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As you look back on those four styles, I wonder if you found yourself asking “Which one do I best represent?” As we get further into this book, there are lots of opportunities for you to examine how you currently do things – so this may be a good time to start the reflection process.

So we know selling has been around almost since the beginning of time and will no doubt be around for a long time to come.

Jack Welch once said, “When change is happening on the outside of your company faster that it is happening on the inside – the end is nigh” If that is true, then if change is happening on the outside of the sales profession quicker that it is happening on the inside of our profession – then where does that leave us?

And the one thing we all know about change is that it is constant and that is why we need to have our own value house – so that we can change, react and adapt.

Winning more profitable business to sustain growth is arguably tougher today than it’s ever been. Businesses that have traditionally worked in partnership with certain suppliers face stiff competition from newly established businesses with more than enough ‘savvy’. The rapid spread of new markets, new opportunities and new players in your market inevitably puts pressure upon margins.

To make the situation even tougher, companies are doing business with fewer suppliers. Customers have unprecedented choice in terms of when, where and from whom to purchase, and by what means. Buyers are taking advantage of their strengthened negotiating position.

This point was reiterated to me some years ago I remember when I was at a sales conference and one of the presenters put a slide on the screen which read;

“What is the most dangerous word associated
with professional selling today?”

He asked the audience to think about what they thought was the answer to this question. What would you say is an answer to that question? Think about it for a moment...

People sitting around me were saying things such as ‘price’ or ‘discount’. I have to admit that I was thinking similar things. Anyway, he then went on to reveal what he thought was the most dangerous word associated with professional selling – the word was ‘average’. Everyone went quiet for a moment, like a tumbleweed moment. It wasn’t the word people were expecting I dare say. But it’s funny, the more I thought about that word ‘average’, the more I knew he was right. Because buyers are thought to be in a strong negotiating position today, then there is more and more susceptibility by salespeople to being hit over the head with the price objection stick.

When ‘average’ salespeople are confronted with price resistance, all too often they acquiesce far too quickly and then it becomes a matter of how much.

This reminds me of when someone was once asked “Would you climb up the outside of the Eiffel tower with your bare hands?” The person asked said “No way!”

The person asked again saying “Would you climb up the outside of the Eiffel tower with your bare hands for £1 million?” “Sure” they replied.

The person then asked “Well, would you climb up the outside of the Eiffel tower with your bare hands for £1?” “No way” came the reply “Are you crazy, what sort of person do you take me for, an idiot?”

The person finally said “Well, I’ve got a better idea of that now – I guess it’s just a matter of price”

Now I have no idea if that story is true or just folklore; but it does bring into sharp focus the fact that once you have ‘signalled’ you are prepared to move, then it simply becomes a matter of how much.

For salespeople today when faced with price resistance, the suggestion is that all too often the response from the salesperson is ‘average’. That means we give in and are not strong enough to build a strong position of rapport where we can at least make attempts to stand our ground, so to speak. Surely our strength lies in the foundations of the house we build versus the cold wind blowing at us later in the form of the price objection?

We as salespeople know that we should defend our price and justify the value, but how often does intention get converted into action? What stops a salesperson translating understood sales theory into practical solutions?

What is a Value House?

Economic climates vary and arguably come in cycles. Although country and market conditions will always have an impact on how each country deals with recessions, it seems that more frequently today what challenges one country can have a global impact. The present recession we’re trying to crawl out of agonisingly slowly won’t be the last recession. And then of course there are the ‘bailouts’ of Greece, Ireland & Portugal. Many ponder at the time of writing of the fragile state of Spain’s economy as well. All of these events are likely to plunge their country’s economy further into a recession. Of course, who’s to say what future events hold for other economies?

According to a report by Sir Mervyn King, the Bank of England Governor which he released in a statement on June 24th 2011, the Euro-zone debt crisis poses the “most material and immediate threat” to the UK’s financial stability. On August 10th he said the greatest risks to Britain’s economic recovery came from the eurozone debt crisis, and that these “headwinds are becoming stronger by the day”. He goes on to say “The imbalances in the world economy are still not being properly tackled and the burden of debt is still there. This problem will take, I think, a number of years before we will find our way through it.”

Of course, it may even be that as you read this book we have surfaced from the recession and find yourself in boom times or in a period of financial growth. Does that mean that this book is not relevant? No of course not. In fact, it can be argued quite strongly that the perfect time to build your value house is when you are in such boom times. But right now in the UK, we still seem to be in the recession and to some, the future won’t look good for some time. This is an extract from an article that appeared in the Daily Telegraph in 2010.

“UK boardrooms are “blinkered” about the true state of the economy, and some companies’ business models will “wither away and die”.

The stark warnings are based on forecasts from senior economists from bodies such as the CBI, the Institute of Directors and the Institute for Public Policy Research. They are contained in a new report by BDO, the accountants, and the think tank, Centre for Future Studies.

Even though the UK has technically emerged out of recession, the report warns that there will be “no return to business as usual” for some time to come.

The report accuses UK boardrooms of being “blinkered”, following research that showed almost half of UK board directors (44%) predict that their companies would return to “pre-recession normality” and that their businesses would not fundamentally change in the next five years.

The report, called Transitions said: “Many executives clearly think that there will be a return to business normality in the next two years. However, the world is changing, and there’s a need for UK businesses to reinvent themselves if they are to survive.”

It’s the last bit that resonates more for UK companies to reinvent themselves if they are to survive. ‘The world is changing’ it tells us. I dare say it is changing faster than some people would like. Yet in the face of the icy blast of change, are we as sales people changing with it and changing fast enough? Are we still in some ways selling in a way where time has stood still?

About a year ago I started working quite closely with a company and its sales team in Central London. I set up regular communication channels with each member of the sales team and encouraged them to contact me at any time with any situation or scenario that they would either like to talk through or like some help with in terms of how to handle it.

I noticed that straight away the most contact I was receiving was asking for help with situations relating to price pressure. A typical request might be along the lines of:

Salesperson: “I have been speaking to a prospect earlier today and he said he had quote from other competitors and says our price is too high”
Me: “Have you already put a quote in then?”
Salesperson: “Yes”
Me: How did you get into a position where you put a quote in?”
Salesperson: “Well, he called in 3 days ago and asked me for a quote on some product for a project he was working on. Could we supply it?”
Me: “And what was your response?”
Salesperson: “Well, I said we could supply it and I took a note of how much was needed and for when and sent him the quote. I had great hopes for this enquiry as he sounded quite positive!”

Well, I could see pretty quickly, as no doubt you can that much is wrong here and my first thought was “Maybe if we had asked one or two further questions, we might not be in the position we are in”. I then got thinking that if we had done things in a different order and not been so reactive, that may have helped too. Then of course that got me thinking that maybe that prospect wasn’t the type of customer they really wanted to attract. It all sort of ‘peeled back’ rather like an onion peels back with me thinking that if we got some fundamental principles right first, like the foundations of a house if you will, we can help prevent a lot of challenging situations much later on price, as my friend found from the dialogue above.

I thought if we got certain foundations right in the sales operation in our company, we can do a lot to minimise or maybe avoid the amount of price resistance we get further on. This of course is where the analogy of the house comes in. Building a sales operation that is trying actively to avoid price pressure is like building a house.

I’m not a builder but my basic grasp of building a solid, strong weatherproof house consists of some essential steps.

I wanted to use the key principles of building a house as the analogy for building our sales operation – our ‘Value House’. Using the same steps we can consider the table opposite:

How building our value house relates to building a real house

Value House Real House
Business aims and objectives Why you want to build the house
What market are you after?
What type of customers do you want to attract?
Where you want the house
What will your value house look like?
What does the finished product look like?
Planning & designing
Getting the right systems and processes in place Digging solid foundations
Right sales approaches
Right sales process
Right sales people
Building blocks
Pipeline & key ratios
Value proposition
Tactical questioning
Strategies for avoiding price pressure
Weatherproofing
Gaining & keeping client commitment
Client concerns or objections
Snagging
Rapport building
4 key strategies for handling price pressure
Keeping stormy weathers out
Customer loyalty
Testimonials
Referrals
Keeping people safe inside when it is finished

So what’s this book about? This book is about how we can modify our selling approach so that we can:

This book is about how to build your ‘Value House’ in your company with the single aim of reducing the amount & intensity of the salesperson’s Nemesis – price pressure. I could have told that salesperson earlier that once you actually get price pressure, there are only four things you can actually do. I thought it inappropriate and unethical to simply give him those on their own, as the real answer means we have to go back and unravel a few things.

In this book not only will we look at how to build a Value House but also what those four things are that you can do if you actually get the price objection. But really, this book is more preventive rather that just curative. My aim is to encourage the reader to consider three questions at all times on our journey together through the book.

  1. Do I actually do this?
  2. To what extent is what you currently do successful?
  3. If you could do just one thing to improve in each area in the book, what would it be?

It might well be of course that what you currently do enables you to achieve what you believe to be minimum price pressure which is worthy of congratulations. But there is nothing wrong in always challenging ourselves which may well prove that the way we are doing it IS the right way to do it.

But when I think back to that presenter who suggested that the most dangerous word associated with professional selling is indeed ‘average’ – I tend to see his point. ‘Average’ to me implies that the majority of people are doing it, and with selling it is also true that there are too many people doing the same thing. Have you ever heard from a customer comments such as “You salespeople – you are all the same!” Maybe they are right.

Maybe there are too many salespeople out there that:

This book is about how to avoid being average and becoming excellent in taking steps in order to avoid or better manage any price resistance you may get.

This book covers many elements associated with the sales process and sales environment. Each element on their own can be discussed and considered from various perspectives; each perspective on its own could take up a number of volumes on your book shelf.

However, this book concerns itself primarily in focussing on the role each element may play in relation to:

Selling on value
Creating a perception to your market your are value led not price led
Avoiding or minimising the degree to which you may get price resistance in your sales efforts.

This book considers in building or running a sales operation based on minimising price resistance and aims to show that:

First, selling is a process with defined steps that build on each other. As with exercise, every time you skip a step it reduces the possibility of a positive outcome. Selling is the act of proactively engaging in the process. Selling involves executing each step in a methodical way for every sales process. Taking shortcuts or eliminating steps only sets the salesperson up for future failure.

Next, selling is a process of discovery. If the prospect doesn’t discover something for them then they typically don’t have personal ownership of it. When a sales person “tells”, the probability of a buying decision is greatly diminished. Parents quickly learn this with their children. If a child doesn’t have “skin in the game” they will not manage and take care of whatever the parent has provided. Prospects are no different. They need to have ownership in the sales process.

Helping a prospect requires asking probing questions to reveal their needs, problems or opportunities. Most prospects didn’t go to school for sales, so it is highly unlikely they will be able to tell you their needs. In fact, most prospects will ask the last question first, “How many pounds/dollars will this cost me?” In most cases, you can help them by asking questions that cause them to think through their process and identify their needs. That’s when real buy-in occurs.

Finally, selling is revealing something of value. Listen to your presentation and objection-handling words and sentences. Do you know the difference between a feature statement and a value statement? People don’t buy features; they buy value. They must define the value for themselves and not have you define it for them. Your responsibility is to guide them along the path.

This book doesn’t claim to have all the answers – what book does? I can’t claim there is anything new in this book; many of the ideas and thoughts can be found in the public domain – although some things maybe new to you personally. What I have sought to do is to bring together some of the best thinking and merged them at times with my own ideas in helping us consider how to build our ‘Value House’. This book is a little like a blended whisky rather than a single malt in that respect.

Much of the book is based on my own experiences and that of other salespeople I have interviewed of mixed age and ability. There are also a number of ideas and thoughts from different sources, books and websites from people who have contributed their own thoughts on certain aspects of what we look at in this book.

However what this book does do is look at probably the single biggest challenge sales people face which is price resistance from a fresh perspective. It will help you if you are building a sales operation from scratch as it will point you in the right direction for all the elements you may wish to consider. You will see as you go through the book that at the end of each chapter there is an activity for you to do should you wish to do so. I would naturally recommend that you complete each activity, even if it is mentally and not in writing.

If you are not building a sales operation from scratch and already run a business or are involved in a sales operation for an existing company, I hope it encourages you to consider each element that we cover in this book and for you to examine how you are currently approaching that element. It may be that in the process of asking yourself “what actually do we do in this area?” What practice do we use?” that you consider blending in some ideas from this book. Even if you are happy with the way you currently do things, then that can only be good to always challenge - even if we find out that what we do now IS best practice.

Well, today selling is as much about the salesperson having intuition, an awareness of human behaviour, an appreciation of commercial politics as it is about sales process, tools & structure. All these skills & qualities are called on at some point today to be demonstrated to be successful consistently. People are more aware today, they expect more and are more ‘savvy’. Neglecting any one of these could upset a delicate balance. On top of all this selling to some buyers (and no doubt sellers too) has its fair share of games, tactics and to some extent trickery. Buyers may create this wonderful illusion or perception through their body language, tone or words (though they may never actually say it is) that unless we move on price, it is unlikely we will get the sale.

But as this book will go on and discuss – that may not always be the truth. As they say – all’s fair in love and war.