Ask your sales team, “What part of our products’ value proposition do you take responsibility for?” It’s a fair question—even if you have to ask yourself. There are two roads, price and value and you have to choose just one. If your coatings company battles over price, you may be standing in the middle of the road where, ultimately, you’re gonna get run over. My recommendation? Step out and run in the direction with value. Make it fast. Attempting to be a low-cost provider (in this business) is extremely hazardous to longevity. It’s not you, and it’s not what you do. In this post I talk about how to cultivate customers who won’t knock your price.
The price of low-cost
To even attempt to succeed in the price lane you would have to agree to more than two of the following arguments in order to justify operating as a low-cost provider.
Five examples where low cost works
- Your product is a readily available commodity
- Your company has few options to create a packaged offer that buyers will value
- Buyers have similar requirements and needs
- Buyers possess scant emotional connection to the product
- Buyers can easily switch providers and maintain margins
When you choose the price lane you remove all focus and interest on the pride and in the quality you’ve invested in your business. There’s value in what you’re selling. You simply have to package it and put a pretty little bow on it. That package is your customer value proposition.
Quality is always subjective
Great value propositions come from understanding each customer’s requirements and preferences. It is plainly, the best offense against price attacks from competitors.
If your business is modeled on selling quality at a fair price, you must constantly hone your offering and stay fixed in the passing lane of value. But consider that a large chunk of the “quality” customers are buying is actually perceived value—that which has no coatings whatsoever. It’s the subjective stuff, but no less critical stuff.
Success with perceived value may have little or nothing to do with the market price, and everything to do with the ability of “sales” to satisfy needs (emotions) and requirements. It is your mission to influence those decisions with the help of qualified sales representatives. Customers always reserve their rights to subjective opinions.
It’s the job of “sales” to make it understood
So when successful sales people understand their customers’ requirements and preferences—they don’t waste time emphasizing points of difference that have little meaning or value. They know what their offerings are really worth, and they ask a fair market price for them. Therefore, it is clearly the responsibility of “sales” to construct and offer a credible value proposition for each customer (based on a product the company can consistently deliver). Because each customer is different, field representatives are the ones strategically positioned to maintain this push.
I opened this post with a question for “sales.” “What part of [the] products’ value proposition do you take responsibility for?” If they properly accept the responsibility, their answer should be “all of it.” It is imperative that customers understand why they choose your product. When they do they will also understand why the price may, at times, be higher than an alternative. Order takers sell you out on price. Effective sales representatives, on the other hand, take full responsibility for the value delivered. With this more informed stance they’re able to fend-off pressure from buyers to reduce prices by consistently delivering the perception of greater value. Understood?
Sidebar: In defense of the “Sales” team
If you’re a successful sales/representative you have my complete respect. You’re out there alone, on the road, and on the line for your clients 24/7. You maintain an intimate involvement in the process of delivering service and creating a meaningful value proposition to each customer. It’s no easy task—there’s a lot to keep straight. Ironically, the better you understand your customers, the more varied the value proposition between customers. Seasoned sales people know that customer hot buttons are seldom in the same location. You carry a huge load for what is often a thankless position.
But what if you fail? There could easily be a problem in the value chain, but guess what? You will know before anybody else. If you know your customer and his needs but you’re unable to deliver beyond expectations take these immediate steps:
- Be empathetic. Let your customer know that you want to understand and you view this as a problem worth resolution. Set a time to come back with a solution/offer.
- Ask for as much detail as they can give you. Do some of your own qualitative research to assemble a full brief on the issue.
- Bring the information and any additional field insight including competitor positioning back in for evaluation with your team. Your company should be very responsive to evaluate the situation and make changes in other areas of the value chain as may be required.
When you have active customers that understand your offer, you have an impervious relationship with far less worries about competitive offers. It’s high value that’s returned to you. We cultivate happy customers with a trusted offer they understand. If you give anything away, give your customers different expectations—not price concessions. What’s been your experience?
I welcome your comments and questions.