Occasionally, things go wrong. And when they do, customers are glad they didn’t just buy on price. A skilful and experienced salesman can turn this to his advantage, especially when under price pressure.
This is a tricky skill, and needs to be positioned carefully. When talking to your customer you don’t want to imply that things often go wrong, or that you get things more wrong than the other guys. But when done skilfully, this point can be a great way to raise yourself above the price battle. It can give you great credibility and help you win trust, especially in the service sector or where there is some complexity in the delivery of what you do.
Two examples spring to mind, both when we were doing some work on our house, a Victorian ‘character’ property, with all the charming idiosyncrasies that come with older houses. The first one was when we were having a new wooden floor laid. Two suppliers were offering exactly the same floor. Our favoured supplier was about 5% more expensive. We examined what it was that we liked about this company. My wife hit the nail on the head. ‘Which company would you rather deal with if we weren’t happy with the results?’ she asked. We then selected the more expensive supplier. Sure enough, the floor did need some adjustment and without hesitation, our supplier came and sorted everything out brilliantly. We were so happy we had chosen that supplier.
The second example was when we needed a damp course putting in. Fresh from my experience on the flooring I asked the two companies who were quoting the same question: ‘What can go wrong?’ The slick sales rep from the first company said ‘Nothing’ they were that confident. His more earthy competitor (who actually did the work himself, rather than just the selling) listed the three things that could go wrong and how they tried to reduce the risk in each case – I can’t remember what they were, but in doing so he gave me the impression that he was experienced, realistic and honest.
Think about this from your business’s perspective. If you are fantastic at customer after-care, and have a great track-record of managing the minor issues that can crop up from time to time, then make sure you are articulating this to customers and prospects.
Take action: Do everything you can to share your knowledge and experience with the customer. Be bold enough to share the things that can go wrong, and explain how you deal with them. If you have a strong set of customer references, use them.
Next time we look at the art of negotiation
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