A few years ago, I was working as a product marketing manager for a large enterprise computing company. My role was to champion our ground -breaking data protection software. I was asked to sit in on a customer briefing for a casino that already used several my company’s hardware and software products. The customer contacts were very interested in the potential of our data protection software. Our techies did a brilliant demonstration of the software- one of those demos where I saw the customer contacts spinning around to each other with “this is exactly what we need” glances.

After 45 minutes of the customer agreeing with us that this product provides exactly the type of security they desperately needed, one contact pokes the account executive and asks, “What does this cost”. The AE who has paid zero attention to the presentation or his client’s positive reaction takes a break from responding to his emails, looks up a pricing chart and blurts out something like “$2,500 for the first five licenses.” The customer contacts simultaneously shout out “Oh, that’s way too expensive. The CIO will never go for that type of money. Let’s move on to the next product you wanted to show us”.

Opportunity lost: Game, Set, Match!

If the sales rep had been paying attention rather than looking at his laptop, he might have been able to launch a cogent defense of the price- Something like- “Guys you are running a business and you have a duty to your stockholders and customers to make sure your data is safe and secure. “

But no- the incredible momentum and the resulting opportunity were lost.

First Takeaway:

The obvious first lesson is for sales people to value the limited, precious time that they have with their customers- Don’t waste that time by engaging in ancillary activities. Pay attention to your customer!

More Importantly:

The more important lesson is – never give a customer a price unless they are convinced they need the solution and are ready to buy.

If the sales rep had been paying attention he could have given the correct answer which is: “Sorry, I have no idea what the price would be for you. We’ll need to have our experts evaluate your specific needs and environment. We’ll need to understand what capabilities are most important to you and which ones you might be able to live without. After we take those steps we can agree what’s best for you and I’ll provide you the best possible price.”

Customer: “Just give me a ballpark”

Sales Rep: “I’m sorry. There are just too many variables to give you a ball park. But, you know that you have a critical need for this software and I’ll make sure that you can get what you need at a fair price.”

If you have established yourself as a true sales professional who pays attention to your customer’s needs you will have no problem getting by the pricing question.