Stop Fumbling the Pricing Conversation

Ralph Grimse

Your rep is 50 minutes into the one-hour discovery call. They’ve done everything right. Great sequencing of questions. Good engagement from the buyer. Quick demo of the solution to validate fit. Positive buying signs regarding stakeholders and next steps.

Then it comes. The question that we all knew was coming:

“This looks great. But, before we bring in others, can you give me a ballpark quote based on 100 users?”

Ugh…

Let’s pause and first explore the options the rep has at this point:

Option 1: Defer. Explain that it’s still too early to talk about price. We need to uncover more, talk to more folks, complete a current-state assessment, etc.

Option 2: Provide a detailed price quote. Take the time now to give a detailed price quote, breaking down the options, services, etc.

Option 3. Provide a range based on a comparable customer. Typically, this approach is combined with caveat about needing to learn more. It probably sounds like:  “…companies of a similar size typically spend between X-Y for this solution. There are a number of factors that drive pricing that we’d need to cover as we customize the right solution for you…

Each of these options carry a certain degree of risk. Here are the traps of each:

Option 1: The risk is you annoy the buyer. You stall the conversation and the deal because the rep can’t answer what the buyer believes to be a simple question. They’ve also established a social contract – you give me a ballpark price, I give you more stakeholders. Not living up to one end of the bargain could kill the deal.

Option 2: The risk here is not know enough to provide a detailed quote. The prospect likely can’t answer the rep’s detailed configuration questions. They may box themselves into a number too early in the process. The detailed nature of the quote may also stall any early momentum.

Option 3: The range provided is too broad or too narrow. If it’s too broad, the next follow-up question from the buyer will be, “Why is it so broad?” This then forces the rep to defensively explain the marketing team’s pricing model rationale. We’ve actually heard reps apologize for their own pricing complexity. If it’s too narrow, the rep has boxed himself in when it comes to negotiations.

So, what’s the right option? Well, it depends. It’s situational.

The academic version of value selling teaches that we need to establish the value for the solution before engaging in a pricing discussion.

In real life, that breaks down because:

  1. An educated customer likely already has some anchor of ‘value’ for your solution. This could be driven by their experience, their current provider, or their research.
  2. An uneducated buyer quickly wants to get price on the table to understand whether they’ve walked onto a Kia or Ferrari lot.

The most important thing is for the rep to understand the right situational factors. This is key to calling the right ‘pricing’ play. In our example above, there were likely many things that the rep learned in the call's first 50 minutes to inform the right play.

But after you determine the right play, the rep needs to execute it well. In our scenario, the rep chose Option 3. Unfortunately, the pricing range was too broad and the factors that drove the pricing were explained poorly.

This opened to the door for the buyer to ask a series of follow-up questions. These questions derailed all the momentum gained in the first part of the call. This meant the rest of the hour was spent debating – the number of admin vs. user licenses, access rights, and so many other things that weren’t important at this stage.

The rep was able to get the conversation back on the rails and gained commitment to engage the additional stakeholders. But because time ran out, he lost the opportunity to get coaching on new stakeholders and how they’ll view the solution. An unforced fumble by the rep stalled the momentum and derailed the deal strategy.

Here are few pro tips for mastering the pricing conversation:

  1. Understand your common situations. When does price typically come up? How does it get asked? Who’s usually asking the question?
  2. Provide guidance in your sales methodology about how to tackle price when it’s asked early in the conversation. Don’t just tell reps that you don’t talk about price until the end. That’s not good enough for today’s buyers, and that’s not helping your team.
  3. Make sure your team understands the priority factors and how these factors might guide their responses:
    1. Who’s asking?
    2. What level of detail are they really looking for?
    3. What’s their prior experience buying this type of solution?
    4. Where are they in their decision process?
    5. Is the solution’s value truly established?

Success in modern selling starts with situational awareness and adaptability. A great quarterback studies multiple factors on the field before calling the play. In the same way, the best reps pay close attention to their deal factors. They perceive patterns and pivot to the right sales play – the messages, motions, and maneuvers that win.

How are you enabling your sales team to navigate different situations? Have you mapped the critical deal factors, including how to manage common pricing scenarios? If not, now is the time to get started.

Contact us to learn more practical strategies for helping your reps handle tough pricing situations. Get ready for next year by scheduling an sales enablement strategy workshop. We’ll help you chart an actionable roadmap for building a smarter, more adaptive sales team.

Ralph Grimse

Ralph Grimse

Ralph is a partner with The Brevet Group, and for 20 years he has led sales performance teams in the United States and Asia. Recently he also served as a sales leader in both the media and technology industries. Ralph’s work has focused on a unique blend of management consulting and sales enablement to help companies execute their sales strategies. Prior to this role, Ralph was the APAC sales effectiveness leader at Mercer.