Salespeople frequently undermine their own chance of winning sales when they allow value leaks™ to creep into their sales process.
A value leak occurs every time your email, proposal, word choice, presentation, or body language diminishes the perceived value of your solution.
They undermine the buyer’s confidence in your solution, reducing your likelihood of closing. Even if you do win, you’ll have a harder time charging full price. Buyers will request concessions to address their concerns about perceived shortcomings. In worst-case scenarios, you can lose the sale completely if the buyer’s concerns reach a level that you can’t overcome.
Why do they occur?
Sales team members have battle scars from previous losses that impact their confidence in a solution. These scars lead to evasive behavior. For instance, a salesperson might think, “I don’t want to expose our lack of 24/7 support,” which causes them to speed through the support slide in their presentation deck.
When do they occur?
Take a look at these examples of value leaks during various stages of the sales cycle.
An outreach email needs to set the right tone for your entire sales process. Do not lead by referring to your price or “low costs.” You want the buyer to perceive your solution as better than what they currently use, and you don’t want to attract buyers only shopping around for the cheapest price.
Projecting a defeated attitude on a voicemail will decrease perceived value. If you sound like you are making calls to fill your day, your buyer will sense that lack of value immediately. Closely monitor the energy in your voice when leaving a message. Don’t trail off, don’t rush through common phrases, and don’t speak too quietly.
When you don’t hear anything from a prospect, the silence may erode your confidence that you can win the sale. This prompts you to chase down your buyer. Just as the above email weakens your negotiating position, a “just checking in” email can hurt your margins.
Do not apologize for interrupting their day, and don’t assume they are too busy to speak with you. Putting the buyer on a pedestal and making their time more valuable than yours harms your perceived value.
The same principle holds true for phrases that place the buyer on a different level than you or your company, like “We would do anything to work with a brand like yours.” This tells them you have never worked with a company of their size.
“I know you are busy” is also problematic. Remind yourself the prospect was not too busy to pick up the phone. You’re busy as well -- and your time is equally valuable because you have valuable information and insights that will benefit this buyer.
If you are face-to-face with your prospect (whether in-person or via your screen), the majority of value leaks occur with body language and posture. Your non-verbal communication can quickly wear away at the buyer’s confidence in you and your solution.
- Do not over-thank them for accepting the meeting or “making time to meet.”
- Do not accept changes to the terms of the meeting without mild pushback. If a key executive does not attend as promised, you should note your disappointment and establish that you invested time and money to travel to the meeting -- and the executive’s attendance was a key part of the reason you made the effort.
Make the same pushback as needed for any changes to the length of the meeting if the prospect indicates that you have less time to present than was promised.
- Don’t respond to a request for pricing in the first five minutes of the meeting. Your solution deserves a full discussion of the value you provide, and jumping right to the price diminishes your product’s value and undercuts the content that you came prepared to present.
- Don’t quiver at the mention of the competition. If you seem uncomfortable when your prospects mention other options they have reviewed, you give those companies an immediate bump in value while shortchanging your own solution. You cannot show fear of the competition.
When a skeptic raises a challenging question, you have a great opportunity to win the sale. Unfortunately, many sellers get defensive and feel like they are being treated unfairly. Ceding too much power to the skeptic and acting disgruntled by their tough question demonstrates a lack of confidence in your solution that will hurt your chances of winning the sale. Skeptics have great internal credibility at their organization, and their tough questions earn them respect because they scrutinize vendors and their solutions.
Attendees to the meeting will be thinking, “If your product is so good, why wouldn’t you challenge the skeptic?” Engage the skeptic, and show the rest of the room that you don’t fear their input. You have to give your champions material and a platform to combat the skeptic’s objections -- when you leave the room, they won’t fight for your solution if you were not willing to fight for the sale.
We have all been in a meeting where the skeptic sits to the side with their arms crossed, sending a very clear message that they are not “buying what you are selling.” This skeptic wants to let everyone in the room know they are not on board with the proposal. But, if you do not try to engage the skeptic and you let them win without a fight, you have done more harm than good. Fearing the skeptic in the room and ceding too much power to them gives the buyers a valid reason for concern.
How you handle objections shows a lot about your ability to maintain the perceived value of your solution. Just like tough questions from a buyer, an objection gives you a great chance to put their fears to rest. Body language, speaking pace, and eye contact send the right message: I hear your concern but I believe we can win your business and make you satisfied.
Don’t fear the tough question. Many sellers misunderstand the nature of a tough question and their fumbling response or defensive reaction shows the buyers your company has gaps in your ability to satisfy the requirements. A tough question proves your buyer is trying to build a case to support your proposal, and they need this information to position your solution with their bosses and financial buyers. A tough question isn’t an obstacle to the close -- it’s a strong buying sign.
Imagine selling into a hospital and knowing your customer logo slide has no hospitals on the slide. You dread that slide and worry excessively the prospects will grill you about not working with any hospitals. You imagine them asking, “How can you expect us to be the first hospital to sign up with your company?” You finally reach the slide and race through the talking points hoping that they won’t ask about healthcare references. Congratulations, you just created an unnecessary value leak.
A recent proposal I reviewed for a Virtual CRO client included the following text as part of the pricing proposal: (This part is optional and many clients elect not to use this part of the solution.)
This parenthetical comment suggests, “You shouldn’t buy that -- and even if you do want it, you should not pay full rate.”
Concessions and negotiating
Do not pre-negotiate. Steer clear of statements like, “We always throw that in,” or “If we wait until the end of the quarter, management will give you our best price.” Buyers have a responsibility to negotiate, and you have a responsibility to protect the margins and avoid discounts. Additionally, you don’t want to acknowledge that there is another layer of your company that controls pricing. You make yourself irrelevant to the sales process if you are not going to control the negotiated price.
Additionally, don’t provide a discount for a multi-year commitment. The relative purchasing power of a dollar decreases every year, which should give you the opportunity to raise prices. However, in an effort to lock up clients, many sales teams will discount the second and third year of a contract. Standard software contracts with perpetual licensing include the provision to raise the support price by 5% each year, and all procurement departments know this fact, but many sales teams still feel the need to provide discounts on the SaaS licensing costs.
Pay attention to your own fears about selling, and acknowledge how your fear can lead to a value leak in your sales process. Buyers respond well to confidence. Sellers need to project confidence in themselves and their products at every stage of the sales cycle.