Editor’s note: Greatest Sales are true accounts of how successful salespeople made a challenging sale despite price objections, buyer inertia, cutthroat competition and other obstacles. Here, Lee Salz, president and founder of Sales Architects in Minneapolis, tells how he stood up to the Procurement Department and got the price he deserved.
The Price Police had us in their clutches, and they weren’t about to let us go.
Our prospective customer was an old-line Fortune 500 company, and it did everything by the book. I was working for a supplier that offered a fully outsourced drug-testing program. Drug testing was critical to the prospect, but a huge administrative headache. We could make that headache go away. Our competitors, who offered traditional services, couldn’t.
The front-line managers loved our proposal, but we couldn’t negotiate with them directly. “That’s how it is here,” they told us. “Everything has to go through the Procurement Department.”
Price, price, price
“Your price is three times higher than any other vendor,” the procurement officer told us. On paper, yes. But, we explained, our solution offered far more value. Their total cost would be less.
Procurement didn’t care. They had a grid and they wanted us on it. “Let’s do a line-by-line comparison,” they said.
It’s apples and oranges, we said.
“But your price is out of line,” they insisted. “What are you going to do about it?”
We tried educating them. We even opened up our books to show them why we charge what we do. “Yes, but what about your price?” they asked.
Good cop, bad cop
The line managers played good cop. “We really like your approach,” they said. “But you have to work it out with Procurement.” We finally, reluctantly, concluded that we were wasting our time. Our value proposition didn’t matter to the Price Police – because they didn’t think their job was to get the best value. They thought their job was to get the best price.
We went to the front-line managers and laid it out. “We’re getting nowhere,” we told them. “We’re going to have to walk away.”
All along, they’d been telling us their hands were tied. Now, suddenly, they changed their tune. All it took was one phone call to Procurement. “Back off,” the line managers said. “We want this.”
When we made our final presentation, everyone was there, including the Price Police. I suspected they were determined to have one more go at us. But as we neared the end, the key decision maker threw her hands straight up. “Touchdown!” she cried.
“That sure doesn’t leave us much negotiating room,” Procurement grumbled. We got our price.
Stood up for value
This was my greatest sale because I believed in my value proposition. I stood by it, so my buyers believed in it, too. And the Price Police? They had to stand down.
You can reach Lee Salz at www.salesarchitecture.com
photo credit: ThisParticularGreg
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