All businesses are concerned with price, but that isn’t the reason you failed to close that big deal. Here’s why.

When I ask someone why they did not win a particular sale, the most frequent reasons I hear are “price” and “politics.”

They are great answers for avoiding personal accountability for losing. Hiding behind the shield of price or politics creates a moral high ground for a sales person. These are both issues seemingly out of the control of the sales person. However, business owners and sales managers see them as excuses. Of course, whether you see them as answers or excuses depends on your vantage point. But what I will say is that they are incomplete answers that keep you from learning what to change the next time you are out selling. Here is how you can get past the given reason of price or politics and take your sales to the next level.

Price—If you are talking to the right person at the right time about the right problem, then price is not usually the concern. There’s a legend about Red Adair, the famous oil-rig fire fighter, dealing with price. He reportedly hung up on a man who had called and asked how much it would cost to put out his oil-fire on a rig in the ocean. When Red was asked why he hung up without answering, Adair responded, “If a guy wants to know how much it will cost to put out an oil fire, it ain’t been burnin’ long enough.”

To be sure, all businesses are conscious of price. It’s important to remember, however, that with selling, it is always about price, it’s just never only about price.

  • Wrong person—Someone in the buying organization needs a problem fixed that your company is uniquely capable of fixing. This is true about commodities, manufactured goods, services, and all other offerings. The reason you are chosen over another company is because you can prove that you solve the problem better. The trick is finding the right person who understands that better is judged by more than price alone.
  • Wrong problem—Most buyers will try to establish a comparative playing field so that standardized comparisons will create price competition between suppliers. If you get trapped into the comparison grid on a features/benefits analysis, then you are not actually solving a business problem, you are relegated to a commodity supplier. You have to push to the real problem.
  • Wrong timing—Speed has a price. If a customer can take forever to make a decision and is willing to wait, then value leverage is commoditized. Unless you can demonstrate urgency, you will have a hard time breaking free from a price battle.

Politics—I had an early mentor who warned me, “As long as there are two people or more involved in a decision, then there will be politics. Family, church, business…it doesn’t matter. People are politics.” To win the game of politics with a prospective sale, you have to navigate effectively. Here’s what to watch for:

  • Context—Your solution has to be aligned with the key initiatives of the buying group. Bigger decisions are rarely just about the purchase of your product. The decision gets derailed because of the impact on other initiatives or hotspots. To understand those, you need a sponsor.
  • Sponsor—A sponsor is not just a friendly buyer or advocate. A sponsor has to have enough authority to convene meetings, influence outcomes, and nudge your company along through roadblocks. You need to secure a sponsor at the right level or the politics will win.
  • Wrong road-map—There is a path to success. The company who has the work now may very well have followed that path. Your sponsor can help you understand the steps, people, and land mines you will need to avoid to win.

Remember—Some sales can’t be won…so they shouldn’t be attempted. There are those opportunities in which you are too late to the party to align what is necessary to beat the politics, or the organization will only make a choice based on price. So leave. You are going to lose, so lose early and save yourself the effort. Not every lead needs to be chased nor every prospect sold.

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