Sales promotions aren’t always necessary to close business. In fact, salespeople shouldn’t get in the habit of regularly using promotions when mastering essential negotiation skills.

For sales leaders, promotions either make the customer’s decision easier or motivate the salesperson to work a little harder.

Both scenarios require a something extra from the seller.

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So, are sales promotions necessary in your sales strategy? Oh baby, they sure are. When constructed correctly and deployed intelligently, they should enhance, not disrupt, the sales process. Here’s some ideas on how to make your sales promotions kick ass instead of a pain in the ass.

1. Leverage inexpensive swag at conferences.

I’ve seen respectful, professional people do irrational things for a free T-shirt. I’ve seen salespeople in suits jostle children out of the way for a Moleskine. And I’ve seen an orange ping pong ball reveal a coworker’s long-hidden competitive spirit. The problem is this type of promotion is unlikely to significantly influence a major purchase.

Save swag to attract new bodies to your conference booth, brighten a current client’s day, or make a prospect feel extra special during an in-person visit — without expecting anything in return. Swag is a promotion you provide to sow good will, interest, and loyalty. Let it do its job without anticipating a huge payout.

2. Find your discounting sweet spot.

Don’t offer extraordinary discounting that goes outside traditional guidelines and negatively impacts your company’s bottom line. Just because you’ll make quota doesn’t make these discounts the right choice. A discount of more than 50% makes you look desperate.

You risk losing trust with your client, attracting the wrong type of client (i.e., customers buying solely based on price instead of fit), and word getting out that these types of discounts and deals can be expected — or worse, are what your product/service is worth.

Unless you’re trying to meet stringent budget requirements, leave those +50% discounts for khakis at The Gap. Alternatively, a 2% discount doesn’t give me much of a thrill either.

3. Leverage time savings and additional services.

Instead, leverage a healthy incentive focused on time savings or additional services. This sweetens the pot without devaluing your product/service. For example, you might offer a prospect an additional 15 hours of onboarding support for free if they sign by Friday. Or you could offer free setup on their new account so they don’t have to waste time on implementation and can get right to doing.

Even a free six-month checkup can be attractive to prospects who are nervous to sign the contract. Offer free peace of mind in return for their trust and business.

4. Focus on moving deals for best-fit customers.

Use sales promotions to attract the right type of customer. Offer promotions to customers already leaning toward choosing your solution. And be honest about whether they’re a good fit for your company.

Leverage promotions for prospects who are actively moving toward a close, engaged with you in conversation and negotiation, and genuinely interested in using your product/service in their business. The result will be fewer concessions on your part, and a bigger payoff in the end.

Because no one wants to land a client by giving a 15% discount, only to have them churn after six months.

5. Use promotions to insulate for your slow season.

You know when your slow periods are — maybe July in Phoenix or December in Australia. A sales promotion can be just the tool to get deals moving during these down times.

I’ve known reps who queue up their deals to start on the first day of the month for accounting and quota reasons. Once they hit 120% of plan for the current month, they manage a rolling 60-day cycle.

This ensures they always have deals in the pipeline and are ready for those slow months.

Now that you have some ideas for how to run a solid sales promotion, you'll need to pick the right offering. Think of this part like Goldilocks. You want to find a promotion that’s not too aggressive but not too light.

There are several kinds of promotions. All of them have a place in sales. But it’s important to know when and where that place is. 

1. Discounts

A discount in price — for example, 30% off — is a powerful incentive for prospects you've built rapport with, who love your product/service, and whose only objection is price. If they're the right fit, a good discount can motivate them to get off the fence and make a decision. Just don't offer discounts at more than 50% off. 

2. Extended Payment Terms

Similarly, an extended payment term is another way to handle price objections and is a good choice for high-ticket sales because it makes the sticker price a little less intimidating. All you have to do is spread out payments over a period of time that makes sense, like 3 months. 

3. Bundling

If you have a suite of products that add more value together than standing alone, bundling them for a discounted rate can make your offering more attractive. This would appeal to prospects concerned about value and weighing their options with your competition in mind. However, it may not be a good tactic against price objections.

4. Add-Ons

Add-ons are a bit more flexible than bundles, as removing them won't affect payment terms. With that in mind, this route is great when needing to provide extra value without risk. You might include throwing in a premium feature only available at a higher tier or giving them "extra" of something that otherwise has limits. 

5. Coupons

In the same family as the discount but as a one-time use with a hard deadline, a coupon can be a powerful motivator. As a tangible (or digital) thing, the right coupon can compel a prospect to take action, as they psychologically feel as though something's being taken from them if they don't. One-time coupons also affect the bottom line less than ongoing discounts. 

6. Extended-Use Terms

By providing extended-use terms, you give the prospect more time to consider your solution's value before extracting value (payment renewal) from them. In the right situation, this builds confidence in your product and builds rapport. 

7. Swag

Promotional products such as clothing, pens, or gear are novel and can add an element of delight in the right circumstances. However, as mentioned earlier, they may not hold much sway during the actual purchasing decision.

Sales promotions can be a fruitful way to close deals and build trusting relationships with prospects. Just make sure you have your goals in sight. It’s easy to get carried away in the negotiation process.

Set boundaries for yourself before you offer a promotion, and hold firm to those boundaries and the best interests of your company throughout the negotiation process. With a little practice, you’ll be offering promotions like a pro.

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 sales plan template

Originally published Jun 9, 2020 1:30:00 PM, updated June 09 2020


Sales Strategy