Sellers, Beware Of The Customer You Can’t Afford

Ward Flock headshotThe Sell Sider is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Ward Flock, global vice president, Magnify, at Prohaska Consulting.

If you’re expecting to find yet another article about selling during a recession, feel free to browse elsewhere.

Many sage sales consultants talk about promoting collaboration, planting seeds for the future or taking whatever you can get during these uncertain times. I get it, but there’s another bigger danger these days and it could be your next customer – the customer you can’t afford.

In the spirit of my favorite movie, “The Shawshank Redemption,” you can escape the metaphorical COVID-19 prison to stand in the pouring rain – but not if you stay in your cell. You can win in this desolate market by choosing and nurturing positive partnerships with good ROI.

All sellers and business development professionals feel constrained in some way because of COVID-19. We can’t go to conferences or fly in for in-person presentations. We can’t easily read body language on a tiny Zoom screen. We’re missing that personal interaction, that one-to-one connection that builds a lasting relationship for years to come. The current restrictions can make us feel trapped in our homes and apartments, unable to be the freewheeling hunters we are.

So it’s time to raise our hands to the storm and gut it out like Andy Dufresne did in “Shawshank.”

"Shawshank Redemption" imageSet boundaries. Don’t be desperate. Don’t partner with a bad customer just for the money.

Avoid the trap of signing a cheap deal with deep discounts and costly customers. Some customers only see a one-way partnership and always want more – even after the close. They can attach themselves to account service teams and suck the life out of your ROI. Avoid these high-maintenance customers, unless they can be plugged into a self-service portal right away.

High-maintenance customers can cause headaches. If the negotiation isn’t win-win, walk. Recently, I walked from a deal, not just because the price was rock-bottom, but because they kept asking for more. It was a one-way street until I said no thanks. After that, they backtracked on their second counteroffer and accepted something reasonable.

It’s logical. When a buyer feels that there’s no bottom to your price, they devalue your product and service. They may even question your success rate because you’re projecting a weak hand vs. confidence in your product and, ultimately, your power. In the end, everyone wants a valuable partner and relationship. The first step in that process is setting appropriate price boundaries during negotiations.

Don’t get me wrong, this is the time to be offering creative pricing packages and some discounts, but this too shall pass. Just like the 2000 dot-com bubble and the 2008 recessions, the tech sector will bounce back the fastest.

Challenger selling

Truly successful sales organizations are built with consultative sellers. They have an adviser mindset. The Harvard Business Review calls them “challengers.” To quote the famous article, “Challengers use their deep understanding of their customers’ business to push their thinking and take control of the sales conversation. They’re not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive.”

Choose valuable partners who will have a positive ROI to your sales and post-sales efforts. Remember, during recessions, the CFO is God. They control the buy more than ever.

Play offense, not defense

What do you do during a storm? You don’t cut your sales team. Expand. C-level execs and sales managers need to boost their sales teams to build for the future. Now. Don’t wait. Retain your sellers or find part-time sellers and partners who are less expensive.

Sign strategic partners with long-term value who you can count on during the storm. They too will succeed, and both of you will prosper the most when the sun shines again.

Follow Prohaska Consulting (@TeamProhaska) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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