistake When A Customer Threatens To Leave You

by Johnny Bravo

Don't Make This Rookie Mistake When A Customer Threatens To Leave YouIn my last post, Why I Love When A Customer Talks About Leaving Me I briefly covered some of the reasons customers use when they tell you they are going to “look around”. Often one of the main reasons is price.

It may not be that you are gouging them, it may not be that you are expensive at all, but customers are trained to threaten sales people in the hopes that they can get an even better deal then they already have. It saddens me to say it, but people always want better then they already have.

Believe me, I can understand a buyer’s desire to test the market and make sure what they are paying is still competitive to what they can find elsewhere. A major concern for them is getting the most bang for their buck. But for any buyer that chases a rainbow will soon find out, often disastrously, why their new provider is the low cost leader.

And for the rookie sales person, a threat like this can send them spinning. You see what will often happen when someone says they want to make sure they are getting a good deal is that the rookie salesman will immediately jump in and try to explain why they are the best and there is no need to look around.

And even worse, many will drop their pants and offer any deal they can think of in order to keep the customer.

One year free!

50% off!

Buy 1 get 3 free!

In all honesty making offers like that does nothing but bring down the value of your offering. Why would you do something like that? Assuming you haven’t been gouging them on price, you should have nothing to worry about.

So instead of freaking out like a rookie; below are three things you can do to keep your customer happy while still keeping your margins.

Let Them Know You Are NOT The Least Expensive

Even if, apples to apples, you are the least expensive out there, if a competitor has an opportunity to beat you on price just enough to get the customer to move, then you are no longer the least expensive.

There are many companies who will drastically reduce their prices in order to steal market share.

You want to prepare the customer for what they are going to hear or find once they start interviewing other options.

“Mr. Customer, I can understand you want to be a good steward for your company and make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck. So I want you to know right now that we are not the least expensive software you are going to find. 

There are many competitors in the market place and I’m sure many of them would be willing to take a loss just to steal your business away from me. Can I explain why it might be a bad idea to partner with someone like that?” 

…sure

“My company (and I) pride ourselves on offering extremely fair pricing for tremendous value. We don’t want to gouge you on prices to simply put more money in our pockets. But we also don’t want to do business that doesn’t make economical sense. If we were to do what some of my competitors were willing to do, then where would we get capital to invest in our people, in our product, in our support, in our bug fixes? 

If we were taking a loss just to beat our competitors we would have to sacrifice investing in our offering which, over time, would substantially reduce our product value. I’d hate for you to find the cheapest option out there, sign an extended term agreement, and then find out no major product development will be happening for the length of your agreement due to budget constraints on their part”

You’ve now laid the groundwork for them to question any competitor that comes in offering a lower price. Whether they admit it or not, in the back of their mind they will be thinking exactly what you have told them. And they might even challenge your competitors with this new insight.

  • What is your product release cycle?
  • How much investment do you put in product development?
  • How much has your company grown in the last 5 years?

Give Them A Real World Analogy Of Your Value

This talk track has worked well for me and I think it will help you too.

When a customer mentions that they will be vetting your competitors in the hopes that you will reduce your price, follow up by asking:

“If you don’t mind telling me, what kind of car do you drive?”

Unless you are a car salesman this is not a question they probably expected you to ask. First of all it’s a great pattern interrupt, second it sets the foundation for how you overcome their desire for a discount.

…Honda Accord.

“Why did you choose that car? After all, most cars have four wheels and will get you to and from your destinations. But why that car?”

I liked the…..power windows….color…roomy interior…mini fridge in the back row….whatever…

“Was it the least expensive car available with similar features?”

…no

“So then why did you decide to go with that particular model?”

It was the lowest price car for the options I wanted…

“I chose my car the same way. I had to have leather and a navigation system beyond that I was willing to be flexible. There were a lot of other kinds of cars, thousands, that were a lot cheaper than mine and yet still fit the criteria. But my car was the perfect mix of functionality and price. When you partnered with us originally I imagine that was the reason you went with us.”

…yes

“So then assuming we are still a market leader, what one thing do you need to see in order to make the decision to move away from us?”

It is very unlikely they will say at this point “a lower price”. You’ve already set the stage for them to not believe that as a reason. But what this conversation does do is gives you a pain point that you can alleviate.

Whatever that one thing is should be your new focus in life.

Try To Upsell

Yep, that’s right. When they threaten to look around, try to make them pay more.

Obviously they would be getting tremendous value for the additional spend they give you, but when they are “looking around” this usually means there is some unmet need.

Perhaps your customer’s industry colleagues have been talking about the latest and greatest module over at XYZ Competitor. It’s suppose to revolutionize the industry. When I hear something like this a red flag usually raises in the back of my mind

Is it really revolutionary?

In my industry, property management software, a competitor will often announce at some big trade show or through a press release that they are releasing the long awaited v25.4.6.2 update which will give all users the ability to color code their emails…or something like that.

They will only be releasing it to the select few customers who are already on the latest version. Recently added a module, named their office dog after your product, and are on an agreement no shorter than 16 years.

Little did your customer know that you offer the same capabilities within your system, and all that is required is to a few minor tweaks to their existing system. Now if you can do this at no extra charge, score one for customer service.

But if you have been working on a deal with them that seems to have been stalled, then now would be an excellent opportunity for you to offer that added capability, at no charge, if they are able to move on that other deal by the end of the week/month/quarter/year.

You see, this “latest and greatest” was nothing special, it just had a lot of  hype around it, and since it was a normal part of your product, you may have thought that they already knew about it.

Rookie Mistakes

I will be the first to tell you that I make mistakes from time to time still. Sales is an ever evolving profession and mistakes will happen. But it’s OK to make mistakes, even rookie mistakes. The point is that every negative situation you find yourself can be turned into a positive.

If someone threatens to leave you don’t give away the farm. Dig in deeper and find out why it is they are considering a move, or better yet solidify in their mind why they started working with you in the first place. At the same time you can start planting the seeds that will grow into skepticism the next time they interview your competition.

What other rookie mistakes have you seen sales people make? Let me know in the comments below. 

Every Sales Person Should Read This Book

~ Johnny Bravo
Image courtesy of Jomphong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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