Working with complaints about price


priceBy Dr. Layne J. Harpine, LERN

When I ask a group of Contract Training professionals, “What’s the number one objection your clients raise?” they often say, “Price!”

When a client complains about price, they are really saying they aren’t yet convinced that the services you are proposing are valued at the price you’re charging. No price is inherently too high. It’s only too high in relationship to what we feel we’re getting for what we’re paying.

Here are some tips for working with price objections:

  1. Demonstrate why you are better than the competition. Or demonstrate the difference between your lowest priced products and services and your premium products and services. From a perspective of value for the dollar, what do you do that makes it worth a little more money. It’s always helpful if you can show how you can save the client money, even if it’s in the long run. It’s also helpful if you can show how your services will help them generate more income, or reduce the cost of doing work in some way. Do you do things the old fashioned way and give a little extra time or service–say so! You can tell this story in person, with testimonial letters or with 1 minute videos from other satisfied clients.
  1. Tell them what you do for the money. We do a lot that’s invisible to our clients–even to most of our staff. Tell the story of a job from start to finish, and all the services they’ll enjoy. Remind them that you’ll:
  • do a needs assessment
  • find a subject matter expert
  • hire a teacher
  • copy or build the materials
  • set up and take down the room
  • do evaluations and tabulate and return them
  • do quality control after the training
  • pay the teacher
  • reimburse any expenses
  • provide and set up and take down AV
  • handle catering
  • keep academic records

and more! Remember the story of the postman when his customer complained? He said, “Let’s get this straight: You want an organization to send someone to your house and pick up this letter, walk it to a truck, drive it to a post office, sort it into a sack, put it on another truck, drive it to an airport, carry it to a plane, fly it across the country, unload it onto yet another truck, drive it to another post office, sort it, put it in a sack, drive it to your friend’s street, and walk it to their mailbox for less than 50 cents–and you think you paid too much?”

  1. Help your customers see what it would be like to do a training without you. If you can teach your prospects to do without you, that’s one of the best ways of demonstrating your value. They’ll quickly see that they lack the experience, time, and desire to accomplish what you do at anywhere near your level of quality and efficiency. Back in the 90’s lots of companies thought that they’d start their own training units. They didn’t want to pay for the middlemen. It wasn’t more than a few years when most discovered that they didn’t have the expertise to do training and it took away from time, money and energy devoted to their core business.
  1. Understand that an objection about price means that they’re thinking about buying from you. This is great news.
  1. Pre-empt the objection. Come right out and say, “Some customers feel we’re expensive, but it’s because they don’t understand all that they are getting..”
  1. Probe about what the real issue is. Ask some questions to see what they are really concerned about. Questions like:
  • When you say it costs too much, what do you mean?
  • What has been your past experience with training units like ours?
  • Have you figured out the potential cost of not taking action?
  • What are your priorities in this situation?
  • If we set aside price, is the solution the right one for you?
  1. Ask them what the training would look like if it was worth that price. Maybe you can add the things they’re looking for. For example, an hour of post-training consulting might cost you nothing. A tray of donuts is almost free. Manuals, articles and more paper in general is easy to provide. Find out what they want and see if it’s something you can give away for cheap or free.

What NOT to do. Don’t ever lower the price without changing the scope of services. If you do, you’ll have to price bargain on every job in the future. If your services are really outside their price, consider shortening the class, providing less materials or not having food on the breaks.

Often when you run these options by a client, they’ll opt to put them back in. If you’re taking out something that will impact the quality of the training in a significant way, be sure the client knows that in advance, so they’ll remember that they opted for cutting quality by cutting price. Don’t denigrate this choice for a small business who maybe otherwise can’t afford the training.

But do remember–you may or may not want to work for a very price sensitive client. Your best clients value quality and they know it costs something to get it.

Layne Harpine is a senior consultant with LERN with an expertise in contract training and workforce development.

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