I was in a workshop a few years back with a few different companies, all in similar industries, attending. Within the first hour, an intense discussion had erupted around pressures on pricing.
Many of the sales people present felt that there was commoditization in their markets and price was the sole criteria for decision making. All the sales person does is take price and delivery calls. They can’t get past the purchasing agent or buyer, and have no chance to differentiate their company.
Others just thought their own prices were too high and it put them at a competitive disadvantage in a time when everyone’s prices are posted somewhere on the Internet.
A sales manager stood and looked to the audience and said, “Well, if price is the only criteria, what the heck do we need sales people for?”
The room went silent. Every single sales person in the room understood this, instantly, and the conversation immediately moved on to ideas on how to sell better and not get locked into a price war. This is an example of yet another benefit of getting your sales team together. In this case, it was a soft reset button on applying strategy to the sales process.
One of the most interesting strategies was around discounting. When should it be used, and why? One sales person stood up and said, “I find myself discounting a lot to catch up to the competition because I’m getting in too late.” This is nothing new to many of us in the sales profession, but what the next sales person said runs counter to general language out there: “Then you need to make your sales cycle longer.”
What? Everything you read today tells you how to shorten the sales cycle. Why make it longer? And how?
The answer is not to drag it out, but to get in earlier. Make your sales cycle longer, not the customer’s buying cycle.
But if you have to, leverage your discounting strategy to extend the sales cycle to allow the proper time to sell and make the competition catch up to you. This will be the subject of a later post – why you should think about making your sales cycles longer.
This conversation had little to do with the substance of the sales training course, but was immensely beneficial to “resetting” the mentality of the sales people – bringing them back to understanding why they exist and what they should be doing.
Sales is a profession! We’re out there because we change the course of things, not to host fire sales.