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Tough Selling: The New Normal

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Reed K. Holden, the author of Negotiating with Backbone: Eight Sales Strategies to Defend Your Price and Value, 2nd Edition discusses backbone strategy, which is a more powerful way to conceptualize the selling process and to formulate an appropriate strategy to every selling situation.
This chapter is from the book

The toughest challenge business-to-business sales professionals and leaders face today is dealing with the games a new generation of buyers are playing to gain additional concessions and discounts. The failure to empower salespeople to recognize and counter these tactics costs corporations billions of dollars of bottom-line profits a year. This erosion of margins is occurring even in high-value industries. It’s happening to just about every salesperson across all industries, in every level of sales. These traps are now an integral part of every purchasing training manual and have been fine-tuned over the past ten years to drain maximum discounts out of even the largest and most sophisticated suppliers.

These buyers don’t personally use the product or service in question and don’t really care about the supplying company, the quality, or value of its products and services, or the level of trust in the company’s relationship with its salespeople. Their sole responsibility is to figure out how to reduce costs. Most readers of this book will acknowledge that procurement has learned to discharge this responsibility all too well. They have succeeded in extracting repeated concessions and discounts from their suppliers.

Do You Know What the Stomp Is?

The CEO of a high-quality software company told me the following story of his company’s encounter with a new generation of buyer. His company’s sales team spent considerable time qualifying and understanding the needs of a large global technology customer. Over the years, it had developed mutually beneficial relationships with the committee of customer managers who had been tasked with evaluating and selecting software. In the most recent sales cycle, his sales team persuaded the committee that it offered the best solution in terms of value and price. The sales team had every expectation that the transaction would go forward.

In the final meeting to ink the deal, a manager from the buyer’s purchasing department showed up. The buyer asked the CEO, “Do you know what the stomp is? It’s when the customer stomps the vendor.”

In this, the purchasing manager sent a clear signal that the deal wasn’t concluded until a cascading series of discounts and concessions were extracted from the company. And that’s how the deal went down. The discounts were given, concessions were made, and finally the deal was done. The sad part is that it didn’t have to happen like that.

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