Selling or Solving

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

Rising inflation is driving a greater emphasis on price over value creation in negotiations. It’s not just the dramatic, unpredictable cost increases that are impacting your customers’ decisions, but also the sense of higher risk related to uncertainty, that cause the short-term, price-first perspective to prevail over the longer, strategic view in your customers’ buying process. 

Focusing on price as the primary decision factor has the advantage of being clear, direct and easy to evaluate. Everything is seen as a commodity, so the customer’s consideration of alternatives is simpler, which can expedite their buying decision

Reacting to this trend by agreeing that price is the dominant deciding factor just confirms the customer’s perception that your offering is a commodity, and that your strategy is to sell rather than to solve. They sense that you’re seeking the one-time transaction, not a value-creating contribution to their success.  

And having taken this path, it’s exceptionally difficult to change their perception later. Enabling a customer to label you as a commodity vendor, wastes an opportunity to reveal your organization’s experience and competency, and your genuine interest in their progress. It discounts your expertise, diminishes your brand, and sets you up for a one-way journey down in revenue and profit.  

Of course, you must acknowledge the customer’s heightened focus on affordability. But to preserve your opportunity to differentiate your offering and your business, to be seen as a problem-solver rather than a price-based vendor, propose solutions that resolve your customer’s short term need while also producing benefits that create strategic value for them.  

Value creation is different for every customer; it depends on their goals and strategic aspirations. Before talking price, invest time to discover what they value. Clarify your customer’s stated need, and then explore why its resolution is important to them, how it helps achieve their goals. 

Devoting time to gain a better understanding of your customer’s short-term challenges and longer-term goals, and then positioning your proposed solutions as contributions to their progress, differentiates you, disrupting any perception of you as a commodity supplier.  

Seeking to learn more about their business, before submitting proposals, communicates your respect for the opportunity they are providing to you and your commitment to their success. It does this while revealing your company’s expertise, distinctiveness and credibility, diminishing your customer’s sense of risk.  

Proposing and delivering cost-effective solutions that create strategic value for the customer, while relieving short-term pain, enables your offering to be seen more as an investment in their future than a one-time transaction. This is the formula for building an enduring relationship.

How often are you selling price vs. solving for value creation?

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