Home > Sales Techniques > Is your offering just a number?

Is your offering just a number?

When the phone rang this morning I thought it was another booking for the training program we were conducting on Saturday.

“Good Morning, this is Jayadev.” I said, putting on the warmest smile in my voice.

“Hi, this is Kumar speaking; got your number from Raj. Didn’t he mention that I would call?”

Before I could get a word in edgeways he continued, “How much do you charge for your training program?”

That, my friends, defines the prospective customer. If you aren’t careful they turn you into a number!

For a second I thought I was in the groceries business. It’s at the corner grocery store that one walks up to the seller and ask, “How much for the cabbage?” and he would respond without registering shock.

Thanks to the proliferation of “trainers” (the definition being anyone who can stand at the head of the class, run a PowerPoint Presentation and talk) in the market prices for our services have been heading south. There is a desperate rush to acquire business at any cost and the average customer believes he is onto a good thing.

This also tells us a lot about the customer’s attitude towards training. H.R. Managers and Training Managers wish to show the stake-holders that while the employees are being skilled and developed he is keeping an eye on the cost to the company – and the fund outflow is kept under control by bringing in trainers who are willing to conduct training at next to Zero cost.

Later on they would lament that the program was ineffective and the employees are performing just the way they used to prior to the intervention. What happened?

Let’s return to the phone call, I told Mr. Kumar – “My cost depends on the nature of the program you want done. Please send the requirement; I shall study it and send you my suggestions and then we can work towards a solution.”

I did not give him the price, but I did not refuse him one. I did not annoy him either with an abrasive comment – the declaration of price was just postponed. And this is critical.

You can do the same. Don’t succumb to the prospect’s ploy of pegging you to a price point. If they insist tell them something above your regular operating point and work your way back by the end of the deal to the realistic level.

Instead of getting tangled in the price game focus on value- building. It’s better not to sell if the value isn’t right. Of course, it is for you to decide what you are worth and how you have to price your product. But it has to be your decision, not your customer’s.

You can show your prospect what brought to the table by way of experience, quality of the service offered, previous work done and the results achieved. Show them how each element of your is a value-adding component of the deal.

The man who called me later sent an email with the specifics of the requirement – in it he had stated two times that he wishes to get the program done at the lowest price.

Who doesn’t? How does the prospect know what is the lowest price for your offering? That is for you to decide. Define what are you selling or on what terms you will sell?

Play it smart … believe, and make others believe, that you aren’t just a number!

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  1. Ramesh
    November 16, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Good One! There is a drastic difference between selling a product and selling a service. While the cost of a product is easily known, service is difficult. The physical attributes of products helps in knowing the product and its features well. With services its difficult to make the customer visualize the service.

    The customer’s attitude is the same in any case. He wants a product / service at the lowest cost, or value for money. The attitude towards training can have multiple reasons, depending on the size of the organisation, number of employees , cash flows, attrition, budget allocation etc.

    • JayadevM
      November 17, 2012 at 1:51 am

      Hello Ramesh,

      You are right. As a service provider we need to make the customer aware of the quality and value of our offering – that has to be built by giving evidence of the impact it can make.

      Customers may surely have budgetary constraints and cash flow problems and the solutions offered through training may be directly impacting those very problems.

      While the training provider needs to show them how the “investment” in his solution can create tangible change his products pricing cannot change based on their capacity to pay.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject.

  2. November 17, 2012 at 3:31 am

    The attitude is only in India – without even knowing the content asking what is the cost!! Even in resource stricken Srilanka I find (prospective) customers seriously engaging you to discuss the attributes and finer aspects of what you have to sell then ask for the price… I recall accompanying my principal from Germany to a fabrication plant near Chennai and before he started the MD asking what is the cost and this chap blurted “it costs the moon” rather sarcastic/irritated. Good note Jay, well addressed. Uday

    • JayadevM
      November 18, 2012 at 9:52 am

      Hello Uday,

      True that this is majorly an Indian trait … because there isn’t a lot of respect her for Intellectual Property and Services. We understand boxes and solid stuff, but when it comes to brain-power people think it should be as easily or cheaply available as thin air.

      Indians need to learn to value creativity and intelligence.

      And I can understand the angst of that German – they value Engineering & Quality much more than us Indians – that MD deserved that response for asking such a stupid question.

      Thank you for reading.

  3. yogesh
    November 17, 2012 at 5:07 am

    So true i agree with uday, and hence we have a variation in fees as low as 2k per day to 2 lacs per day for the same name.. COMMINICATION training or for that matter sales training, i have a consultant who charges his clients 25 k and pays the trainer only 5k. Its important to belive that our knowledge can show results in real business. Thanks for sharing….. cheers

    • JayadevM
      November 19, 2012 at 7:20 am

      Hi Yogesh

      I accept that. We have many people like that Sales Trainer – who is either not able to or does not have the self-belief to push for a better fee. Your consultant friend is smart to extract what best he can from the client. The Sales Trainer has to do the same with him or find other places to sell his skill. It is all the more damning for this guy because he is doing Sales Training – how can he convince others to sell when he is unable to push for himself?

      Thank you for sharing this insight.

  4. November 17, 2012 at 6:00 am

    Another good write form the Sales Coach. Yes. One has to realize that one isn’t just a number 🙂

    • JayadevM
      November 18, 2012 at 9:41 am

      Hi Raji

      Thank you for the generous support.

  5. November 17, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    nice one Jay. Would have personally loved a convincing ending to the sotry albeit an imagined one. One which rings truie, is realistifc and offers hope. I just creaed a Training Needs Analysis Form. The objective is to engage the prospect in a discussion of relevance with questions such as, “What strategic initiaitves has your organization started this year, how is training expected to contribute? By this time next year what thre initiatives would you like to have implimented from a training prespective etc and why? etc.. Although I’m yet to use it with any client, the thinking behind the idea is to have a basis to suggest an intervention. Also, I’m try to remind myslef that I need to offer value, like you said. So somewhere along the conversation I’m hoping to convince the client that I’m with him and not against him. That way he may be more open with me and we may be able to arrive at a good solution. Now wish me luck buddy 🙂

    • JayadevM
      November 18, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Hi Sajan

      Yes, I will have to write an imaginary end to this one because it is still “work in progress”.

      Your TNA form sounds interesting; would love to hear from you later about the results or insights gained from using it,

      I wish you the very best.

      Thank you for reading this one.

  6. November 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Disclaimer: Attention for detail is not my USP – yet 😉

  7. November 18, 2012 at 7:51 am

    In fact Jayadev, sometimes if you are the customer and if the person you are contacting starts off telling the pricelist it can be a turn off. I have experienced this at times esp while searching for classes/schools for my son. If the person at the other end starts rattling off the prices without my requesting for it, I end up getting a bad impression about the place. Dunno why exactly 🙂

    • JayadevM
      November 18, 2012 at 9:44 am

      Hi Jayashree,

      I would love selling to you because you care about what you are buying.

      But I guess that sales guy has either encountered a lot of folks who just focus on the price or there isn’t much to the product beyond the low price.

      I agree that it can be irritating …. and the shop-owner better train his staff differently.

      There is more to any product than just a price tag.

  8. November 18, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Smart answer, JD. There is no substitute for experience in handling such situations.
    Your wisdom shows.

    • JayadevM
      November 18, 2012 at 11:54 am

      Thank you, Shoba. It’s special coming from you.

  9. November 18, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Just a few hours back I had a conversation with a “trainer”. He was training IAS aspirants for years when he suddenly realised that farming was a more worthwhile exercise.

    • JayadevM
      November 18, 2012 at 12:29 pm

      Ha! Ha! Ha!

      I can empathize with your friend’s feelings.

      It can get quite dirty and frustrating out there.

  10. Jamy
    November 20, 2012 at 4:40 am

    Awesome read Jay! This is so relevant in the hospitality industry. Recently we hosted a family of five who usually stay at Sandy Lane, most expensive hotel n Barbados, however since it was not very child- friendly, they decided to give our resort a shot. The Fairmont Royal Pavilion is no match for Sandy Lane when it comes to rooms with a royal look or the most ultra modern spa and personalised butler service for every single room occupied. The only way we could Wow these guests was with outstanding service to match a quality product, attention to details and keep the children happy so the parents could sit back and relax. From the time they checked in till the day they departed care was taken by different departments to cater to their needs and management also realised that they were not high maintenance guests, but just wanted value for their money. They have since written back to us with the intention of returning for a future stay. Not just a number Jay, you were spot-on!!

    • JayadevM
      November 20, 2012 at 4:56 am

      Go, Fairmont … Go, Jamy & team!

      Excellent illustration, Pro!!

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