Updated: Aug 20
We routinely do voice of customer research for our clients, and we almost always uncover new findings that their salespeople were not aware of. Even though our client’s salespeople work closely with their customers and prospects, the customer’s voice does not always come through for several reasons:
Customers don’t want to have a difficult conversation with their salesperson.
Salespeople are focused on talking about their company’s offerings, not the needs of the client or the client’s client.
Salespeople misinterpret what the client says.
Let's look at the three most common things customers and prospects say and what they really mean.
You are too expensive.
Translation: You are not adding enough value.
This is the excuse used most often by both prospects and clients. Many times salespeople hear this from prospects and take it at face value. They come back, tell management, and proceed to make their case for price concessions in order to win the deal. Insightful salespeople and marketers understand that this is where the negotiation begins, but not on price. Game on. If your salespeople have a good marketing team behind them, this is where they start asking smart questions and pointing out the value your company can provide that exceeds the price of your services. By the time the salespeople are done, they should have convinced the prospect that not only are your offerings not “too expensive” but that they pay for themselves and are, in fact, a steal.
When customers say you’re too expensive, it can be more serious because it can mean they are talking to your competitors or may be disappointed with your organization. We find, this manifests itself in the form of a promise not kept by someone in your organization. For instance, one of our clients provides industrial services, and their customer was on the verge of firing them and bringing on a competitive group. They told our client's sales rep they were “too expensive.” What the customer told us during our research is that our client didn’t file their reporting on time and that our client’s operations staff was frequently late to their job and often times didn’t bring the tools they needed to do their job properly, so the jobs took longer to complete. This held up the other crews from other vendors and wound up costing the company more money. So why didn’t this customer tell their sales rep these things? Ironically, they had a close relationship, but the customer had avoided talking to their rep because he was trying to maintain their relationship. Luckily our client was able to correct the issue and keep that valued customer.
We want to work with - or we are currently working with - your competitor.
Translation: You have not proven your differentiation.
When prospects say this, they mean that you have not proven that your offerings are a good fit for them. The problem we see here all too often is that companies all look and sound the same. If your offerings are blending into the herd, you will lose to the one that stands out and seems to be a good fit for their organization. If no one stands out, they will go with the cheapest option or the option with the most charismatic salesperson.
We say it over and over again: “If you aren’t talking about what makes you different, you are competing on price.” You have to clearly differentiate yourself in a way that is meaningful to the customer. This is where you position your competitor as an inferior option, in a nice way of course.
Again, if an existing customer says this, it’s a code red. I’m not sure what you did, but it is time to start the relationship-building process unless the customer simply isn’t a good fit for your business. “Customers from hell” can be disruptive to your growth. If they are a “Customer from hell,” let them go wreak havoc at your competitor’s business. In many cases, if the client has not mentioned that they are unhappy but then threaten to leave, it is a red flag indicating they are a bad client.
We are putting this project off until next quarter.
Translation: There is no sense of urgency on our side. We don’t have a consensus amongst the team, and we might not ever act on this project.
Brace yourself. This one is a doozy, and it may be the hardest to combat. No matter your industry, your biggest competitor is usually indecisiveness. People are less and less interested in making decisions that will rock the boat in their organizations, so unless you can get the entire buying committee on board, your project will likely stall. In many cases, a deal can get postponed just because one person in the buying process isn’t swayed.
Before you can get the client to agree, you must create a sense of urgency for the client. Demonstrate to them how every day without your offering is costing them money or hurting their business in some way. There are a lot of techniques to do this, depending on your business.
The final chirp
Your sales and marketing teams should be your lens into your customers, and they should be conveying wins and losses to the management team. But sometimes it might need a little translation and perhaps some third-party research to cut through the noise. If you want the ground truth from your customers, or if you need help developing your value propositions and differentiation, your friends at BlueByrd are here to help.