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Training Tuesday:Taking Control of Price

Training Tuesday:Taking Control of Price


Take control of the sales call, especially on the subject of price. If you can change the customers pre-conceived notions in the first five or ten minutes, then you’ve won the biggest sales battle of all. Right up front, I make it clear to the prospect that the sale won’t come down to a wrestling match over price. I quickly and firmly set up an alternative framework for making a deal. If price isn’t going to be the issue, then what is? You must sell value-added. To me, that means selling exceptional service and customer support. Often, I have to close the deal on the strength of my personal commitment to my customers and the quality of service provided by Sunteck.

Never concede that Sunteck’s service is just like our competitors. Once you do, you give away your competitive edge and ability to differentiate your service, and therefore, to receive a higher price. The worst sales pitch I’ve ever heard was a freight rep whose presentation was built around the line, “Our service is just like Best-Competitor Trucking, only we’re cheaper.” The job of all Sunteck sales agents is to know how and why our service is different, why that difference is important to the customer, and how to effectively communicate the importance of those differences. Your customer will pay you a premium price if you’re a better choice for his career and his company’s success. Once you prove your service is better, price diminishes as an issue. Prove to the customer that Sunteck pays greater attention to customer needs, quicker response time when dispatching their pick-ups, hassle free service, less paperwork, accurate billing, few damaged or lost shipments, etc.

Sunteck customers don’t buy based on price. They really don’t. They sometimes believe that they do, and they almost always tell you that they do. We’ve all been guilty of telling little white lies, and your customer is no different.

When the customer tells you that he can get the exact same service to Philadelphia by using a competitor, the first thought you should have is: Can he really get the same service? The answer is “NO” 100% of the time. No two companies operate exactly the same. The service may be similar. But it will never be exactly the same. The slight difference in service may be unimportant on nine out of ten shipments, but the consequences may be disastrous on that one shipment that delivers at 3:00PM instead of noon. In this, and almost all instances, your customer is receiving services that are similar but not identical. Sometimes these slight differences in service levels won’t matter, but often they will. It’s your job to point out why the slight differences matter.

The business highway is littered with out-of-business transportation companies who thought lowering price was a way to increase profits. Refuse to be part of the problem. Anyone can offer the customer the lowest price.

It takes a sales professional to sell a service that’s higher priced than most of his or her competition.
When a prospective customer tells you that Sunteck’s prices are too high, you should say, “Of course we’re higher than those other guys. That’s one of the reasons why I’m proud to work for Sunteck. Let me tell you why we charge what we do.”

And then, tell them with confidence exactly why we’re higher. Your price makes a statement about your service. A cheap price makes the statement that your service is also cheap. A high price sends the message that your service is of high quality. A customer can’t argue with success. Let them know you successfully sell at these prices. Point out that when price can’t be negotiated, each customer is treated equally and fairly. The goal is to help Sunteck devise a fair pricing system, and then uniformly offer that price to customers with similarly classified goods and who ship similar quantities.

One great idea that can differentiate you from your competition, and which also justifies your customer paying a higher price, is partnership selling. Your partner could be almost any of your co-workers, but I suggest that your partner be your sales coordinator, a fellow sales agent, dispatcher, or the customer service agent who handles your customers. I’ve even gone as far as having my sales assistant’s name and telephone number printed on the back of my business cards. I explain to my customers our unique partnership. Because of our partnership, one of us will always be available to take his or her calls, work with the customer on unique shipments, handle service failures, provide overall great service, and of course answer any and all pricing questions. Selling a customer is the easy part. Keeping a customer is more difficult. Partnerships always justify a higher price. Sometimes a partnership situation might be all you need to sell a customer on a higher price.

No matter how skillfully you develop your value-added sale, you may still have to negotiate price in order to close. For some Traffic and Purchasing managers haggling is an important part of their job description or at least a necessary prelude to doing business.

Explain to the prospect why other traffic managers for other companies have bought at your higher rates. Be sure to emphasize how Sunteck’s service will help him, his company, and their customers. Explain the economics of pricing and then go for the larger order. Discounts should only be offered when you receive a large number of shipments to justify the lower price. Be as persistent as your customer. Assert “Far more shipments are needed” to receive that discount.

There’s always the customer who says, “I can do better. Dave’s Trucking gives me a 40% discount.” Never rely on a customer’s word that “Dave’s Trucking” has cut your price. That’s when I ask to see a bill of lading. If the customer is not telling you the truth, he’ll refuse to show you the bill. But, let’s say he does show you the bill of lading, and it does represent a 40% discount off of a comparable tariff or rate. That’s when you tell the customer that Sunteck is better. Period. I tell the prospective customer that Sunteck and its transportation solutions are better and warrant a higher price. Point out your competitive edge, special services we offer that adds value and cost, and any unique selling points. This is a great time to use testimonials. An example of a value add service is our in house cargo claims department.

What if the prospect looks you straight in the eye and firmly says, “I don’t have time to listen to your whole sales pitch. I know all about Sunteck. Just give me my discount.” Some traffic managers use this tactic to unnerve you into giving them a big discount at the onset. The main purpose is to take control of the sales call away from you. I turn around and use the same technique. I say, “Can you make a firm commitment right now?” or “Will you sign a routing letter to go to all of your vendors designating us as your carrier of choice effective today?” Take control and do your job. Don’t let the prospect plow you over.

For most customers, seeing is believing. My point (and my value-added position) is driven home when customers know that I mean business. You gain credibility by making it clear that while you’re eager to win their business. You are offering them a fair price for the service Sunteck provides and you’re not about to cave in at the first sign of price resistance.

Over the years our industry has been inundated with competitors who wielded discounts like deadly weapons, usually injuring their own business most of all. The best way to survive a price-cutting fool in your territory is to keep your cool and wait them out. Keep playing by our rules, don’t play by his.

Never let the cheapest guy in town determine your price!

Remember that you could hurt Sunteck’s ‘image’ if you cut the price of your service. Be prepared to sustain some loss of business. Keep your core customers happy, those who abandon ship for cheaper rates will eventually come back – and maybe you can get a price increase when they do return.

We already have too many salespeople in our industry who’re willing to cut their rates at the drop of a hat. Don’t join that crowd. Treat your customers fairly and expect them to treat you the same way. The price should be a direct reflection of your services worth. Remember, it’s you, not the customer or your competitor, who determines your price.