As you read this, salespeople on the docks for today’s opening of the Progressive Chicagoland In-Water Boat Show are likely grappling with this very issue. Let’s face it: we’re not an industry that builds cheap boats. So what’s a salesperson to do?
I’m reminded of John R. Graham, an author and speaker I hired several times in the early 2000s to keynote educational conferences for members of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association. He gave me an autographed copy of his book “203 Ways to be Supremely Successful in the New World of Selling” which I still have in my library (available on Amazon). And, stuffed inside, I even have the notes I took.
“Price is rarely the problem when it comes to making the sale,” was his opener at one conference. He went on to say the most common problem in business is answering: “how come I lost the sale?” And the typical answer is: “our price is too high.” Really?
While not denying the possibility that a price could actually be too high for a particular boat model or equipment in a specific market, Graham said you can’t stop there until you’ve eliminated the most likely causes — and they ain’t price. Questions then worth asking could include:
- How do prospects see you? Does the prospect’s picture of your dealership and/or product fit your pricing? There could be a serious disconnect in the prospect’s mind between the product or service being offered and the price being asked. Successful salespeople today must attempt to identify what the prospect values are and position their sales message accordingly. Price is normally not on the top of their list.
- Have you differentiated the dealership? Today all salespeople wince at “I can get it cheaper over at XYZ.” But that’s an immediate confirmation that the sales pitch has not separated the dealership from the competition in a way that’s meaningful to the prospect/customer. They haven’t been shown the value of buying from your dealership. If businesses are selling essentially the same product or service, then price makes the buying decision simple for the prospect.
- Are salespersons in step with the prospect? “It isn’t what the sales team wants to sell that’s important, it’s only what the prospects want to buy that counts,” Graham told the crowd. “Trying to convince a prospect to buy a model or product that doesn’t meet their needs, because you’ve not taken time to find out what they believe they need, makes the price objection totally insurmountable. Give it up.”
- What’s a salesperson’s role in the process? It’s critical. It seems like a silly question, but it’s not. From the moment of initial contact, if the customer somehow gets the notion that making a sale is the salesperson’s only interest, the process is crippled and likely unrecoverable.
Today’s prospects will likely know more about a product than the salesperson, thanks to the Internet. So sales people must help prospects understand what goes into establishing the price, which includes the strength and commitment of the dealership to its customers in ways that will meet their needs. It’s where every successful salesperson can trump the computer knowledge.
Today, salespeople must lead the prospect to a clear understanding that they’re buying a dealership as well as a product or service. Every sales team should stop and ask itself “Why should anyone want to buy from us? If our quality, service and price are on a par with our competitors, why should they select us?”
Bottom line: Unless prospects/customers are given other reasons to buy from your dealership, price will be the only basis for making a decision to buy and that’s not where you want to be.