We recently vacationed in Hawaii. We bought a mini-option on a timeshare a while back. It was one of those use it or lose it deals. So we used it. We knew part of the deal involved attending one of those sessions where corporate sales folks try to get you to go all-in and buy a time share.
Considering the line of work I am in, I was interested in how they were going to approach us. The program is offered by a first-class company, so I didn’t hesitate to sign us up. I was interested in experiencing how the sales professionals were going to position their investment opportunity to us.
If you’ve ever been on the “being pitched to” side of the business table, rather than the “pitching at” position, you’ve experienced that point during a mostly one-sided conversation where you just plain get antsy for starters. Then you start to glance at the clock on the wall when the promised 45-minute maximum length of presentation starts to look more like 90 minutes, which you point out to the sales person.
It wasn’t that the information being offered was poor. It was an excellently prepared and thoroughly researched presentation delivered by a first-class sales woman who really knew her stuff. She was engaging, and did all the right things at trying to establish empathy immediately upon our sitting down at the table.
It wasn’t that she wasn’t listening to our questions, and countering with her best scripted “objections to purchase” rebuttal information, which she pleasantly and persistently kept returning to. As though the only options for this discussion had been programmed into her, without leaving her any other strategy for going off-grid to discuss.
It was that the entire premise for the sales office’s conversations with potential investors completely focused on price, although this topic is called “value of your investment.” Our dialogue started with price-value, and it always returned to price-value.
After her third attempt at repeating her persuasive sales strategy, I stopped her and told her what I do for a living. I diplomatically explained what wasn’t working with the corporate sales spiel she had been taught and which apparently was so successful with the overwhelming majority of prospects.
My husband and I fell outside of the targeted market for this offering. We couldn’t be closed on price alone.
I explained that Clayton M. Christensen’s incredible book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, discusses the four phases to a customer’s buying hierarchy, especially when the idea is new or potentially disruptive (based on the concept created by Windermere Associates of San Francisco, p. 218).
Those phases are: functionality, reliability, convenience, and price. Please note where price falls in this continuum.
The barrier to our making a decision to buy-in to their time-share plan was that our vacation habits didn’t fit into their requirements for program participation!
Their program wasn’t at all convenient for our vacation habits. In order to go all-in to their system, we would have to completely restructure how we vacation. We weren’t prepared to do that, even to be part of the tremendous price-value opportunity they felt they were offering us.
Because we perceived their system to be tremendously inconvenient for our vacation habits, their program was dysfunctional for us. Even though, as she countered, we were encouraged to give up our annual week in their Hawaii property for the option of trading up to one or two bonus weeks elsewhere (which was even more inconvenient and disruptive to the way we vacation although certainly more profitable to their corporation).
We had no doubt that their system was well-thought out, time-tested, and therefore reliable.
So she returned, almost plaintively, to the fact that this really was such a great deal we were saying “no” to, she had an almost 100% close rate, and we could never again have this fabulous price once we left her table. Then she excused herself and went to get her boss.
Which made the presentation seem more like buying a car, at the point where the sales person goes to get The Closer.
We patiently re-explained our thinking to her Boss. He did his best to tempt us with how well the system has worked for him during the past 16 years. We pushed back and reminded him that our habits were not his.
We fell outside the corporate price-based adoption curve. We knew it. At the end of our now 90 minute session, being diplomatic and patient, it was up to us to sell them on the fact that we were not the ideal Archetype for their system.
At that point, I closed. I thanked them for their time. We walked away. They were bamboozled and still didn’t understand what went wrong, in their eyes.
Ever have a situation like this, during your sales process? How did you handle it, even when defeat was imminent?
Babette Ten Haken provides technical people and other sellers a solid strategy for how to explain a product, its benefits, and its value in ways that buyers can easily understand and sellers can comfortably present. She gets people together who are often on opposite sides of the table, like engineers and sales people or entrepreneurs and investors. Her company, Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, works with entrepreneurs, start-ups & investors, as well as small businesses and manufacturers, focusing on revenue-generating and portfolio-building business development strategies. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? was named 2012 Finalist, Top Sales & Marketing Awards.