Educate the Customer, or Walk Away?

June 14, 2018

I participated in a roundtable discussion recently with a group of managers, and the topic turned to working with customers, particularly customers consistently focused only on price, specifically low price.

Anyone involved in sales at any level has been in these situations. We believe in the value of our product or service, and we know the customer sitting across from us intends to make a purchase from either us or our competitors. However, this customer has little concern for value or quality, her only criteria being how low can the salesperson go in price.

“How do you handle this customer?” was the question our table debated.

Half the of folks at the table said to educate. Provide the customer with quantifiable data, history of past results, features and benefits, and comparative analysis of the product of service under consideration. Help the customer to understand the value your offering will bring to him and his business.

The other half of the managers at the table were more direct. If it becomes all about price, you are wasting your time, they said, so walk away. The group argued that this type of customer will never be swayed by facts, data, or relevant information, because they only understand price. Furthermore, these managers said, the only way a price driven customer will ever change is when the low-price products or services they continue to buy begin to fail in some way, ultimately costing the business.

Those are two very different ways of thinking about customer management.

The truth typically lies somewhere in the middle and going to either extreme rarely produces the desired outcome.

In situations where the customer is initially focused on price only, it may be best to proceed with caution. If the customer shows an interest in gaining a greater understanding of the product or service, then making the effort to educate is wise. Any good salesperson will acknowledge that although rare, they have at times been able to convince a price-only driven customer to buy for considerations beyond price alone.

On the other hand, if dealing with a customer who seemingly cannot get beyond price only, it may be necessary to walk away, realizing that valuable time and resources are best spent with customers who consider other factors in their purchases.

Price is important in any business transaction and should never be overlooked. However, services and products differ greatly in today’s marketplace, even when they may initially appear to be equal. The salesperson who can best identify the price-only focused customer will be most successful by understanding when to educate, or when to walk away.

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