Why so large a cost, having so short a lease, does thou upon your fading mansion spend? -William Shakespeare


Just tell me how much it costs is probably the most dreaded sentence any salesman can hear. Why? Not because of what it's asking, but because of what it's saying.

When a potential customer asks you the cost of the product at the beginning or even the middle of your sales cycle, they're often not trying to gather information, they're trying to get rid of you and usually, it works.

I have been selling a premium product for the past 10-plus years. I'm no stranger to the sentence, "but you guys are too expensive." In fact, I would be shocked if a week went by in the past ten years where I didn't hear it (I need to vacation more).

I recently shadowed a sales representative selling financial software and below is how his conversation with his prospect went:

Salesman: I understand you used to use our software but no longer do

Client: That's right, we found a less expensive option

Salesman: I understand that cost is important to you. You're not alone there. I always ask the clients I'm speaking with what their three biggest challenges are and normally the response is 1. cost/productivity 2. talent retention and 3. risk mitigation. Would you agree?

Client: Yes, especially number two. It's hard to get young talent to stay.

Salesman: What I've noticed is that firms are paying larger salaries, offering flexible work schedules and even signing bonuses to attract and keep talent. Are you doing these things?

Client: To an extent yes.

Salesman: But what we've found is that most firms are missing a critical component. Millennials expect a firm to have the most recent and up do date technology available. This generation has grown up so entrenched with technology that they don't just expect it, but in the absence of it, they're actually uncomfortable. Would you agree?

Client: Sure, but how much does the most "up to date software" cost me?

Salesman: Without gathering some more information, I'm not entirely sure which package would work for you, so I really can't say.

Client: Just tell me, ballpark how much?

Salesman: It's somewhere between free and a kings ransom. To be candid, at this point cost really wouldn't matter because you have no idea what the software is capable of. You don't yet know that it could save you over 300 billable hours a year, allow your customers to access their key financial data anytime, anywhere. Allow the most talented young financial advisors the ability to work remotely from anywhere at anytime. You wouldn't know about any of that yet, so what would the cost even mean?

Before we get in to cost let me ask you one question, "is there a cost to NOT knowing what the most current software is capable of?"

Client: Yes, I'm sure there is but I can only spend so much..

Salesman: I have found that there are two types of entrepreneurs I deal with: 1. those that make decisions based on how much money they can save or 2. those that make decisions based on how much money they can make. Which one are you?

Client: Well, obviously I want to make money

Salesman: I want you to make more money too. Let's set up a demo of the product, take a look at it's capabilities and see if it's a good fit. I'm confident that you'll find it to be extremely valuable.


What did he do well? What could he have done better? I have some thoughts on this for sure. I was impressed by some things and there are things I think he could have improved upon. I'll weigh in in the comment section if anyone wants to discuss.

Happy selling out there!



I would have punched your associate.


My wife is between EMRs at the moment. The one she was using recently "upgraded" to a "vastly-improved" feature set which came with a vastly-expanded cost; she went from $20 a month to $90 a month for a bunch of features she doesn't need and can't use. This has been pretty common for people in her industry; the company has held three webinars so far that were supposed to be about all the nifty new things the EMR does but have each time devolved into apologias and chaos. Meanwhile, there's a small firm that rolled their own for their own use that the grapevine has caught ahold of and this three-man shop is now having to ramp up to deal with pretty much every former customer of the EMR signing on (at twice the price they were paying). Meanwhile there's blood in the water so everyone with an EMR even vaguely appropriate to my wife's practice is banging down the door trying to get her to demo this and download that. So I've seen this sort of conversation a lot.

Your associate's approach was asinine, condescending, unresponsive, inflammatory and rude.


- "Just how much does it cost? Remember, I was a customer until I judged your value to not match your price."

- "Fuck your question, let's change the subject to something else. Never mind that you have a ballpark idea of what it costs, I have a to-the-dime estimate of what you were paying, and when asked a direct question I feel the need to prevaricate."

- "Yes, I would agree that millenials are a pain in the ass. Your point? How much does it fucking cost?"

- "I know your employees and their needs better than you, wouldn't you agree? Fuck you, it costs what it costs."

- "I'm going to politely decline to rise to the bait of your condescension if you would just please give me a price, as if I were an adult."

- "But you're not an adult, you're a child! You see, I arranged this meeting and looked over your old account without making the first fucking effort to understand your business ahead of time and I would only do that to someone I consider feeble or naive! So I'll deflect the question again by asking you your pain point!"

- "Fuck you. No numbers for me, no numbers for you."

- "Maybe I should try fellating your ego."

- "Yes, I have an ego."

- "Good ego. Nice ego. Sucky sucky ego. Let's make an appointment to waste more of your time; I promise there will be more ego stroking and ball-cradling."


Your associate is assuming their clients lack the sophistication to understand a fee schedule. They're passing up on the opportunity to let the customer contemplate the value-add. And they're neglecting the fact that their customers probably have a Yahoo group where they can post "Hey, how much does TNGSoft cost?" Now they control that conversation, not you. They're getting pricing from (at best) friends or (at worst) random strangers on the Internet and when next you meet with them, the discussion is going to be even more adversarial.

Sure, pricing is proprietary but I'll bet you guys have a range you can work within. And yeah - the Internet can't tell me what I'll pay for a Honda Fit but it'll bloody well get me close, and then I can evaluate it based on similar offers from similar vendors.

Your guy? He's arguing he's too much of a special little flower to be considered within the marketplace.

And if he really were, his customers would be calling on HIM.

posted by thenewgreen: 1004 days ago