Top Down Selling: a Skill Any Salesperson Should Have on Hand

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Jay Fuchs
Jay Fuchs


Sales efforts aren't always cut and dry. In many cases, you won't be able to present a product or service at a price that a prospect will be immediately receptive to — especially if that product or service comes with multiple options at different price points.

There might have to be some give and take when making a sale — some degree of negotiation to land on a mutually beneficial agreement that suits both you and your customer well. But how do you get to that point? How can you arrive at an outcome your prospect is happy with without making considerable concessions and losing out on too much revenue?

Well, there's a brand of selling that helps you get there — one that lets you carefully taper down to an agreeable price point without totally compromising the value of your sale. It's known as top down selling, and it's a skill worth taking the time to learn and refine.

Let's jump into a more thorough explanation of the concept and learn some of the most effective techniques to keep in mind when employing it.

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Top down selling is generally associated with products or services with tiered options. It often rests on a salesperson's ability to present a prospect with the highest-caliber version of their offering and gradually negotiate downward from there. Ideally, they and their prospect will eventually reach a mutually beneficial price point and make the sale.

For instance, car salespeople will often start by showing potential customers the higher-end versions of the model they're interested in. If the prospect believes that top-tiered option contains features they don't need, they might be turned off from that particular offering.

In that case, the salesperson would show them a version of the model with fewer features available at a lower price-point and repeat that process until both parties agree on an option that works for them.

The endgame here is for the salesperson and the prospect to agree to a sale of a version of a product or service with a suite of features that suits the prospect's needs at a price point that everyone is happy with. Here are some techniques to employ when leveraging the process.

1. Start with the most extravagant option.

It's called top down selling for a reason. You have to start with the cream of the crop. Show your prospect the option with every available feature — the one they'd have to pay the most for. If you're selling a luxury automobile, bring out the fully-loaded model first.

Let them see the maxed-out option — the one with leather massage seats, touch screen dashboard, cherrywood steering wheel, and every other bell and whistle available — offered at the highest price point you charge.

Let them see the ceiling before you have to start negotiating downward. It's exciting for a prospect to see the definitively premium option. Showing them your product or service with the most robust suite of features available gives them more perspective and insight into what they want out of your offering.

They could notice features they want that they hadn't previously considered, and who knows — they might be persuaded to buy that initial option without negotiating downward.

2. Sell on value — not price.

Your first priority has to be demonstrating value as opposed to immediately resorting to price-based haggling. Value-based selling is a sales approach rooted in understanding and benefitting the customer throughout the sales process. You want to guide your prospect into making a decision based on the value they believe your product or service can provide.

The keys to selling based on value are patience and communication. When you reveal that initial, fully-loaded version of your product, make a point of articulating the value all those features can offer your prospect. Have some picture of what they might need, want, or expect out of a product or service like yours.

For instance, say you're selling a new software solution to a small business that might not have the time or resources to learn a new product like yours on their own. If your company offers remote product training at a low cost to get customers up-to-speed on your software, stress this feature and find ways to articulate how others support it.

The main takeaway here is don't immediately sell on price. You'll lose a lot of prospects by throwing out a high price point, seeing how they react, and haggling down from there without conveying why that price is justified beforehand.

3. Go easy as you negotiate down.

Ideally, your top down sales efforts will come down to you carefully chipping away at features your prospect doesn't appear to want or need while tactfully adjusting the price accordingly. After you've tried to sell them on that premium option, ease them down into the lower-tiered versions of your product or service.

Make sure there's some give and take. Give them some stake in the process. As I mentioned earlier, top down selling is based on negotiation. Your prospects need to know they matter in the context of the sale. Let them articulate the features they feel they need, see if you can make them feel like they might need more, and wind up at a place that helps you both.

Practice active listening, keep tabs on how they feel, and sell with compassion and empathy. Getting to the right price might take some concessions on your part, but don't be hasty in giving them or adamantly opposed to offering them at all.

You might have to sweeten the pot with some promotions to have your prospect land where you want them to. But if you can ultimately arrive at a point that works for both of you, you'll make the sale and have a happy, satisfied customer who might be willing to share their experience to boot.

Top down selling is an important skill for any salesperson to have in their repertoire. It encompasses several practices, traits, and tactics salespeople should have a strong grasp on — specifically patience, negotiation, and conveying value.

If you sell any sort of product with tiered options, it's crucial that you understand the concept of top down selling and how to employ it effectively.

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