Suppose you're in the market to make a major purchase, let's say a car. You go through the entire process and in the end two dealerships show you the exact same car, from color down to the floor mats.
The car comes from the same automaker, has the same warranty and the dealerships offer service and support that is identical. In fact, they are even the same distance from your home. However, one vehicle costs $1000 more than the other.
Unless you have a relationship with someone at one of these dealerships that would cause you to spend more, are you going to pay a $1,000 premium for what appears to you to be the exact same alternative? Absolutely not.
Think about What You Sell
At one point or another we have all heard this from a buyer, "You really need to do something about your price." Unfortunately, few sales people truly understand WHY the buyer is saying this.
In many, if not most cases, the buyers are actually telling us that they see no appreciable difference in terms of our products, the support we offer, or the companies we represent, leaving them no basis for a decision other than price. Many times what they are really saying is, "I think you and your competitors are basically the same so all I have to make a decision on is price."
Does this really mean that we need to "do something" about our price? Not necessarily, in fact these buyers may actually have some ideas about what would make one option better in terms of the product, the support, and the company that provides it. They may have a clear picture of what the BEST alternative is and may even be willing to pay a premium to get it. However, we don't yet know what that picture looks like, and we certainly haven't demonstrated that we can provide it.
Get the Picture
You see, we all use criteria to make buying decisions, whether something as complex and expensive as a car, or as simple and relatively inexpensive as a loaf of bread. I will even be so bold as to say that we ALWAYS have criteria in at least three areas: product, support/company and price.
Moreover, we rarely buy anything, including a loaf of bread, based solely on price. You may be shaking your head now and insisting that you do buy bread based on price, but hear me out on this. Unless you are one of those rare people who buys all of your bread from the "day old store," then you don't really buy bread on price.
How the Most Basic Purchase Decision is Made
We determine that we need a loaf of bread and then head to a specific store (often based on support characteristics such as selection and/or location) and when we get there, we select a particular loaf of bread (based on specific product characteristics; sourdough anyone?).
Does that mean we don't care about the price? Of course not, if you find that your preferred loaf is suddenly $150 instead of $1.75, you will likely move on to another option. This is really no different from what your buyers do when evaluating your offering; they began by determining (either on their own or with the assistance of a sales person) that they have a need for something they believe you may be able to provide. From there they may even have begun formulating a picture of what would make one option better than the others.
If we want to differentiate ourselves from other alternatives, we must get a clear picture from them of what is BEST. I'll take this a step further by saying that it is our obligation to go past their basic needs to understand what the buyers criteria will be to decide which solution is BEST in terms of product, support/company AND price.
Think about this: Wouldn't it be great to know how the customer/prospect will decide what is BEST in terms of all these areas before we ever spend time putting together and presenting a proposal? Let's face it, any loaf of bread can be used to make a sandwich, but for a given buyer, one will be a better overall choice than the others - and usually it won't be the cheapest loaf they can buy!
From Need to Criteria
If we are going to bring value to our buyer, we must get beyond needs and develop criteria. Keep this in mind, a need is a requirement and criterion is a standard of judgment, a rule or principle of evaluating.
It's time to stop the "sameness" routine and understand how your prospect will determine what is best, so that you can demonstrate that you are!
Bob Sanders has more than 25 years experience in sales, sales management, and marketing. Bob has served as President and CEO of AXIOM Sales Force Development from 2006 to 2018. His passion about sales behavior and coaching helps develop people into their best selves. Since Bob joined AXIOM as a partner in the fall of 1993, he's helped dozens of companies around the world generate hundreds of millions in additional revenue. Bob holds a degree in Marketing from Miami University. He has been a keynote speaker at numerous corporate events and industry conferences. He is a founding underwriter and frequent contributor to the Sales Management Association. He co-authored AXIOM's “Selling Sciences Program™” workbook and audio program, and is a contributor on "A Journey to Sales Transformation". When Bob is not advocating on behalf of buyers and sellers worldwide, he is an avid cyclist, father, and husband.