By: Ray Makela on May 26th, 2023
Price Conversation: When Prospect Wants to Discuss Price Prematurely
In the sales world, pricing is crucial in determining whether or not a prospect will convert into a customer. However, discussing pricing prematurely with a prospect may not always be the best approach. Doing so can lead to a focus on cost rather than the value of the product or service. So, what should sales professionals do when faced with prospects who want to discuss price prematurely?
In this article, we’ll explore this topic in more detail and provide some actionable tips on handling such situations.
Why Do Prospects Want to Discuss the Price Prematurely?
Prospects may want to discuss the price early in the sales cycle for various reasons. One reason could be that they want to narrow down their options before making a decision, using price as a determining factor. If the prospect believes your solution is similar to your competitors, they may ask for pricing information to compare the costs. Additionally, some prospects may not understand the value of your solution, and they may assume that the price is the only factor to consider.
Another reason prospects may ask for pricing information early on is because they may not clearly understand their budget and may try to gather pricing information to determine if they can afford your solution.
Furthermore, some prospects may use pricing discussions to gain an advantage in the negotiation process. By asking for pricing information early, they may believe they can use it as leverage to negotiate a better deal with your company or another competitor. They may use the pricing from a competitor that is offering an inferior solution negotiate a discount on your initial price.
How to Talk about Price in Sales Early in the Process
While it may be tempting to provide pricing information immediately to establish transparency and build trust, doing so can harm your chances of closing the deal at an acceptable margin for your company.
Offering a price quote before you have fully explored their business needs can result in a situation where you are over or underestimating the cost of the solution. This can lead to sticker shock. The prospect may decide your solution is too expensive without fully understanding how it can benefit them. On the other hand, you may underprice your solution given the complexity of their situation, the magnitude of their business problem, and their overall budget. You may limit your ability to go back and realistically re-price the solution once you fully understand their needs.
By providing pricing information too early, you may unintentionally set a benchmark for negotiations. Once a prospect has seen a price, it can be difficult to increase it later, even if the customer value proposition justifies it.
3 Considerations Before Discussing Price Early
Providing pricing information too soon can lead to the sales professional doing all the work, only to be compared with other vendors on a spreadsheet. In this situation, the value of the solution is seldom included when evaluating a purchase decision.
Therefore, taking a step back and considering a few things before discussing pricing is essential. These considerations can help sales professionals engage the prospect in a conversation, understand their needs better, and position their solution uniquely.
When prospects ask for all the information without making any commitment to engage in a dialogue about their business situation, it is likely that your pricing input will just be used fill columns on a decision spreadsheet. The customer is dictating the process, and it may feel like a one-way exchange of information.
This is why you need to put some responsibilities back on the prospect. If you can get them to engage and respond, then it can become a give-and-take. If you provide that pricing information, put a couple of stipulations around it.
For instance: "I'm happy to give you that pricing information. But it wouldn't be appropriate for me to do that without further discussing your priorities and needs, understanding the impact this problem has on your organization, and the impact the solution will provide. So I'd like to request a 15 to 30-minute conversation to understand those needs better before I provide that pricing. Then after I do, I'd like to present our proposal to your executive team."
It does a couple of things for you. It lets you know how serious they are and how willing they are to engage in a bit of give-and-take, allowing you to redefine the rules of engagement. It helps you “even the playing field” as you’re going through the sales process.
Find out about the timeline and the decision-making process, and then consider asking for an extension. So, you might say, "We’re happy to do that, but we need a bit more time to prepare our response and pricing."
This does an interesting thing for you. If they already have somebody in mind and they're using you for pricing leverage against their preferred vendor, then they're likely not to give you that extension. That tells you that they probably have an incumbent proposal they are considering and you are playing catch up. Your time might be better spent focusing on new prospects and opportunities.
If they give you an extension, you can have that discovery meeting. You want to further understand the requirements and put together a more thoughtful proposal. Unless you’ve had those conversations, proceeding at that point doesn't make sense. You’re better off getting those types of opportunities out of your pipeline sooner and focusing on those you can close.
The final piece is around BANT, which stands for budget, authority, need, and timing.
Looking at the budget, it’s essential to say, "Well, can you help me understand your budgeting process? Do you have a budget already allocated? Or is budget something you're going to go after? And will pricing influence that? Are you at the point of making the decision? Is this is just a checkpoint moving forward?"
If they don't have budgets allocated or can’t explain how they will get the budget, you're probably not engaged at the decision-maker level. Then the chances of you winning that opportunity without getting to the decision maker/budget holder are pretty slim.
Training Your Team to Respond to Premature Price Discussions
Sales teams that are well-trained in responding to premature price discussions are likely to close more deals successfully and create more value for the company. Here are five strategies for training your team to best respond to premature price discussions:
- Develop a clear process: Your team should have a process for handling premature price discussions that aligns with your organization's sales strategy. The process should outline the steps to take when faced with such situations, including how to respond and the information that should be obtained before discussing pricing.
- Emphasize the value proposition: Sales professionals should highlight the customer’s problem, their solution's value proposition and how it can benefit the prospect. They should emphasize the benefits of the solution rather than solely discussing the cost.
- Roleplay: Roleplaying is an effective way to train sales professionals to handle premature price discussions. It allows them to practice responding to prospects and fine-tune their approach.
- Provide guidelines for pricing discussions: Provide sales professionals with clear guidelines on when pricing discussions are appropriate and when it's best to delay them. For example, they should only provide pricing information after a conversation about the prospect's needs and priorities and how the solution can address them.
- Encourage active listening: Sales professionals should actively listen to prospects to better understand their needs, challenges, and goals. It helps them to tailor the conversation and value proposition to the prospect's specific needs and avoid getting sidetracked by pricing discussions.
When it comes to how to talk about price in sales prematurely, sales professionals must first understand why the prospect is asking about pricing early on.
There could be various reasons they’re doing so, such as evaluating options or gaining leverage in negotiations. However, sales professionals should avoid discussing pricing too soon as it can lead to a focus on cost rather than the value of the product or service, which can harm the chances of closing sales.
Instead, sales professionals should take the time to understand the prospect's needs, pain points, and goals before discussing pricing. They should also consider engaging the prospect in a conversation, redefining the rules of engagement, and finding out about the timeline and decision-making process.
By doing so, sales professionals can regain some control of the sales process. This allows them to tailor their pitch to show how their product or service addresses the prospect's specific needs and can help them achieve their goals.
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About Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.