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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  February 04, 2014

What to Do When Buyers Compare You to Low-Cost Alternatives

Originally published for RainToday.com

Between the prolonged economic recovery and the deluge of low-cost options, buyers are comparison shopping. That’s understandable; everyone wants the best value for their investment. It has resulted, however, in inevitable confusion about why they should pay a premium price when there are options that cost far less. Below is my favorite three-step process to nip this concern in the bud.

Step 1: Point Out the Difference Before They Ask

Many buyers do their homework before they reach out to us. They talk with colleagues or search the Internet, and they think they know how much their solution should cost. The problem is these prospects have just enough information to make them dangerous. If your price is bigger than the mental picture in their heads, you are in the position of weakness.

There are two great places to point out your differences before you talk about price: when discussing your results or when you tell stories about your clients. Use the difference as a teaching tool, a cautionary tale. Your message here should be “don’t let this happen to you.”

Examples:

When a buyer asks about my impact, I say something like this: “Here’s the secret sauce behind my results.” Then I will point out the difference between my work and that of the low-cost competitors.

Or when I am educating a prospect about marketplace trends, I mention the damage done by the low-cost providers. I say something like this: “About 25% of those who work with me have learned the hard way that the XXX providers don’t work. Here’s what they told me…”

Step 2: Point Out the Impact of the Difference

Now that your buyers know the difference, make sure they understand the impact of saving money. Many prospects don’t fully comprehend what they will lose if they go with a low-cost option. Again, talk about this before you talk price.

You have two options here:

First, continue the story you told in the first step. After identifying the difference, discuss why this difference is important. But don’t go nuclear. Show your objectivity by comparing situations in which the low-cost solution will work. Example: “Here’s the inside scoop that the XXX options won’t tell you. That solution is good for XXX situations because the client doesn’t need XXX. But if you need XXX, they won’t provide enough to make a real difference.”

The second option is to use third parties. Everyone wants referrals anyway, so let your past clients address the issue as well. Sometimes they can tell a better story than you. Example: years ago, a client told me she decided to go with a lost-cost alternative.  I said, “No problem. But before you do, why don’t you talk to XXX? He’s worked with both of us.” Within 48 hours, I had a signed contract.

Step 3: Predict the (Dark) Future

Despite your best efforts to explain (and get buy-in) for your ROI, everything can change during the investment phase of the conversation. Buyers say they understand the impact until they learn the price tag. Now the risk is higher, and the buyer is out of his comfort zone. The low-cost solution feels safer. The rationalizations have begun.

This step is the antidote to sticker shock. You have to remind prospects what they stand to lose if they go with the low-cost solution. You have to make their comfort zone less comfortable. The best way to do that is to predict their future should they use the low-cost option. Use as many of their details as possible so the buyer appreciates your understanding of their situation.

My favorite next step is to tell a story about someone who didn’t see the difference. How much did they suffer, how fatal was the blow, etc. Show the similarities between that person and the prospect. The point of your story: a short-term gain will result in long-term pain.

Examples:

I had a client who treaded water for three years working with the people who gave her advice at 30,000 feet. She paid me for in-depth market analysis and was on her way in a matter of months. When I talk with prospects who hesitate at my price, I point out the similarities between her and them and offer to introduce them to her.

Or you can really go to the dark side with an example of someone who never got the help they needed. I know folks who closed up shop because they refused to get help until it was too late. I use these disaster stories as cautionary tales.

Educate, then Let Go

When buyers don’t know what they don’t know, they make stuff up. Our job is to educate them about what they are missing out on and why it’s important. If they decide to go with the low-cost alternative, at least they have made an informed decision. And you can charge more for the repair job when they come back to you.

 

Filed Under: Experts, Sales


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.