When Price-Advantage Selling Falls Short

The Situation

Denise sells industrial paint to manufacturers. Because of its excellent business practices, her company has always been the leader on price. That’s why she was stunned recently by what regular customer Steve had to say:

Steve: The bid you sent for white primer . . . it was 10 percent more than what ColorGem (competitor) is selling for.
Denise: I’m sorry to hear that. The cost of materials had a spike recently, but I think it’s only temporary.
Steve: We don’t stock an inventory. We can’t afford to hold off on an order.
Denise: I could reduce our bid by 3 percent.
Steve: That’s not enough. I can’t pass up their price. Sorry.

The Price Bind

Denise hasn’t been in this position with Steve — being undercut on price. Her reaction is to quickly shoot a new price. She does it so easily that Steve may wonder if he should have held out for better deals in the past.

Using Q4 selling techniques, what could Denise have done instead to counteract a pricing battle and keep this customer? What might she still do?

Building Relationships Beyond Price

Sometimes, price is all that matters to a customer, but do you contribute to that one-dimensional relationship by not developing all the pathways to a sale?


If, like Denise, you rely only on price to beat competitors, that strategy may come back to bite you. Denise may have neglected to develop and promote other benefits of their relationship to her customers.


Three Pathways to a Sale

The first pathway to a sale is satisfying the tangible product needs. Obviously, Steve wants a great price, but so does everyone. Denise should make sure Steve understands that she also delivers on quality, service, timely delivery, durability, reliability, and the efficient handling of customized orders. For salespeople who sell other kinds of products, you can add superior design, convenience, and ease of use.


Beyond that, has Denise previously worked on the second pathway to a sale, meeting her customer’s intangible or personal needs? If she had done so, she could leverage that now. That would mean taking time to probe and find out what makes Steve feel most satisfied and comfortable in their business transactions. Does she make it easy to communicate, and has she made sure to build trust and confidence? These additional benefits might make Steve think twice about changing providers based on a temporary price disadvantage.


Finally, over time a Q4 selling style develops the third path to a sale: the salesperson herself makes the customer want to continue doing business. This happens when the salesperson not only does everything to accomplish the first two pathways, she makes herself the go-to person and a problem-solver. Who does Steve think of when he wants to know about new paint products that could help his business? The times Steve had an emergency order or there was a payment problem, was Denise there to help him? The idea is that you become a major reason your customer wants to do business with your firm.


Develop All Pathways

Are you encouraging a multi-faceted buyer-seller relationship? You can use your Q4 sales techniques to promote effective communication and selling to all of your customer’s needs, giving you the best advantage to overcome a price barrier.