You and your buyer are aligned on the big picture. You know your solution is a perfect fit for their organization—and they agree. But will the technicalities of pricing and discount negotiations sideline a potentially lucrative deal? We've seen it happen. A lot. Fortunately, it doesn't have to.
In this blog, our team of Emissaries—marketing executives from some of the world's largest companies—discuss how you should handle requests for discounts, customizations, and trials. These tips, workarounds, and strategies will help you strengthen your deals and avoid the pitfalls that come with late-game requests.
The downside of customization
Customization can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it shows you’re flexible and willing to go the extra mile to address your buyer’s needs. But on the other, it can backfire by calling attention to potential compatibility issues. And that's if you get your tech bros to agree to a customization in the first place.
After all, why should a solution that you just pitched as the perfect fit for your target organization need to be customized? Shouldn't it be ready to go as-is? Not necessarily. Enterprise customers are often more interested in high-level alignment than finding a picture-perfect fit right out of the box. In fact, if your product isn't completely perfect today, you can win buy-in by demonstrating that features and functionalities your prospect wants are already on your product roadmap.
"During the sales cycle, I try to figure out whether or not the partner company is really focusing its product development on customers like me,” said a former chief digital officer at Mercer. “Because if they aren't, a one-off personalization isn't going to matter that much to me."
Our Emissaries suggested a more gradual, MVP model instead of mass customization. Provide value up front, and enhance the solution later on as your relationship matures. Our Emissary from GNC endorsed launching with a staged roll-out where both sellers and buyers partner on an initial, smaller-scale launch. A successful staged roll-out can prove the viability of a full-on enterprise implementation later with less upfront risk.
Show, don't tell
You know what's better than talking about what your solution can do for a client? Proving it. Offer up a working proof of concept that demonstrates your product's capabilities. That can help convince your buyer that what you've got is what they need.
Make sure it's feasible, though, as it does come with some risk. After all, you’re essentially giving something away for free. In those cases where it may not be possible, anecdotal proof can be an effective backup.
“Talk about good, legitimate results other clients have seen to give them a feel for what your solution can do for them,” said one former SVP of e-commerce at Costco. “You can even offer to let a prospect talk to an existing customer. Allowing a prospect to talk with a real-world user shows transparency, and it can help a deal move forward faster.”
While it may make you a little nervous, connecting a prospect with a satisfied customer demonstrates that your product delivered value for a similar organization in the past—and can work for your prospect's organization, too.
Dealing with discounts and pricing
Our Emissaries were unanimous on this one: don't dance around pricing. They all agreed that you should talk about it right off the bat, even as early as the first sales call—but don't take our word for it. According to HubSpot, the majority (58 percent) of buyers want to talk pricing on the first sales call.
Come prepared to the discussion with knowledge about your competitors’ price points, and be honest about how yours stack up. Anticipate discount requests, and know exactly how deeply you can discount. Offering a fair rate can get you far in negotiation.
“In terms of discounts, you need to know how much room you have going into it,” said our Costco Emissary. “I think salespeople should just come in with their best foot forward, and come in with their best pricing.”
Of course, discounts won't always be an option. When dealing with particularly aggressive buyers on the hunt for a bargain, offering a free trial can be a good compromise. It’s hard to resist the allure of getting something for free, and letting your prospects get a taste of your solution can be a powerful selling tool.
Remember all those Afterschool Specials? "The first taste is always free."
Confront pricing head on. Enterprise buyers want to know rates upfront so discuss them during the first sales call to get everything out in the open and prevent hangups later on. Offer discounts, free trials, and proofs of concept when possible, but explore other options depending on your prospect's needs. Adopt more iterative models that provide immediate value while avoiding the large upfront costs and long-term contracts that often make buyers weary.
For more tips on how best to handle pricing, discounts, and customization — as well as other ways to get more deals into your "closed won" column — download our Ultimate Enterprise Sales Playbook: Selling Solutions into Marketing Organizations today.